Magazine article Risk Management

RIMS Is Coming to Town Planning for the Grand Event

Magazine article Risk Management

RIMS Is Coming to Town Planning for the Grand Event

Article excerpt

When the RIMS Annual Conference rolls into Toronto next April, it will be the 34th year this grand event has been held. From its humble beginnings in New Orleans in 1963, the conference has increased more than tenfold in size and is now generally regarded as the premier annual event for risk management professionals. Over the course of those years, the conference has become an institution, providing an annual opportunity for risk managers to stay abreast of current issues, network with fellow professionals and explore business opportunities with the myriad industry players that all come to town at conference time.

Despite the conference's status as an institution, few risk managers understand what is involved in planning and staging the event. In a recent Member Needs Survey conducted by RIMS, comments were received from members who were regular conference attendees, as well as first-timers, people who had never attended the conference and those who had attended in the past but concluded it was just a "big party." While the majority of member survey comments were extremely positive, several reflected outdated views or plain misunderstandings of what the conference is all about.

The RIMS staff and committees understand that they cannot make the conference all things to all people. What they can do, however, is inform people about what goes into the making of the conference.

Whether it's the regular, the first-timer or the jaded veteran, few attendees have insight into the elaborate planning process and the thousands of staff and volunteer hours that go into making the conference the perennial success that it is. Nor do most attendees have an appreciation for the level of dedicated effort that is required to expand continuously the educational and networking value of the event. These hours of planning and preparation are critical not only for the success of the conference, but also to the Society itself -- RIMS derives more than 50 percent of its annual operating budget from the conference.

SELECTING THE SITE

No doubt, one of the greatest mysteries to conference attendees is how the location is selected. How did we end up in New Orleans in 1994 after just being there in 1991? Why can't we hold the conference in a fashionable city like Honolulu or Seattle or at least a city where the weather will be around 85deg F and sunny?

It will come as a surprise to some that RIMS has limited options for site selection. If one considers conference statistics, however, the reasons for the site limitations become clear. At the 1995 conference in San Francisco, for example, over 4,300 people registered to attend. Estimates indicate that for every person who registers, another two unregistered visitors also attend. These individuals include exhibitors, spouses of attendees, journalists and risk and insurance professionals who come to town to mingle with the full industry cast. Therefore, site planning must include not only the over 4,000 people who register, but must also anticipate the presence of an additional 8,000 people.

It is important to note that this is not a group content to stay at the local KOA campground. These individuals expect first-class accommodations and amenities in connection with their stay. This means exceptional hotels, fine dining and interesting entertainment opportunities, all of which must be located within a reasonable traveling distance of the convention center.

To assure availability of everything needed to host the conference, the site selection process starts as early as 10 years before the event. The process begins when RIMS conference staff sends a list of requirements to the convention bureaus in most major cities in the United States and Canada. On the surface, this is simply a list of the facilities and venues a city must have to support the numbers of people RIMS brings to town. The availability of suitable facilities is the primary consideration and constraint, with RIMS requiring all of the following to ensure a successful conference:

* A convention center that contains at least 175,000 square feet of exhibit space and an additional 25 to 35 medium- to large-size meeting rooms to accommodate educational sessions. …

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