Almost 70 insurance and financial services planners came to the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans on July 17 to 19 to learn, network, and have some fun. They got all that and more at the ICPA Summer Educational Forum, which this year included standout presentations on everything from managing your e-mail and group security and contingency planning, to dealing with problem people and an airlines update. Even the weather seemed to cooperate: Lurking hurricane Claudette cleared out of the area just in time for the meeting, and an afternoon shower ended in plenty of time for an outdoor activity on the first evening. Inside the meeting rooms, the atmosphere was charged with energy, enthusiasm, and enquiring minds.

While there were so many things to love about the Forum, here is a pick of my personal top 10, in no particular order:

1. Putting on the Ritz—where else to do it but at the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans? From elevators that seemed to magically appear at the touch of the button, to the elegant lobby and courtyard area, to triple-sheeted beds you can fall right into, this hotel was made for pleasure. And for business, especially its beautifully appointed Lafayette Ballroom, where the ICPA sessions were held.

2. Talk about Southern hospitality! Not only did we have a delicious K-Paul-catered dinner, but we had it at the Moore Goldstein Historical House in the Garden District—which also just happened to be the place Bonnie Boyd, owner of New Orleans DMC Bonnie Boyd & Co., calls home.