Return to 2011 Changemaker List


Assistant Vice President Field Recognition and Conference Planning Penn Mutual Insurance Co.

PAST Acton “took the scenic route” to meeting planning. Very scenic—as in, Geneva, Switzerland, where she worked at the United Nations. “It sounds very glamorous, but honestly, I was 22 years old and in the typing pool.” She moved into conference planning, then took a job managing meetings for the International Air Transport Association and was transferred to London. There she met her future husband, moved back with him to the U.S., and for the past 12 years has managed meetings and recognition at Penn Mutual in Horsham, Pa.

CRED Penn Mutual holds three annual incentive conferences, and January is crunch time. Qualifiers need to be confirmed, notified, and invited. For Acton, whose department also handles field recognition, there are the added tasks of confirming and announcing all the recognition award winners. All of the names must be approved by the compliance and sales departments. The field leadership must be informed. It’s a lot of people, a lot of departments, and a lot of deadlines that could fall like dominoes with one hiccup in the process. So to keep things on track, Acton last year distilled the process into a series of spreadsheets with tasks and deadlines clearly laid out. Things already have improved, she says. “By 2013, our process will be standard operating procedure.”

TURNING POINT In April, Penn Mutual’s 675-attendee Leaders Conference was held at the Walt Disney World Contemporary Resort. For the first time, Acton says, “I was far removed from the logistics.” Instead, she worked closely with a new production partner, Touchwood Creative, and became more involved in “the strategic delivery of our messaging.” It was eye-opening. “This is all new territory for me. I learned so much,” she says. “We used a 65-foot-by-15-foot screen to achieve the greatest possible impact. During the general session, a live image of the presenter allowed the person seated in the last row of the ballroom to have the same intimate experience that those in the front row enjoyed. We kept the audience engaged and entertained, away from the parks during business meetings.” The creative possibilities of production really wowed her. “To be so excited about my own growth after 20 years in the same career is wonderful.”

LOOKING AHEAD “My goal is to make time to be creative. I want to embrace creativity and technology in a way that reinforces and drives our corporate messaging.”—Alison Hall