Where members and hospitality partners from Financial & Insurance Conference Planners gather, networking and best practices follow. That was certainly the case with the Northeast Regional FICP Meeting, held January 24–26 at Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center in Tarrytown, N.Y. Here are just a few tips that were shared during the meeting:

  • Take a First Aid course with your entire meeting team. Get certified in CPR, and renew that certification every year.
  • Before you travel, scan the contents of your wallet—driver’s license, passport, credit cards—and e-mail the scans to yourself.
  • If you’re planning to use your program name rather than your company name on signage in hotels, be sure to use your program name extensively on pre-meeting materials so that attendees will recognize it on site.
  • Did you know that planners can attend any FICP regional meeting in the country, regardless of where they are based? Take advantage of a regional event to do a site inspection of a property you’re considering—and get a dose education and networking as a great bonus! (See a list of upcoming meetings below.)
  • As we come off a year where reporters and photographers occasionally staked out resorts looking for companies holding meetings, consider having a member of your public-relations staff attend your large incentive programs to handle any media-related fallout.

And that’s just a sampling of the lively interaction at the meeting, chaired by Lindsay Maloni, conference and event planner at MetLife in Boston, and developed by design team members Maloni; Ali Ginnett, Independent Planner; Sheryl Krongold, Prudential; Meghan Schilt, CMP, Apax Partners; Brian Fehling, PRA New York; Matt Davis, ALHI; Scott Kerr, Multi Image Group; Diane Goodman, Goodman Speakers Bureau; and Stephanie Zapata, Tarrytown House Estate.

Association Update
After a welcome reception and sponsor showcase on Sunday evening, attendees enjoyed an incredible chef’s tasting menu celebrating Pinot Noir, created by Executive Chef Chris Hettinger. Then it was right down to business early the next morning, with both formal presentations and informal roundtable discussions.

FICP President-Elect Todd Zint, CMP, CMM, vice president, meetings and event marketing, National Financial Partners, Austin, Texas, traveled to the Northeast Regional Meeting to talk about some of the work the board of directors is doing. In the realm of communications and the association Web site, FICP is continuing to promote its Online Exchange, a searchable database of planner profiles and meeting histories. Zint encouraged members to input their information in order to create a resource for fellow members and hospitality partners.

Members will be able to see each other’s comments about their meeting experiences, while hospitality partners will see only the facts about members’ previous meetings.

Work on FICP’s Knowledge Library, a collection of documents, presentations, and other practical resources, is under way. And FICP is continuing its presence on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

On the membership front, FICP has a goal of 55 new members and 85 percent retention in 2010. Christina Zycinski, association manager at FICP headquarters in Chicago, said the association could use everyone’s help to boost membership this year. To that end, a recruitment contest is under way for planners and hospitality partners. Get the details here.

Bob Beach, director of national sales for Destination Hotels and Resorts and a member of FICP’s Hospitality Partner Committee, told attendees that the committee and the board continue to collaborate on the vision and direction of the association. He reminded everyone about the “Buy FICP” campaign, which encourages FICP members to consider the products and services of FICP hospitality partners first, in recognition of the important role HPers play in the success of FICP’s regional and national events.

Staying Safe
One of the major discussion points at the regional gathering was security at meetings. A panel presentation on the topic featured Janie Prevost, program manager, MassMutual Financial Group in Springfield, Mass.; Lisa Bussard-Compton, senior account executive, Hello Florida!; and Michael Dominguez, director of risk management at the New York Marriott Marquis.

When moderator Lindsay Maloni asked Dominguez how much contact he typically has with planners meeting at his hotel, Dominguez replied, “Most planners spend more time on food and beverage than on security planning. It’s one of those things you don’t care about until you need it.” He encouraged the planners in attendance to meet with the hotel security staff. “Use us. We are here to make your event run smoothly.”

Prevost said that her company’s security department gets involved at the point of site selection. In fact, the head of security must sign off on the destination for any meeting involving senior executives as well as the company’s large incentive programs. A member of corporate security travels with Prevost to the operations site visit, meeting with destination management companies and any off-site venues the company will be using. At MassMutual programs, a senior corporate security manager and other security staff are always in attendance. “It’s usually the same people year to year,” Prevost notes. “That creates a comfort level for the attendees, and the officers get to know the meeting.”

Other on-site precautions MassMutual takes include hiring hotel security to watch the general session room when it’s not in session and asking hotel leadership to remind all associates not to mention that the company is on site.

Lisa Bussard-Compton, of destination management company Hello Florida!, was on the panel to speak about liability. “Planners aren’t asking enough questions,” she believes. “They ask about a DMC’s financials, its history, but how deep are they going into a company’s insurance policies? Do the policies cover all the vendors that they are contracting?” There are typically gaps in insurance coverage, she noted, and planners need to be aware of who is responsible in all situations. For example, “air and marine,” she said, are not covered in a typical DMC insurance policy. So be especially careful with activities such as fishing excursions and hot-air balloon rides.

Are You Emotionally Intelligent?
One of the day’s highlights was a talk from Hendrie Weisinger, PhD, who covered a lot of ground on “emotional intelligence.” Emotions are universal, they impact performance, and it’s those who can manage them who will be successful, said Weisinger, who has written several books on the topic. His latest is called The Genius of Instinct.

Learning to manage them involves changing the way you talk to yourself: Replace negative thoughts with positive, instructional statements that you actually write down and repeat. “Take the time to say three statements that will allow you to succeed,” he said. “It sounds simple but it will have a profound impact.”

Weisinger also suggested that planners tap into the value of criticism, both giving it and receiving it. Think of criticism as “evaluative information that can help you,” he said. Rather than respond defensively, ask the question, “How do I do better?” Likewise, when giving criticism, tell the recipients of your critique how they can do better rather than what they are doing wrong.

And how about passing this idea along to your senior management: “Have formal joke sessions with your staff,” Weisinger says. “Humor is a job skill. It makes you more likable. It attracts people to you.”

Attendees left Tarrytown in the late afternoon for a site inspection of selected New York City venues followed by a stunning dinner hosted by The Peninsula New York.

On Tuesday morning, Jennifer Squeglia, independent meeting planner, Boston Private Wealth Management Group, moderated a partnership panel featuring Debbie Boschee, vice president, conference & meeting services, Prudential; Kathy DeLand, president, Meeting Strategies Unlimited; and Katy Gettinger, global account director, Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The group covered partnerships among planners, procurement managers, and industry suppliers, and touched on topics such as what makes a successful partnership, how partners complement each other, giving constructive feedback, and the decision-making process.

Panelists also talked about how collaboration with suppliers can help planners do more with less (a trend that is continuing in 2010!) and that successful partnerships with senior management require taking on a consultative role rather than the role of “order-taker.”

Upcoming FICP Meetings

  • March 18–19, Southeast Regional Meeting, InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
  • June 16–18, FICP Education Forum, Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark
  • August 19–21, Canada Regional Meeting, Fairmont Tremblant, Mont Tremblant, Québec
Details about upcoming Northeast, West Coast, and Midwest regional meetings will be coming soon. Check for updates at the FICP Web site.