If the first-ever incentive meeting wasn't held for insurance agents, no doubt the second one was. Insurance companies and incentive meetings go way back.

Likewise, no history of ICP magazine would be complete without an accompanying history of the Insurance Conference Planners Association. Not formally connected, ICP and ICPA nevertheless share an audience — professional planners handling high-end meetings at companies that lead the industry in efficient meeting management.

“ICPA was first industry association out of the gate in 1958,” notes Leila MacFeeley, former head of meetings for Prudential Insurance Co. of America and the first female chairperson of the ICPA Board. Since then, ICPA has grown from a small group of peers who met every year at the Biltmore Hotel in New York to a professional organization of nearly 500 members offering education and networking at an annual meeting that gets booked into the top destinations in North America and the Caribbean.

Here, past and present ICPA Board of Directors and HP Committee members talk about what makes the association unique — and how it can stay relevant in the future.

FRANK ANTON

Years in Meeting Planning: 25

First Title: Director, Advertising and Sales Promotion, and Meeting Planner Assistant, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Title at Retirement: Director, Conventions, Meetings, Incentive Travel, Special Events

Joined ICPA: 1978 (Annual Meeting: Nashville)

ICPA Board: 1988 to 1992 (President in 1991; nominated by ICPA for the CLC Hall of Fame)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The biggest change that took place at the time was to have the Insurance Conference Planners Association take over Hospitality Partner registrations for our annual meeting rather than have the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association continue to handle them. Buck Hoyle was executive director of HSMA at the time, and ICPA leaders felt it was fair and appropriate to have the income that resulted from such registrations go into its own treasury for future growth needs. It was ICPA's objective to have an equal ratio of Hospitality Partners to ICPA members at the meetings. The toughest part for us was arriving at the proper and fair percentage of Hospitality Partner attendees from the respective supplier categories, such as hotels, convention bureaus, airlines, speakers bureaus, etc.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Never lose sight of the fact that we're in the people business and we must maintain close relationships with other ICPA members.

LYNN AVERILL

Years in Meeting Planning: 25

First Title: Floater, National Life of Vermont, Montpelier, Vt. My first job was working with Warren Nash, one of the founders of ICPA, on National Life's annual sales conference, making name tags, registration packets, etc.

Current Title: 2nd VP, Travel & Conferences, National Life of Vermont

Joined ICPA: 1990 (Annual Meeting: Montréal)

ICPA Board: 1998 to 2002 (President in 2001)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: I felt strongly that the Planners' Exchange Session at the annual meeting needed fixing. In an effort to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with fellow planners during the Exchange, we hurt some of our Hospitality Partners (who paid good money to attend the meeting and supported our association) in the process. Planners would literally avoid any HPs in the Marketplace who received a bad rap, and in some cases this affected their business long past the annual. I was the Program Chair in 2000 and probably the most controversial piece of this was not scheduling an Exchange at the Broadmoor meeting. I took a lot of heat for it, and in the long run, I believe, raised awareness of just how problematic it was to our Hospitality Partners.

Classic ICPA Moment: I was sitting on a boat having a drink with a fellow planner and hotel global sales office rep. The hotel was anxious to have my planner friend sign a contract (I was doing a site of the same hotel). My friend signed the contract before we got off the boat and before the site — talk about trust!

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Always remember the importance of relationships in our business and support our Hospitality Partners.

BRETT BARROWMAN

Years in Meeting Planning: 10

First Title: Meeting and Travel Manager, American Fidelity Assurance Co., Oklahoma City

Current Title: Vice President, Director, Conference Planning and Travel Management Services, American Fidelity Assurance Co.

Joined ICPA: 1994 (Annual Meeting: Orlando)

ICPA Board: 1999 to 2003 (President in 2002)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Growth, annual meeting attendance, and inclusion of planners from financial services companies as members

Classic ICPA Moment: Every Board meeting, every chapter meeting, every annual meeting and every Educational Forum provided new insights into the industry and people. It was always an eye-opener to see how others do their jobs, lead groups, and how they manage.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Aim for controlled growth and maintain industry integrity

DEBBIE BOSCHEE, CMP

Years in Meeting Industry: 22

First Title: Associate Manager, Conference & Travel, Prudential, Minneapolis, Minn.

Current Title: Director, Conference & Meeting Services, Prudential Financial, Minneapolis, Minn.

