More than 675 planners and hospitality partners packed the Platinum Ballroom at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE for the start of the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners 2012 Annual Conference November 11. This year’s conference is notable for a number of reasons, one of which is the tent city of “twihards” set up outside the adjacent L.A. Convention Center, awaiting the premier of the latest movie in the “Twilight” series. Adding a perfect dose of Hollywood exclusivity to the conference’s opening reception in Nokia Plaza, FICP attendees had a chance to walk the “black carpet” down which the Twilight stars were set to stroll and pose November 12.


FICP attendees took advantage of the set for the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” premier and posed for photos during the annual conference opening reception at Nokia Plaza. Sponsored by Marriott Hotels & Resorts, the reception continued into Club Nokia and the Grammy Museum. Pictured, from left: Annick Nemirovsky, guest of Daniele Menache, Alliance Bernstein; Leon Goldberg, New York Marriott Marquis; Karen Eminian, Marriott National Sales, and Tammy Routh, Marriott International

Earlier in the day, 2012 FICP Chair Koleen Roach of Securian Financial opened the conference by first remembering the many colleagues in New York and New Jersey hit hardest by Superstorm Sandy, some of whom had to cancel their L.A. travel plans.

Javier Cano, general manager at the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE, also welcomed attendees, thanking the association for selecting the site when it was still under construction. The $2.7 billion L.A. LIVE complex, owned and developed by AEG, encompasses the Staples Center, the Nokia Theater (home to the Emmy awards and the "American Idol" finals), the Grammy Museum, the ESPN Center, and restaurants and theaters.


FICP 2012 Chair Koleen Roach, CMP, Securian Financial

BHAG Reached
During the meeting's second general session, November 12, Roach reviewed FICP's achievements this year, starting with its “BHAG.” The acronym, she explained, stands for “big, hairy, audacious goal”—in this case, a goal proposed by Dan Young, CMP, of Thrivent Financial when he was chair of FICP in 2010: increase membership to 600. Membership was 475 at the time, hence the characterization of the goal as “audacious.” It was reached as of November 9, Roach said, thanks in large part to the efforts of Kelli Livers, Forethought Financial; Clarence Day, CMP, Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua; and Mark Swets, FICP’s membership manager. And not only is membership at an all-time high, Roach noted, FICP's popularity was also marked this year by the fact that sponsorships for both the 2012 Education Forum and the Annual Conference quickly sold out.


The new FICP logo, unveiled at this year's annual conference

In addition to growth, Roach said, “tech was a focus for FICP in 2012.” Attendees got their first look at the association’s new logo and its completely redesigned Web site. The new site includes a LinkedIn-style community called The Network, where members and hospitality partners are able to interact on many levels and via many interests, with subgroups for more experienced planners, less experienced planners, international meeting issues, and the like.

FICP Executive Director Steve Bova, CAE, called 2012 “one great year” for FICP, which he credited to the organization’s collaborative culture. Having reached 600 members, he said, “700 members is possible, but it begs the question, ‘How big is too big?’ The board is being thoughtful about how to manage the association’s growth while maintaining the intimate culture that is FICP.”


FICP 2012 Annual Conference Chair Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, of NFP

Tech Immersion
Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, of NFP, the 2012 Annual Conference Chair, said he was happy to see attendees engaging with the meeting technology being showcased at this year’s event. “The heart of the whole thing is the mobile event app and enabling everyone to engage through iPad rentals for those who needed them,” he said. (FICP provided iPads to the 225 attendees who requested one.) "That was the goal—to integrate the technology and get it in people’s hands so they can experience the tools and bring them back to their companies for their own meetings.”

Many sessions had a tech focus as well, including one presented by Eric Ly, one of the founders of LinkedIn and now CEO of Presdo, a company that creates a platform for bringing social media to face-to-face events. “Each complements and supports the other,” he said. “Social media builds on the communities that get developed at face-to-face events, and facilitates interaction throughout the year.” Soon, he said, social media tools will be as integral to live events as online registration tools are now.

Talent in Their Midst
Have you ever tapped your own attendees to sing the national anthem at your meetings? You never know what talent lurks within your own organization! FICP launches its annual meeting with both the U.S. and Canadian national anthems, and this year, each was sung by an FICP member. Paz Herrero, conference manager, AXA Equitable, took on the considerable challenge of "The Star-Spangled Banner" and succeeded spectacularly, while Eldon Gale, director, meetings and events, Nationwide, performed a beautiful rendition of "O Canada."

FICP’s Annual Conference continues through November 14.