A call to action galvanized a robust turnout of 45 meeting planners and 30 hospitality partners at the Northeast Regional Summer Meeting of Financial & Insurance Conference Planners, July 26-28 at the stunning new MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn. Speaking to the theme of “Re-Define, Re-Direct, and Re-Emerge,” a diverse roster of presenters and panelists shared tips, techniques, and strategies for getting beyond survival mode, communicating the value of meetings, and reversing the “AIG effect.”

Karen Pena, a meetings industry veteran who launched her career as a speaker and trainer in 2004, advised attendees to stay engaged and motivated during the downturn by reinventing themselves and their brand. Among her tips: Use a business tool called SWOT to analyze strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. She also discussed tactics to conquer barriers to success, among them: cut the clutter, stick to the plan, form positive alliances, and champion a cause.

Pena was followed by another meetings industry vet, Sheryl Sookman Schelter, CMP, founder of the MeetingConnection placement service and author of Who’s in Charge of Your Career? Creating a Strategy for Success. Schelter’s interactive session on “Staying Ahead of the Pink Slip” helped attendees to identify their skills and abilities, create innovative solutions to improve the operations of their department or company, and play a broader role within their companies to gain visibility.

Continuing the theme of visibility, panelists John Hartz, Sloane & Co.; Regina Baraban, editor-at-large, MeetingsNet; and Dianne Devitt, the DND Group; shared their perspectives, respectively, as a public relations professional; a journalist; and a communications expert, on “Public Relations Now.” While there are no quick fixes to the perception issues plaguing meetings, participants gained insights on how to work with PR people to promote—and protect—their meetings and events.

Adding value to meetings with social networking was the next topic, presented by Web strategy consultant C. David Gammel, High Context Consulting. Gammel demystified the world of social networking with clear explanations of blogs; wikis; networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn; private social networks; and photo/video sites—and discussed how these could be used to enhance meeting networking, collaboration, and content.

On the final day of the meeting, Joseph Zabik, FLMI, assistant research director at LIMRA, reviewed the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority rules and regs that cover non-cash compensation and gave a historical perspective on LIMRA research pertaining to recognition conferences. When LIMRA surveyed 48 financial and insurance companies in April, 42 percent of respondents said that they were changing or canceling their 2010 recognition conferences, down 10 percent from the 52 percent who made significant changes for 2009.

The meeting concluded with a funny and uplifting keynote by Garrison Wynn on making of most of difficult situations. “Success,” said Wynn, “is more than being good at what you do. It’s about being consistently chosen to do it.”