ICPA Member Since: 1991 (Annual Meeting: Tucson)

ICPA Board: 2002 to 2005 (President in 2004)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The move of ICPA headquarters from a stand-alone office in Vancouver to an association management firm, SmithBucklin, in Chicago. This was a major change for the association and while the majority of the members and Hospitality Partners embraced it, not all feedback was positive. This change, however, was necessary to move the association forward in growth of membership and benefits the association can offer its members.

Classic ICPA Moment: The Biker Bar Party at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort during the 1998 Annual Meeting in Palm Springs. For those who are reading this that were in attendance, I don't think I need to elaborate: It was a one-of-a-kind experience! Being a member of ICPA has benefited me personally and professionally in so many ways. I've learned through the formal educational offerings and also through the informal sharing that occurs day-to-day with my fellow members and HPers, not to mention how much I've gained through my membership on the Board of Directors.

MICHAEL BURKE, CMP

Years in Meeting Planning: 10

First Title: Conference & Travel Consultant, Paul Revere Insurance, Springfield, Mass.

Current Title: Manager, Conference & Travel Services, Allmerica Financial, Worcester, Mass.

Joined ICPA: 1995 (Annual Meeting: Honolulu)

ICPA Board: 2003 to present (current President)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: ICPA's move to an association management firm. With regard to meetings, the hot issues are Sarbanes-Oxley and the increased focus on security.

Classic ICPA Moment: For me, it was November 2001 when we came together as an industry and stood up for what we believed in and went forward with our annual meeting in the Bahamas. That sent a powerful message.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Continue to push the strategic initiatives developed in January 2005, which include attracting financial services meeting planners and further infiltrating those on the insurance meetings side. Increase the association's educational value.

SHARON CHAPMAN, CMP, CMM

Years in Meeting Planning: 21

First Title: Corporate Events Administrator, Kay-Bee Toys

Current Title: Travel and Corporate Events Planner, Berkshire Life Insurance Company of America, Pittsfield, Mass.

Joined ICPA: 1997 (Annual Meeting: San Diego)

ICPA Board: 2004 to present

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: ICPA's strategic direction and the rebranding of the association to include financial services members

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Grow membership and offer more value through education and networking

JIM GETSCHER, CMP

Years in Meeting Planning: 40

First Title: Auditor, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha, Neb.

Current Title: First VP, Conventions, Travel & Meetings, Mutual of Omaha

Joined ICPA: 1980

ICPA Board: 1986 to 1990 (President in 1989)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Setting up full-time administration staff for ICPA

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Help planners understand the mission of incentive travel and the application of return on investment. Expand from travel logistics to meeting management.

RICHARD GRANGER

Years in Meeting Planning: 31

First Title: Manager, Recognition & Conference Planning, State Mutual of America (now Allmerica Financial), Worcester, Mass.

Current Title: Assistant Director, Conference Planning Services, The Hartford, Simsbury, Conn.

Joined ICPA: 1979 (Annual Meeting: Reno)

ICPA Board: 1993 to 1996 (President in 1995)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Eliminating incentive house attendance at the annual meeting. Also, I was the first ICPA President-Elect to use a design team in developing the annual meeting program.

Advice to ICPA's Future Leaders: ICPA must maintain its relevance through educational opportunities for new and experienced planners. It must also enhance its stature through continued networking opportunities for planners and Hospitality Partners in order to attract new members and retain existing members.

MICHAEL KEY, CMP

Years in Meeting Planning: 25

First Title: VP, Agency Secretary, Public Savings Insurance Co., Charleston, S.C.

Current Title: Assistant VP, Sales Support, Monumental Life Insurance Co., Durham, N.C.

Joined ICPA: 1992 (Annual Meeting: Amelia Island)

ICPA Board: 2000 to 2003

Classic ICPA Moment: Serving as VP/Treasurer and keeping the association within budget for three years, and assisting in the formation of the Southeast Regional Chapter with James Wolfe, CMP.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Keep membership growing (there is strength in numbers). Keep the focus on meeting planners in the financial services industry.

SHIRLEY MERTZ, CMP

Years in Meeting Planning: 25

First Title: Meeting Services Manager, Nationwide Insurance Co., Columbus, Ohio

Title at Retirement: As above

Joined ICPA: 1990 (Annual Meeting: Montréal)

ICPA Board: 1998 to 2001 (President in 2000)

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The inclusion of planners from financial services companies as members of ICPA, and getting the organization to grow

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Focus on new members.

