A packed educational agenda drew a record-breaking 176 planners and hospitality partners to the Financial and Insurance Conference Planners Education Forum, June 20 to 22. This year, the annual three-day conference, aptly themed “Presenting You,” focused on helping attendees improve professional skills and enhance business communication techniques. The program included four keynotes, 12 breakout sessions, and 21 speakers.

The 400-room, oceanfront St. Regis, Monarch Beach resort--located in Dana Point, Calif., on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean—provided a great indoor-and-outdoor setting for attendees to network, reconnect with industry peers, and take part in the dynamic educational content.

Sharon Chapman, CMP, CMM, FICP president and travel and corporate events planner, Berkshire Life Insurance Co., kicked off the meeting with welcoming remarks. After a networking lunch, opening keynote and master of ceremonies, Linda Edgecombe, BPE, CSP, spoke on motivation and “attitude management.”

Forum organizer Kim Boriin, CMP, FICP vice president, education, and senior events-marketing specialist, Guardian Investor Services LLC, discussed some recent green initiatives from FICP and the St. Regis, Monarch Beach. These included conference materials printed on recycled paper, pitchers of water in place of bottled water, the recent appointment of a “green team” at the St. Regis focused on recycling and energy conservation, and FICP’s upcoming webinar on July 18, aimed at educating planners on how to identify and host green meetings.

Among the many seminar highlights was a discussion on strategic career advancement, led by Dan Young, CLU, ChFC, LLIF, CMP, director of event planning and field recognition, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The session focused on steps planners can take to elevate their department’s strategic importance within the company. These include developing a micro-site about the meeting department on the company’s Web site; requiring that all meeting planners attend industry association meetings and work toward getting their CMP designations; and quantifying all cost-saving measures and presenting these to the CFO. Other presenters in this session were Jan Hennessey, CMP, CMM, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co.; and Thomas F. Spinelli, CLU, FLMI, senior scientist, distribution research, LIMRA International.

Another popular breakout session focused on RFPs and strategic hotel negotiations. Jennifer Brown, CMP, partner, Meeting Site Resources, led attendees through a hands-on approach to evaluating a meeting by looking at it from the hotel’s perspective. The session included a discussion on the variables that influence pricing and what to consider when negotiating with hotels--including guest rooms-to-meeting space ratio, lead time, seasonality, history, risk, arrival/departure pattern, and transient demand.

On the Forum’s final morning, keynote speaker Nicholas Boothman, author of How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds or Less, got the group on their feet to learn communication techniques for improving business interactions. Afterwards, planners and hospitality partners separated to attend focused sessions and exchange best practices.

Next year’s Education Forum will be held at the Disney Yacht Club Resort in Orlando, June 18 to 20.