A HUGE THANK YOU to the readers who responded to our 2004 survey, sent by e-mail last fall to members of ICPA, an association of insurance and financial services conference planners. The 43.6 percent response rate is among the largest ever seen by our marketing research department at Primedia Business Magazines and Media (by way of comparison, 15 percent is considered a very good response!). It's clear that ICPA planners want their voices to be heard — and we at ICP magazine are here to listen.

Much has changed since this survey was last conducted two years ago, spawning new questions about such areas as NASD (formerly the National Association of Securities Dealers) guidelines, corporate restructuring, day meetings, and spas. Among the findings: A whopping 80 percent of respondents said that a full-service spa is sometimes or always essential for incentive meetings held at U.S. resorts. We also asked about procurement, a word that wasn't even mentioned in the 2002 survey. It is certainly becoming a factor in your business now. Nineteen percent of ICPA planners who responded are required to work with their company's procurement department on site selection, and it is under consideration for another 8 percent.

A Glass Ceiling for Women?

We expanded the demographic section as well, adding more detailed questions about salaries. The good news is that salaries are holding steady, and 89 percent of respondents expect a raise in 2005. The distressing news is that research points to a significant salary gap between the genders. In a profession that appears to be predominantly female — 80 percent of the planners surveyed were women — the average female salary was only $60,771, compared to $87,344 for the men. Clearly, workplace empowerment of women is an important issue to address, at industry forums and in the pages of ICP. “Women don't have a collegial, boost-em-up buddy network for helping each other to get what they need, and we have to change that,” says Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM, manager, meeting and conference services, Kaiser Permanente, in our cover story on page 22.

Streamlining the Workload

Another theme that emerged from our survey is that insurance and financial planners are streamlining their ever-increasing workload in two major ways: with technology and by using hotel chains' national sales offices.In a dramatic 50 percent leap from two years ago, 57 percent of respondents said that e-mailing national sales contacts was the method they used most often to send RFPs to potential meeting properties. The use of the Web and intranet sites is also trending upward. Seventy-two percent said that attendees can register for meetings online, compared to 52 percent in our last study, and 70 percent said that attendees can go online to get information about their meetings, up from 59 percent.

Speaking of streamlining the workload, check out our article on page 31 for practical advice on how to deal with new Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. Corporate consultant David Kaufman was a hit workshop presenter at the ICPA annual meeting in November, and we subsequently asked him to lay out a clear road map on what planners need to know about SOX compliance. And don't miss Mike Bassett's article, page 28, for the inside skinny on how another Bush administration may impact insurance and financial services meetings.

Wishing you peace, health, and happiness in 2005.