GARY PEARSON

Years in Meeting Planning: 24

First Title: Manager of Meetings and Premium Incentives, Combined Insurance Co., Chicago

Current Title: Director, Corporate Meetings & Events, Aon Service Corp., Chicago

Joined ICPA: 1993 (Annual Meeting: San Antonio)

ICPA Board: 2001 to 2004

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The change to an association-management company running the association

Classic ICPA Moment: During the Planners' Exchange session at my first ICPA Annual Meeting, I asked if anyone had held a meeting at the Fiesta Americana Coral Beach Hotel in Cancun. Combined Insurance was going there the following February and I had never held a meeting in Mexico. Dave Vanselow, ICPA's President at the time and the moderator of the Exchange, responded that we should meet after the session. He told me what to look for and how to get things done at the hotel. He also asked for my card and sent me letters and brochures that he sent to his attendees that covered everything they needed to know about traveling to Mexico and then some. Some of that information Combined still uses today for Cancun trips. We would have been lost without it. After that, I said ICPA is the place for me and I never want to miss an annual meeting, which, fortunately, I haven't since.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: We must provide more educational take-home value to our meeting attendees, especially at the annual meeting.

KEN PICKLE, CMP, CPCU

Years in Meeting Planning: 26

First Title: Conference Media Coordinator, Safeco Insurance Co., Seattle

Current Title: Manager, Incentives & Conferences, Agency Relations & Recognition, Safeco Insurance Co.

Joined ICPA: 1991 (Annual Meeting: Tucson)

ICPA Board: 1996 to 1999

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Doing more with less. Everyone was facing tighter budgets, fewer staff, more work.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Continue to foster networking. Improve the ICPA members' online Message Board to make it more user-friendly, thus encouraging more planners to use it.

LYNNE SCHUELER

Years in Meeting Planning: 18

First Title: Account Manager, ITA Group, West Des Moines

Current Title: Assistant Director, Meeting Planning Services, Principal Financial Group, Des Moines, Iowa

Joined ICPA: 1992 (Annual Meeting: Amelia Island, Fla.)

ICPA Board: 2005 to present

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: ICPA's transition from its Vancouver headquarters to management by SmithBucklin in Chicago; growing the value of the association; and increasing the number of members

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Continue to grow the educational offerings of the association. Other meeting industry associations are enhancing their value, and ICPA needs to make sure it is continuing to provide value to members.

HP Committee Members

KIM BRADFORD

Years in Meeting Industry: 27

First Title: Regional Sales Manager, Western International Hotels, New York

Current Title: Director of Incentive Travel Sales, Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises, Charleston, S.C.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1981 (Annual Meeting: Dallas/Fort Worth)

HP Committee: 1996 to 1998

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The ratio of Hospitality Partners to planner members at the ICPA Annual Meeting

Classic ICPA Moment: Each year, realizing that insurance planners are the most professional clients, and among the nicest clients, in the industry

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Reach out to more insurance and financial planners, and do a better job of selecting which Hospitality Partners attend the annual meeting, with emphasis on those whom the insurance and financial services planners are most likely to use.

MARILYN BRUMBAUGH

Years in Meeting Industry: 32

First Title: Regional Sales Manager, Hyatt Hotels Worldwide Sales, New York City

Current Title: Director, National Accounts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, New York

Hospitality Partner Since: 1980 (Annual Meeting: Philadelphia)

HP Committee: I pre-date the committee! From about 1984 until 1989, Buck Hoyle, executive director of HSMA, and I handled supplier registration for the ICPA Annual Meeting. I was the supplier liaison to the ICPA Board and we both attended two Board meetings a year.

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The ICPA Board decided that the association needed a paid staff and opened the Vancouver office. Previously, the Board did everything, including paying for postage (and this was before computers)! Also during my tenure, the Board wrestled with the budget, how many suppliers should attend the annual meeting, and when they should arrive. Back then, suppliers attended for a day and a half. Then we left, and the planners had their meeting. Then it changed and the planners had a two-day meeting and we came in after. Now, I'm glad it has changed to welcome the suppliers for the entire program.

Classic ICPA Moment: Holding hands with [ICPA member] Wanda Bowling when we heard of a plane crash in New York during the 2001 Annual Meeting. I can still remember the fright we both experienced. Also, the first time I heard Capt. Gerry Coffey, at the annual meeting at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in 1985. It was a very moving keynote address for everyone.

