Message from the President
As the year draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the accomplishments of the association in 2002 and set a direction for 2003 and beyond.
I believe our single biggest accomplishment in 2002 was the rollout of the new Web site. It was long overdue and underwent several changes in direction, but I think it was well worth the wait. The new Web site allows online membership registration/renewal and access to planner contact information as well as hospitality partner contact information. Suppliers and planners can be searched by various criteria. Both planners and suppliers can instantly update their information. This leap forward in the Web site design eliminates the need to print directories and exchange booklets, saving money for the association.
One other significant accomplishment in 2002 has been the enhancement of the sponsorship structure. Working closely with the HP committee, the board has increased the recognition for silver, gold, and platinum sponsors and provided better differentiation among all levels of sponsorships. The end result is a sponsorship program that is more attractive to suppliers because of increased marketing and recognition opportunities.
As 2003 draws near, I am working with the board to pursue the following initiatives:
A number of companies have spent time analyzing the pros and cons of in-house versus outside vendors to support meeting planning functions. We need to capture that information as a reference for all planners.
We want to create a “document” providing meeting planners with quantitative ways to demonstrate the value they bring to their organizations. It would provide comprehensive details about what meeting planners do, and enable meeting planners to demonstrate their worth.
We want to promote regional chapter growth. New chapters are being established/re-established in the Northeast, South, and West. The board has continued to support these chapters financially with a $750 investment for conducting a regional chapter meeting. We'rre looking at ways to be more involved. Relationships are an important part of this business, and regional chapter meetings are one way to nourish and build those important relationships.
As the old saying goes, the more you give the more you will get. So I am asking for your commitment in 2003 to give me all you've got to make a great association even greater and to take it to the next level. Everyone involved will benefit from the effort. Make it a great 2003!
Mutual of Omaha
New York City 2005!
ICPA announced at its 2002 Annual Meeting that the group's 2005 Annual Meeting will be held November 6 to 10 at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City. In the Times Square area, close to the theater district and other attractions, the Marriott Marquis has 1,879 guest rooms, 67 suites, and a staff of more than 2,000.
Among the more than 50 event and meeting rooms are an exhibit hall and four ballrooms. The 29,025-square-foot Broadway Ballroom divides into 10 sections and has a full-size Broadway production stage. It accommodates up to 2,800 people for receptions, 2,500 for general sessions, and 2,200 for banquets. Additional ballrooms include the 22,500-square-foot Westside Ballroom, the 6,055-square-foot Astor Ballroom, and the 4,870-square-foot Marquis Ballroom for high-end board meetings.
Elegant sky lobbies on the 16th and 37th floors are available for special catered affairs, and there are 55 suites for executive-style entertaining.
Ottawa Hosts Biggest-Ever Canadian Meeting
It was the biggest Canadian Regional Chapter meeting ever: Thirty-two attendees gathered at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, Ontario, August 23 to 25, for learning, networking, and a bit of relaxation.
According to co-chair Barb Giesbrecht, “the roundtable discussions were very interactive, as usual, and once again we could have used more time.” Topics included online registration, hot incentive ideas, cost-saving tips, security, incentive conference taxation, and ethics. A new topic this year, the ethics discussion sparked a lot of conversation and has already been requested again for next year's agenda.
The chapter was thrilled to hear two keynote speakers, both sponsored by CanSpeak. Denis Cauvier enlightened the group with “The Art & Science of Stress Management” and Dee Brasseur motivated attendees with her presentation, “The Sky Is the Limit”.
Next year's meeting will be held in late August in a still-to-be-determined location.
New Features on ICPA Web Site
ICPA is excited to introduce its newly designed and enhanced Web site. The address is the same, but when you go to www.icpanet.com, you'll find an entirely new online experience. It's much easier to navigate and find the information you need, as well as to register online for meetings.
Brand new Web site features are the planner and hospitality partner profiles, which formerly appeared in print format. Now, the book is online. You can scroll down the entire list of ICPA members or hospitality partners, or use the search engine to locate a specific member or HPer. The information will be continually updated, by both the association and by individual members and hospitality partners — who can quickly and easily update their profiles at any time.
The planner and hospitality partner profiles are password-protected. Only current ICPA members in good standing, or those individuals on the HP mail list — a $150 fee — are able to access the information.
ICPA Honorary Members Speak Out
Earlier this year, ICPA sent a survey to honorary (retired) members that asked — among other questions — for their views on current changes in the insurance/financial services industry, the job of today's meeting planners, the challenges they faced during their own professional careers, and their predictions for the future. Forty percent of the 52 honorary members responded. What follows is a summary of the overall findings and a cross-section of their views.
Respondents observed that the major challenge facing today's insurance conference planner is to “do more with less” in the face of ever-rising costs and ubiquitous budget cutting. Among the significant changes they've seen: the increasing presence of women meeting planners, the increasing significance of the hospitality industry in ICPA, and the expansion of the organization to include the financial services industry.
There was also concern about more companies being gobbled up by larger ones, and the ensuing lack of job security. Many former planners are happy to be away from the current bottom-line climate. They are glad to have been a part of the industry during the “Camelot days” when the pressures were fewer and more controllable. Yet, many respondents said that the job of today's planner is more appreciated by senior management, and is on a more senior management level. Continuing education and keeping up with technology are seen as all-important.
