About 50 planners and hospitality partners shared concerns and planning tips and engaged in some addictive teambuilding exercise during the 2006 Northeast Regional Winter Meeting, January 5 to 7 at the Westin Providence and the Rhode Island Convention Center.

One of the meeting highlights was a roundtable discussion on effective cost-cutting solutions, with a four-page takeaway document containing dozens of tips and suggestions on everything from how to cut costs in food and beverage operations to how to use technology for effective time management.

Attendees also heard from Executive Director Steve Bova on the transformation of ICPA into FICP. In addition to a name change and a new set of bylaws, a number of initiatives are in the works for the near future, including an FICP branding initiative project and the ongoing redesign of the FICP Web site. He also talked about the need in 2006 to encourage financial services meeting planners to get more involved with the renamed association.

Space Shuttle astronaut Mike Mullane spoke about his experiences in space, as well as the space program's spectacular successes and tragic failures — lessons that can be relevant to anyone in business. And representatives of the Providence Police Department's Homeland Security division gave a rundown on security and terrorism prevention issues.

Another meeting highlight was a “Bridge Over Chocolate Water” teambuilding exercise, sponsored by TeamBonding Inc. of Canton, Mass. Teams of planners and hospitality partners, with the ability to “buy” chocolate and candy building supplies, were given various construction assignments that ranged from schools to country cottages. In a meeting room that quickly filled with the sweet smell of melting chocolate, participants worked together to plan and build several attractive — and delicious — structures.

Candy was not the only thing on the menu during the Northeast chapter meeting. The opening night reception and dinner were held at the Agora Restaurant in the Westin Providence, while meeting attendees headed over to L'Epicureo at the Hotel Providence on the second night. Both meals were spectacular.

Plaudits for a successful meeting go to Jennifer Squeglia, CMP, Fidelity Investments, along with her design team of Karyn Rizzo, CMP, Sun Life Financial; Ali Ginnett, First Floridian; Melissa Rapp, Prudential; Kathy Wallitsch, CMP, Blue Cross Blue Shield of R.I.; Judy Cuccorelli, CMP, Citizens Bank; Barry Akers, Westin Providence; John McGinn, Rhode Island Convention Center; Suzanne Grogan, Hotel Providence; and Mark Beythoun, E-vent Central.