Advice to ICPA's Future Leaders: Provide educational programs at the annual meeting so that planners will receive approval from their companies to attend the program. Continue to capture the financial sector as members and continue the great partnership between the planners and the suppliers.

FRANCINE COBB

Years in Meeting Industry: 26

First Title: Sales Coordinator, Holiday Tours (a Hawaii-based DMC)

Current Title: Director of Sales, Insurance and Worldwide Accounts, Hilton Hotels, Kansas City, Mo.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1985 (Annual Meeting: Honolulu)

HP Committee: 1992 to 1994

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: How Hospitality Partners could be better accepted by ICPA as true partners of the association. We were allowed to attend ICPA meetings, but we had many restrictions regarding when we could show up, staying away from planners until the “allowed” time, etc.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Invite insurance trade associations as members so we can learn more about insurance trends and grow the membership.

ANNE ERICKSON

Years in Meeting Industry: 30

First Title: Sales Manager, Holiday Inn, Bloomington, Minn.

Current Title: Director of Insurance Sales, Boca Raton Resort and Club, Boca Raton, Fla.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1978 (Annual Meeting: Nashville)

HP Committee: 1991 to 1994. These were the first years of the committee. I remember Patti Mottolese asking if I would consider being on it. None of us had any idea what our responsibilities or value would be at that time. We just knew that we would like to see some change in the attitude of ICPA toward the supplier community and hoped this would be an avenue toward making some progress.

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The biggest frustration in the beginning stages of the HP Committee was trying to get the Board to view us as partners. Our committee was given very little time to interact with the Board. Since that beginning stage, the HP Committee has made tremendous progress, with each new Board giving more opportunity and recognition to the supplier world and what they can do to assist in the growth and value of the association.

Classic ICPA Moment: Hosting the 1999 ICPA Annual Meeting at Boca. Having been with Boca since 1987, this was a longtime goal that actually came to fruition! Hosting an annual meeting is extremely stressful, and I was very lucky to have many supplier and planner friends who supported and encouraged me before and during the event. The friendships that are developed through ICPA are among the things that make this association unique and worthwhile.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Continue membership growth in the financial industry.

PAM FERGUSON

Years in Meeting Industry: 25

First Title: Sales Representative, Rochester Marriott Hotel

Current Title: Director of Insurance Sales, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Chicago

Hospitality Partner Since: 1998 (Annual Meeting: Palm Springs; however, I had attended the Annual Meeting in the 1980s!)

HP Committee: 2005 to present

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Effective expansion of ICPA membership into the financial market

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Expand membership and address the critical issues that face the planning community in the ever-changing economic environment.

SCOTT FLEXMAN

Years in Meeting Industry: 30

First Title: Sales Manager, Stouffer Hamilton Hotel, Itasca, Ill.

Current Title: Director, Sales and Marketing, Lansdowne Resort, Leesburg, Va.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1988 (Annual Meeting: Tampa, Fla.)

HP Committee: 1992 to 1996

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The Marketplace trade show held during the annual meeting. We spent a lot of time convincing the ICPA Board how important this was to the HP contingency. The other big issue was the HP registration process.

Classic ICPA Moment: The Tiny Tavern Tour of Seattle scouted out and hosted by the one and only Chuck Lane [Humana].

Advice to ICPA's Future Leaders: Continue to be open to change. All of our businesses continue to change at a very rapid pace. Being cognizant of the fact that there are many different issues facing the ICPA membership and the HP membership will allow the association to grow and prosper in the future.

CHRIS GILBERT

Years in Meeting Industry: 22

First Title: Travel Director, Maritz Travel

Current Title: National Sales Manager, Charleston Place, Charleston, S.C.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1993 (Annual Meeting: San Antonio)

HP Committee: 2000 to 2003

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Sponsorship and the lottery process for HP registration for the annual meeting

Classic ICPA Moment: Being in the “Full Monty” skit at the 1998 Annual Meeting

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Growing with the financial industry is a must. Continue efforts to demonstrate ROI by having knowledgeable planners on staff.

