How did financial and insurance organizations handle meeting cancellation and relocation in the aftermath of Katrina?

Through a variety of circumstances, LOMA, an Atlanta-based financial services and insurance association, had five meetings scheduled for New Orleans in September and October. Joan Orentlicher, assistant vice president, meetings and conventions, says she ended up canceling some smaller meetings, while moving others. Two back-to-back meetings — the LOMA Emerging Technology Conference and Distribution Technology Conference — were moved forward to February at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Dallas. Through necessity — SARS and 9/11 the best-known examples — LOMA has developed a certain expertise at dealing with meeting disruptions, Orentlicher says. “We have procedures in place, know who to communicate with, and know exactly what to do.”

The more delicate question is what to do with 2006 meetings scheduled in The Crescent City. LOMA, along with co-organizer LIMRA, a Windsor, Conn. — based insurance and financial services marketing association, was scheduled to meet there for the annual Life Insurance Conference April 3 to 5, but decided to relocate. “This is a huge conference and we had to find a way to move on,” Orentlicher says. It appears the conference will be moved to Orlando.

But LOMA has not canceled a smaller, 200-person meeting booked in New Orleans for November 2006. Orentlicher believes in the long-term viability of the city. “It's hard to believe it can't rise from this,” she says. “I think it's a city we need. It may be different — but hopefully it will be even better.”

The Brooke Corp. of Overland Park, Kan., which operates insurance and financial services franchises in 29 states, canceled its 2005 500-attendee Annual Franchise Convention, scheduled for October 16 to 19 at the Fairmont New Orleans. However, President and Chief Operating Officer Anita Larson has already announced her intention to bring the meeting back to The Big Easy in 2006.

“Initially, we wanted to go to New Orleans as a change of pace from Las Vegas, which is where we went in 2004,” Larson says. “New Orleans is a fun venue, and there are lots of attractions. Plus, for us, it is centrally located. Now, [going back to New Orleans] is a statement of support for the city,” she says. “We want it to come back.”