Conference season is upon us, and it’s been a whirlwind few months for KCIC. Our team has attended, and in many cases also spoken at, several industry gatherings. And, we will be at one next week, when we exhibit at RIMS 2016.
In February, I had the honor of co-chairing my first conference of the year: HB Litigation Conferences’ Emerging and Complex Insurance Claims Forum, which was held in Los Angeles. My co-chairs were Scott Godes of Barnes & Thornburg LLP and Linda Bondi Morrison of Tressler LLP.
When Tom Hagy of HB first reached out to see if I was interested in co-chairing a conference with Scott and Linda, I was excited and flattered he would ask. It also felt like I’d come full circle and “arrived” in the conference arena, since my first speaking opportunity was actually back around 1999 at a conference that Tom put together for a previous employer.
I must admit that I didn’t know what being a chair really involved. I didn’t expect that it would involve much work … but I was wrong. So wrong.
What I learned is that conference chairs really have the power to make or break a conference — and they need to work very hard to make sure it’s the former.
Here are just some of the tasks that myself and my fellow chairs accomplished during our many conference calls in the nine months leading up to the actual conference date:
- Pick a date and location that will be most appealing, while navigating the myriad of other competing conferences.
- Set the theme and general topics to balance what’s been successful in the past with what will set this conference apart from other conferences.
- Define the target audience (in-house counsel, claims representatives, risk managers, etc.) and continually evaluate if what we are offering will be of interest to them. Construct the actual panels in length, format, order, scheduling and, of course, talent, while considering: Who do we know is a strong speaker on the subject?
- Make the calls. The co-chairs themselves recruit panel prospects, working with them to create their panel and keep them excited about speaking.
- Help secure sponsors for the conference, from cocktail events to Wi-Fi, etc.
- Manage changes when speakers cancel or have to change schedule.
- Run the conference. Even with the great support from Tom and everyone at HB Conferences, there was still a lot to do once we were on site, to keep things running smoothly.
The experience definitely gave me a new appreciation for all the work that has gone into all of the fine conferences I have attended — and will attend in the future. Being a chair takes commitment. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have chaired this event, and I will begin my next chair position with eyes wide open and ready to work!