Changes and Challenges
Jim Isling, Monumental Insurance, said the biggest change he's noted in ICPA is “expanding to the entire financial services industry, which I think has been a positive step for our association.” Jack Sullivan, New England Life, cited “the addition of worldwide meeting locations for planners.” Ernie Tsourus, Chubb, noted that “added interaction with hospitality partners is a big change in ICPA.”
How has the job of the insurance meeting planners changed? “More specialization,” said Patricia Phair, Manufacturers Life. “Increased professionalism,” added Irvin Holmes, Woodmen of the World. Judith Cuccorelli, CMP, MetLife, commented that “In the past, meeting planners' responsibilities were logistical. Now they are also responsible for strategically planning meetings, developing creative themes, agenda development and return on investment.”
The greatest challenge respondents faced when they were meeting planners themselves? Robert Goodell, State Mutual, and Reeves Lukens, Pilot Life, both cited keeping attendees happy. “Getting recognition in my own company,” said John Carlisle, Mutual Life of Canada. For Richard Block, Lafayette Life, it was “competing with senior management's lack of knowledge about meeting planners' functions. Hugh Howell, Guardian Life, lamented, “reduced budgets, organizational changes, reporting lines,.” Warren Nash, National Life, said, “convincing my management that meetings were essential to increasing sales.”
When asked about the greatest challenge facing conference planners today, Gary Garrison, John Alden Life, said “running successful conferences with limited resources.” Ernie Tsourus cited “planning in the very volatile corporate world.” Hugh Howell noted “job eliminations, travel problems, nonmeeting-related responsibilities, and budget cuts.”
Predictions for the future? “Pressure from the corporate bean counters won't make life any easier for the meeting planner. Neither will the increasing pressures from rising transportation, hotel, food, and entertainment costs,” said Ted Tidwell. “As companies merge or are acquired, there will be greater opportunities to stretch and expand, but there will be fewer positions,” predicted Gary Garrison. “More diversification,” said Richard Bloch. “Fewer meeting planner jobs because of takeovers,” noted John Carlisle. “I see the meeting planner profession growing more in the independent capacity; some companies are still looking at the planner's job as the first one to cut back,” observed Judith Cuccorelli.
Respondents were unanimous in their belief that ICPA membership is tremendously important, and active participation is greatly beneficial to a meeting planner's career and standing in the industry. Networking with other planners, they emphasized, is the most significant way to achieve practical, valuable knowledge for dealing with today's issues.
Chicago Draws Record Crowd to Great Lakes Regional Event
ICPA's Great Lakes Regional Chapter did something different this year: It held the popular regional chapter meeting in a downtown location instead of at a resort. The Renaissance Chicago hosted a record 62 attendees August 19 to 21.
“The meeting demonstrated the advantages of a major downtown venue,” says Jerry Schmidt, CMP, Great Lakes regional liaison. “One of the advantages was flexibility. We were able to move into larger meeting rooms when our numbers grew larger than we expected.” He also cites a scavenger hunt that “turned us loose on downtown Chicago and parts of the city people didn't know about” as a great way for planners to learn how to use a downtown area.
Speaker highlights included ICPA President Brett Barrowman, American Fidelity; and ICPA Vice President-Education Gary Pearson, Aon Services Corp. Mike Waterman, Midwest area director of sales and marketing, Renaissance Hotels, Resorts, and Suites, gave an insightful overview of the state of the hotel industry post-9/11.
Among the roundtable discussion highlights was a session onthat “gave us interesting insights on standardization,” reports Schmidt. “There seems to be a real movement towards standardization by every Marriott property, but contractual language remains the stickler. In general, it was an eye-opening discussion.”
In addition, there was a frank discussion of ethics “that five years ago, would not have happened,” says Schmidt, and a convention and visitors bureau panel that showed what CVBs can do to help planners.
According to Schmidt, the entire agenda did a great job of covering the concerns of both planners and suppliers. Overall, he says, the staying power of the hospitality industry and of insurance meetings and incentives in the midst of a tough economy, was a resounding theme. “There's a tremendous amount of capital expenditure going on in the hotel industry,” he notes, adding, “What the insurance planners were saying was that we're not necessarily doing fewer meetings, but we're doing smarter meetings.”
Next year's Great Lakes Regional meeting will be held at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, August 17 to 19. For more info, contact Jerry Schmidt at email@example.com.
What They're Doing Now
Honorary Members are staying active. Gary Garrison is busy with his studies at the University of Cambridge, and Jack Sullivan has gone back to college to study U.S. history. Jack Parks is an avid golfer, and Ernie Tsourus keeps busy golfing, playing tennis, kayaking, and reading. Fishing, boating, and the arts occupy some of John Bain's time. Warren Nash keeps busy woodworking. Jim Isling's favorite pursuit is traveling. (“What else would you expect?” he asks.) Judith Cuccorelli likes being a fashion coordinator and consulting. Patricia Phair enjoys the theater and concerts.
Most honorary ICPA members see one another rarely, usually when they attend ICPA meetings. However, two former planners now seeing a lot of each other are Ted Tidwell and Dave Vanselow, who recently became neighbors in Beaver Lake, Ark.