HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and welcome to 2004, the year the Romans used to call MMIV. I know there is a lot to look forward to this year, but first I would like to talk about one of the major events of MMIII, the Insurance Conference Planners Association Annual Meeting. For those of you who could not attend, this recap will inform you of the most important points covered in the three-day event. For those of you who did attend, this recap will serve to jog your memory and help you recall those times when things went “blurry.”

This year's annual meeting was held at the beautiful Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla., where the civic motto is “Sister City of French Kissimmee.” One of the nicest things about Kissimmee is that if the residents ever want to change the name of their town to “Mike's Semi”, they can use the same letters that spell Kissimmee and just rearrange them.

The Gaylord Palms Resort — aka Hotel Under Glass — hosted ICPA in grand style. This climate-controlled venue allowed us to visit Florida from St. Augustine to Key West. I stayed in the South Florida Condominium Wing where all the rooms are designed to look like a retirement center in Boca. In addition to the daily supply of water and orange juice, we got figs in our rooms.

Since everything was under one roof at the Gaylord Palms, we got a taste of Florida without the pesky bugs, heat, or humidity that would normally be found on the outside. The weather was always a balmy 72 degrees at the resort, unless, of course, you ventured outdoors. On the one day we did venture out into the wild, it is said to have rained like a “gator full of cheese,” whatever that means.

The meetings were excellent. If you weren't there, you'll just have to trust me. The only thing I questioned was on the first day. After a night of festive partying at the resort, somebody thought it would be a good idea to welcome the audience the next morning with a marching band … performing in a small room.

Monday night at the Marriott World Center gave us a taste of South Beach, with guys riding giant skeletal ostriches and dancers bounding about on boots fitted with automobile springs that looked as if they were from the Dr. Seuss collection. There was even an oxygen bar where you could sample different kinds of air. The bar could handle six people at a time, all hooked up to little hoses that shot oxygen up their noses. It looked like the ICU at a singles bar.

Tuesday night at the Swan/Dolphin was a flashback to the '70s, including leisure suits and tie-dye. A large number of the people in attendance had no idea what the '70s were like because they weren't born until 1980, which made the rest of us feel much older.

Wednesday night at the Gaylord Palms was a party with music, music, music. It started with the Orlando Symphony and went to jazz, swing, and rock 'n' roll. If you didn't have a good time at this party, you should check the batteries in your hearing aid.

In summary, it was a great group of people, sharing great ideas, and having a great time. Thanks for inviting me!

Dale Irvin is a professional summarizer who brings fun to meetings for such organizations as the Million Dollar Round Table, Thrivent Financial, and Allstate. Visit his Web site at www.daleirvin.com to read part of his newest book, Insurance As a Second Language. For booking, contact Ruth Levine at Speak Inc., (858) 457-9880.