More than 50 planners and hospitality partners got together in Chicago September 10–11 for the FICP Great Lakes and Midwest regions’ annual meeting. Held at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile, the meeting focused on trends within the industry, from dealing with the current economy to corporate social responsibility.

Keynote speaker Dan Coughlin gave attendees an action plan to position themselves for the upswing after the current “down” economy, while a panel of industry experts offered ways in which planners and hospitality partners can work together to deliver on meeting objectives and event budgets, while maintaining that “wow” factor.

Corporate social responsibility was another hot topic at the meeting. Discussion focused on companies that are leading the way with CSR, noting that they have built green initiatives and community involvement right into their organizational culture. Marriott International, for example, has helped to fund and is partnering with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation, which aims to protect more than 1.4 million acres of endangered Amazon rain forest while providing supporting employment, education, and healthcare for the people in that region. And Thrivent Financial has a special alliance with Habitat for Humanity called ThriventBuilds, which aims to increase Habitat for Humanity's annual housing production for families throughout the world.

The final day focused on creating value through meetings and events. Business leader Michele Wierzgac, Michele & Co., provided attendees with an eight-step approach to gathering the right resources in order to develop and implement a strategic meetings management plan. Matt Dollinger of @properties and self-proclaimed “lovecat”—that is, someone who just loves to share his knowledge, his networks, his relationships with others—when it comes to social networking, provided an entertaining look at social media and how it can drive meeting attendance and enhance destination promotion.

The FICP Great Lakes and Midwest chapters recently combined to form what is now known as the FICP Midwest Region, representing a new 12-state region. FICP regional meetings are open to all meeting planners in the insurance and financial services industry. Regional meetings provide a low-cost opportunity for meeting planners to network with hospitality partners and gain valuable educational information to advance the industry. For more information about the Midwest Region chapter, contact co-chairs Jen Klosner at or Lynn Schwandt at