CINDY HODDESON

Years in Meeting Industry: 22

First Title: Meeting Planner, Kintetsu Intl. Express, New York

Current Title: Director, Meeting and Incentive Sales, Monaco Government Tourist Office

Hospitality Partner Since: 1988 (Annual Meeting: Tampa)

HP Committee: 2002 to 2004

Classic ICPA Moment: At my first annual meeting I was not only new to ICPA, but new to a sales position. I knew almost nobody. Aldo Marsili, a veteran hotelier who was most recently with Millennium Hotels and passed away last year, took me by the hand and introduced me to planners and Hospitality Partners. I very quickly felt completely part of the organization, and I haven't missed an annual meeting since.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Grow the membership by offering invaluable opportunities for professional education and networking.

JUNE LOCKE

Years in Meeting Industry: 27

First Title: Catering Assistant, Roosevelt Hotel, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Current Title: Senior Manager, Insurance Market, Worldwide Sales, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Chicago

Hospitality Partner Since: 1996 (Annual Meeting: Puerto Rico)

HP Committee: 2002 to 2004

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Moving ICPA's office from Vancouver to Chicago

Classic ICPA Moment: I received a warm welcome from ICPA members and Hospitality Partners when I joined the association. For example, Rich Granger and Jim Getscher introduced me to other association members and offered advice. Also Patti Mottolese with Starwood met with me and was extremely helpful.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Embrace change, but don't forget what has made ICPA a unique and tremendous organization. Believe in the value of networking and being true business partners. Help others: clients, colleagues, and competitors.

ISABEL MAHON

Years in Meeting Industry: 23

First Title: Program Planner, Cantrav West (a DMC)

Current Title: Director of Global Sales, Insurance, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Chicago

Hospitality Partner Since: 1993 (Annual Meeting: San Antonio)

HP Committee: 1999 to 2002

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: This was the start of the ICPA Board and the HP Committee being true partners. When I first joined the HP Committee, the two groups met for three hours together, and our input was very limited; but by the end of my term, it became a two-day meeting. We also began the sponsorship recognition program that is still evolving. And the lottery system for HP attendance at the annual meeting went from being a FedEx contest to a computerized lottery that made it fair for all the independents.

Classic ICPA Moment: The picnic under the stars at the Fairmont Kea Lani was certainly a highlight for me. Also, dancing with all my ICPA friends on the beach in Puerto Rico to KC and the Sunshine Band. On top of everything are the relationships that have become true friendships with both my counterparts and clients.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: ICPA needs to focus on planner education, increasing membership, and making sure Hospitality Partners get value from their sponsorship.

PATTI MOTTOLESE

Years in Meeting Industry: 20

First Title: Sales Manager, Westin Hotels & Resorts, West Coast Office

Most Recent Title: Director, Sales and Marketing, Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1986 (Annual Meeting: Washington, D.C.)

HP Committee: 1991 to 1995. I was the first chairperson of the newly created committee.

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Attrition, cancellation, attendance of incentive houses at the annual meeting

Classic ICPA Moment: Developing lifelong friendships and relationships. I've never experienced anything like it. ICPA's was the only meeting at the time where you actually went and worked — I loved it! I came away with a lot of information, business, and friends.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: For Hospitality Partners, don't forget that the purpose of ICPA and the annual meeting is to establish lasting relationships, not hard sales. Learn what the clients' needs are, how their businesses are changing, and how your product can work for them. Walk away from the annual meeting with at least five new relationships that you can nurture.

MICHAEL MURPHY

Years in Meeting Industry: 21

First Title: Senior Sales Manager, Renaissance Stanford Court, San Francisco

Current Title: Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, Washington, D.C.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1984 (Annual Meeting: Toronto)

HP Committee: 1997 to 1999

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Demutualization in the insurance industry

Classic ICPA Moment: The Biker Bar Party at the 1998 ICPA Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, Calif. That night the entire attendee base was 100 percent engaged in an experience that bonded those who attended for years to come.

Advice to ICPA's Future Leaders: Never, never give up on the core value of the association: relationships. We are a hard-working, loyal, fun bunch and this pays off in how we interact in business — we actually enjoy it!

KEVIN ROSA

Years in Meeting Industry: 18

First Title: Sales Coordinator, Days Inn-Cumberland, Atlanta

Current Title: Director of Sales and Conference Services, The Sagamore, Lake George, N.Y.

