Hurricane Claudette hovered off the coast of Texas just days before this year’s ICPA summer educational Forum for insurance and financial planners, but that didn’t deter the record 69 participants from coming to New Orleans for the event, held July 17 to 19. And they had many reasons to be glad they came, not the least of which was an excellent educational program put together by Forum Chairperson Gary Pearson and his design team: Leanne Acton, Laura Baukol, Melissa Cohill, John Touchette, Pam Ferguson from the Ritz-Carlton, and Karen Hopkinson.

Among the many highlights of the programming were sessions on power e-mailing by Corbin Ball; group security and contingency planning by Rick Werth, with a real-life example provided by Leanne Acton, CMP; an airline industry update by American Airlines’ Tonia Rachel and Alynne Hanford; and a fun session on converting the complainer, where special guest speaker Connie Merritt incorporated music, visuals, and interactive activities into the mix.

As for the series of interactive roundtable discussions, moderator Pamela McQueen promised an "ICPA reality show" that would be a combination of "Survivor" and "Extreme Makeover." Participants got all that and more. They got to pick each others’ brains for answers to vexing questions, both large—how do you add value without adding cost?—and small, such as what’s the best way to get your voice mail under control? Participants leapt to their feet to throw their ideas into the ring, and notepads were rapidly filled with best practices and interesting new options to explore. As McQueen promised, everyone did walk away with at least three—it ended up being more like 30—new ideas they could implement back at their offices, and at least three new professional contacts to network with.

These discussions continued through the social events, which included lunch with a view at the Windsor Court Hotel and an evening of jazz and blues at the host hotel, the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. Everyone really got to feel like a star, though, on the first evening. After meeting in the Ritz’s lobby to be garlanded with strands of beads, participants danced down Bourbon Street through the French Quarter behind a jazz band while tourists begged for beads and videotaped the procession. The parade wound up at an elegant reception at a private residence in Jackson Square, followed by a K.Paul-prepared dinner at the Moore Goldstein Historical House, which also happens to be the home of Bonnie Boyd, head of BBC: Bonnie Boyd & Co., the DMC that arranged the evening’s activities.

Look for more Forum details in the September/October issue of Insurance Conference Planner magazine. And look for more great photos of the event, which like the ones shown here were taken by redbutton.tv. If you don't want to wait, go to ICPAphotography.com to see more of the fun we had in New Orleans. Use event password "Jazz."