Nancy Farmer, CMP, is senior conference and planning specialist at The Hanover Insurance Group in Worcester, Mass., where she and two other full-time meeting professionals manage 300 meetings and events annually. She joined Hanover 10 years ago after working in sales and marketing positions for Interstate Hotels Corp. for 16 years at properties throughout Massachusetts. Farmer currently serves as FICP's vice president, sponsorship.

How has your hotel experience helped you as a meeting planner?

A: The success of any program depends upon preparedness and how well you can communicate your objectives to those who will deliver to your expectations. There's no better way to achieve this than to possess a strong operational understanding of the hotel and its services.

What about meeting planning do you find most satisfying?

This profession allows me to share my knowledge while leveraging the relationships I have forged throughout my years of experience. In today's environment, we are challenged to possess not only a deep skill set specific to our industries, but also strong communication skills. Our ability to effectively communicate (both verbally and non) ensures our personal and professional success.

What is the mission of FICP's vice president, sponsorship?

The basic function is the development and maintenance of the sponsorship program, overseeing its continuity, and ensuring a fair and objective process for handling issues that may arise. Most critical is to develop and maintain the relationships and open communication within the hospitality partner (HP) community to ensure their level of perceived value is consistently met.

What does having a strong sponsorship program mean for the long-term success of FICP?

FICP, in partnership with nearly 657 hospitality partners worldwide, recognizes the need to provide value to the HP community that is easily measured. We do this by maintaining a 1-to-1.5 planner-to-HP ratio at all meetings, as well as by maintaining a strong sponsorship program that allows sponsors to maximize their time with planners. And, with the guidance of our HP and sponsorship committees, we are constantly re-evaluating our marketplace and programs. We understand that HPers need to be able to present their leadership with a quantifiable return for their participation in FICP. Recently, we spent time looking at other meeting industry organizations and their sponsorship programs, and we feel FICP is unique, not only because of this ratio, but also because of its measurable supplier benefits. Balancing the ever-changing needs of members and sponsors is our mission. And, it is one that FICP does not take lightly.

Where should FICP put its focus going forward?

FICP's greatest challenge will be that of achieving membership growth while maintaining the integrity of what we have strived so hard to protect over the years — intimacy and camaraderie in a quality-driven association whose objectives remain focused on education, idea sharing, and responsiveness.

What are the biggest challenges for insurance and financial services meeting planners today?

In this competitive and ever-changing environment, planners must be willing to take risks and work to embed themselves within their business enterprises. It means exercising best practices and remaining open to new ways of doing things, ultimately demonstrating your value to your organization on an ongoing basis.

Fostering relationships, gaining knowledge, and most of all, connecting our agents and partners with products and services — these are the keys to our success. We must be willing to change and to show our adaptability!

What has FICP membership meant to you?

I have been a member for 10 years. Active involvement in the organization has enabled my professional development, and has provided consistent exposure and insight to trends within our profession. That's critical to my ability to anticipate and meet my enterprise's business objectives.