Not long ago, Emily Mathews flew to California the day before one of her meetings and found that a wedding reception was booked into her meeting room until 2 a.m.
Mathews, seminar coordinator for Austin, Texas- based National Alliance for Insurance Education and Research, could have waited until sunrise to get the room ready. Instead, she set her alarm, marched into the room right after the revelers had left, and spent an hour preparing for the seminar in the middle of the night. "I would not have been able to sleep until I knew my room was exactly the way it needed to be," Mathews says. "No 'I'll deal with it in the morning' for me. Uh-uh. No way."
A Passion for Planning Mathews is a 28-year-old bundle of energy who came to the Alliance three years ago to pursue her love of meeting planning. A native of White Plains, N.Y., she earned her bachelor's degree in English at the College of Wooster in Ohio, and then moved to Austin to work at the Texas Congress of Parents and Teachers. In her membership services position, she helped to organize a leadership seminar and an annual conference. She never looked back. "I fell in love with meeting planning, and I wanted to do it full-time," she says.
She got more experience when she set up two conferences and a golffor her next employer, Time-Warner Satellite Services. She thrived in the role of planner and jumped at the chance to take a job as full-time seminar coordinator at the Alliance, a nonprofit insurance education organization. "This job feeds my extreme attention to detail," she says. "We do everything from beginning to end."
The Alliance decides which cities will host the seminars a year before they take place. Then the seminar coordinators divide the seminars by state and rush to book the hotels. "That's a ton of phone calls, faxes, and endless negotiating," Mathews says. "I rely heavily on the work of the other departments here, like accounting, continuing education, and registration. I'm like the conductor of the orchestra."
When she's not on the road setting up seminars, she kicks back at home with her husband and two cats and reads "like a madwoman--just about anything that's nonfiction, from biographies to personal finance."
She also writes a bit of nonfiction--the gossip column for her high school's alumni magazine. "Now that is funwork," she says. "People send me news about what's going on in their lives--marriages, babies, careers, new houses."
A Broad Reach Mathews spends most of her time planning 50 educational seminars a year for the National Council for Insurance, one of five groups under the umbrella of the Alliance. (The others are the Society of Certified Insurance Counselors, the Society of Certified Insurance Service Representatives, Certified Risk Managers International, and the Academy of Producer Insurance Studies.)
The National Alliance was founded in 1969 to administer educational and professional designation programs for insurance professionals. Eighty percent of the Alliance participants are independent insurance agents from the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Canada. Last year, more than 70,000 students took more than 1,600 programs, covering everything from agency management to the dynamics of selling. The Alliance's core curriculum consisted of 305 Alliance institutes, each of which was three days long.
Participants who complete five institutes earn the designation of Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC). To keep their designation, they must attend one institute, CIC-only seminar, or Certified Risk Managers International (CRMI) course each year. The CRMI program is the newest designation developed by the Alliance. "We thought [risk managers] needed their own home," Mathews says. "We are trying to address every chunk of the insurance industry."
Meanwhile Mathews, middle of the night or not, will keep addressing every chunk of seminar planning.