Hospitality Partner Since: 1996 (Annual Meeting: Puerto Rico)

HP Committee: 2004 to present

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The selection process for HP attendance at the annual meeting, and how we can work together to get a better cross section of Hospitality Partners

Classic ICPA Moment: Hosting the Northeast Chapter Meeting at The Sagamore in January 2004, when the high temperature was 8 degrees! Seeing Mark Beythoun [of E-ventCentral.com] walk from his room to the meetings in a “Southern California light jacket” was priceless.

Advice to ICPA's Future Leaders: Consider bringing the Hospitality Partners in as members.

GRANT SNIDER

Years in Meeting Industry: 20

First Title: Sales Manager, Le Meridien Hotel, Montréal

Current Title: VP and Partner, JPdL Destination Management, Québec

Hospitality Partner Since: 1991 (Annual Meeting: Tucson)

HP Committee: 2003 to 2005

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: Sponsorship and the selection process for Hospitality Partners for the annual meeting

Classic ICPA Moment: Something that has stuck with me, for better or for worse, is dressing up as Cupid at the 2000 ICPA Annual Meeting to promote the romance of Montréal and Québec.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: Offer truly high-level, strategic educational programs. Become the association that has to turn away new member requests because it's so in demand!

TINA STRAUSS

Years in Meeting Industry: 22

First Title: Telemarketer, Hilton National Sales Office, New York

Current Title: Senior Account Executive, New York Marriott Marquis Hotel

Hospitality Partner Since: 1993 (Annual Meeting: San Antonio)

HP Committee: 2004 to present

Hot Topic During Your Tenure: The focus on the financial market and the “re-branding” of ICPA with SmithBucklin at the helm

Classic ICPA Moment: There have been so many wonderful moments with this market because of the “fraternal” feel it has. It's unusual that you can work with one planner and have a good experience and that planner is the one who actually “markets” your hotel to another planner.

Advice for ICPA's Future Leaders: To thrive, the association must continue to change with the times. We need to continually focus on expanding our growth opportunities, address sponsorship opportunities, perfect the lottery process, and never get caught up in that dreaded fear of change.

ICPA 1989 to 2004: Karen Hopkinson — 1st Executive Director

MOST PEOPLE JOIN INDUSTRY organizations to do some networking and continue their education. When Karen Hopkinson, FLMI, joined the Insurance Conference Planners Association in 1985, she got more than she bargained for: a new job. For the next 15 years, Hopkinson was the friendly face of ICPA, the calm presence at each annual meeting, the helpful voice on the line from Vancouver. During her tenure, ICPA took a big, professional step forward. Now conference director at International Conference Services in Vancouver, Hopkinson took time recently to reflect on the association with which she was so closely identified for much of her career.

How did you go from ICPA member to ICPA executive director?

I attended my first meeting at the Hyatt Regency Waikiki in 1985. In 1988, the board asked the membership to vote on hiring an assistant to do its administrative work. Several people applied, we flew to Chicago to be interviewed, and I got the job. I started in May 1989, working in the basement of my home in Vancouver. My first annual meeting was in San Francisco two weeks after the major earthquake.

Talk about the growth of ICPA between 1989 and 2004.

The ICPA Annual Meeting used to be a forum to get together and chat. Over the years, the growing professionalism of the members made ICPA realize it had to make the meeting a forum for education. And we used to treat Hospitality Partners fairly badly. Now it has become a true partnership. Suppliers are recognized as partners and not just those salespeople bugging us!

The ICPA Annual Meeting was a must-attend event for suppliers and you were the gatekeeper! What was that like?

The annual meeting became one that suppliers coveted because we gave them access to planners who are true professionals. The quality of their incentive and business meetings is high, they use four- and five-star hotels. Everything is turned up a notch. I was charged with following a process designed by the Board for registering suppliers for the annual meeting. After a selected date, suppliers could submit applications, which were accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. We would number the FedEx's as they came through the mail slot. Some people hand-delivered them (Vancouver-based suppliers had to wait until noon to walk them over) and we even had an airline rep fly to Vancouver once, just to be first on the doorstep.

What are your thoughts on ICPA's future direction?

I commend ICPA for continuing programs that give back to the community. We started that in Puerto Rico in 1996, with a program for giving books to schools. I believe that ICPA's future lies in keeping up with the times, while allowing members more of a say in the path the association takes. Involving members from financial services companies shows that the association is looking ahead. But I would hate to see them water down the membership and become an MPI. What makes ICPA special is that it's a niche.
Alison Hall