ICPA Forum Covers Every Step of the Planning Process Speakers at ICPA's fifth Educational Forum, held in Providence, R.I., gave in-depth presentations on every phase of the planning process, from developing an RFP to on-site risk management. About 55 attendees gathered for the conference, moderated by ICPA Vice President of Education Mauna Hatchett, FLMI, CMP (Indianapolis Life Insurance Co.). Seminars were held at the host hotel, the Westin Providence, and at nearby Brown University.

On the first afternoon, ICP columnist and industry speaker Corbin Ball, CMP, told attendees how to "Surf for Turf," i.e., do virtual site inspections. The Internet is a giant library of destination information that makes it possible to do a lot of site investigation without leaving your office, said Ball, citing a J.D.

Power/Meeting Professionals International survey of 600 planners. Of those, 55 percent go to hotel Web sites for information, 32 percent go to airline sites, and 20 percent go to site selection/RFP sites such as PlanSoft, EventSource, and StarCite. "These online databases are richer than any paper source," Ball said.

Virtual site inspections, "won't replace an on-site visit," he said, "but they can help to narrow your choices. The online floor plans are far more accurate than the meeting room specs you find in a brochure." Get more information at www.corbinball.com.

Find the Perfect Speaker It comes down to addressing some key questions, said Ruth Levine, founder of Speak Inc. in San Diego. Among them:

- How do you want attendees to feel when they walk away from the session?

- If a big name is important, do you have $15,000 to $20,000 for a celebrity speaker?

- Do you want a speaker who stands still or moves around?

- What are your attendee demographics (age, educational background, gender)?

- Are you using a speaker who has spoken at other insurance events? Ask your bureau for contacts to call for references.

- Is humor important? It should be, said Levine, because people retain more information when they learn it through a humorous anecdote or joke.

- Do you want to save money on transportation costs by using a local speaker?

- Will you pay for first-class travel?

- Will you consider an all-inclusive fee that includes transportation and expenses? This is the trend, said Levine, because the bookkeeping is easy and the planner isn't hit with last-minute travel costs.

- What event, and other presenters, does the speaker follow? The worst speaker slot, Levine said, is after dinner. A professional speaker, she added, should always go on after company executives.

- How much time is planned for the presentation? Other sessions were chock-full of useful information. Look for more on the Forum in the October issue of the ICPA NewsNet.