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Back when MetLife was Metropolitan Life, and Financial & Insurance Conference Planners was the Insurance Conference Planners Association, Jim Lavold got a call from Herb Dunning—a founding father of ICPA and the head of the meeting department at Northwestern Mutual—and he decided to join his four-person team. That was in 1980.
Now, 32 years later, Lavold heads the department of 12 people and is planning the 155-year-old company’s 132nd annual meeting. Even back in 1980, that meeting was already huge—5,000 attendees—but this year, he expects 11,000 financial representatives, spouses, and children. Some have been coming for decades. The meetings department is one of the closest to the financial reps, serving as an important conduit between the home office and the field.

LOOKING AHEAD As the pace of change increases, as the profession of meeting planning advances, and as his own company evolves, there are still things that must remain constant, Lavold believes. “We had a meeting theme one year that was, ‘Ever Changing, Never Changing.’ I think that sums up our business, my company, and to a great extent it sums up my job.”

ADVICE “Think about the ‘butterfly effect,’” Lavold says—the idea that very small actions in one place (a butterfly’s wings creating tiny atmospheric changes) can have great effect on something bigger and farther away (changing the path of a tornado). “We are facilitating things during our meetings that could change someone’s life. They come here to learn and something’s going to happen, whether they hear a professional speaker or have coffee with another rep, that changes their life.” - Alison Hall