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Insider Events: International Actuarial Association

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Article written by Anne Lamarche, CMP, International Actuarial Association / Association Actuarielle Internationale

Basic details of the event:

Title: IAA Council and Committee Meetings
Date: Two meetings per year
City, Country: Worldwide
Host Venue: Various brands – mainly Starwood/Marriott
Organizing Lead: Anne Lamarche, CMP – Meeting Manager; full responsibility for the planning and organization of the bi-annual meetings, from the location selection process to managing the onsite logistics.
Number of Attendees: Ranges between 250–350 attendees; record attendance when our meetings are held in European countries.

What is the main objective of your events?

The IAA is the worldwide association of professional actuarial associations, with a number of committees and special interest sections for individual actuaries. The IAA exists to encourage the development of a global profession, acknowledged as technically competent and professionally reliable, which will ensure that the public interest is served. These meetings provide an opportunity for numerous groups to discuss ongoing projects and consider new developments. Bringing together presidents of actuarial associations, leaders of actuarial practice from 45+ countries, representatives of supranational organizations and other experts from around the world, they enable the international profession to better serve the needs of the financial industry, the public interest, and the responsibilities of local and international authorities.

Who is the target audience?

The IAA has 72 full member associations, 26 associate member associations as well as many external organizations, all of which assign some of their individual members to serve on different committees of the IAA. These committees, as well as the special interest sections, could not operate without the 800+ worldwide volunteers who dedicate their personal time.

What is unique/different about these particular events for you/your organization?

A regular conference usually starts with a general session followed by two or three breakouts thereafter. However, the IAA does not have or need a general session as its leadership and committee members gather twice a year to collaborate on projects. At any given time, there are six to eight groups meeting in parallel from one to four hours at a time. For this reason, delegates arrive and leave the meeting venue at different times during the week depending on the scheduling of their respective meetings.

What is the biggest obstacle you/your team have to overcome?

In this instance, it’s important to mention two big obstacles for the IAA meetings. The first one is the need to avoid, as much as possible, meeting conflicts for delegates as well as the IAA Secretariat support staff who attend the meetings. Some members serve on multiple committees; therefore, it is quite difficult to assemble the schedule; and it’s impossible to achieve a final program that is 100% conflict free! The other important obstacle, for both those organizing the meetings as well as those attending, is the language barriers that come with being an international organization. Our meetings are represented by numerous countries; hence many are non-native English delegates.

What was your biggest triumph?

Well, every meeting that ends with happy attendees is a big triumph for any meeting planner. That being said, my worst meeting, which is also my most rewarding triumph, was held in Los Angeles in 2012. I arrived onsite on a beautiful Sunday afternoon to be told by the hotel that they double booked some of my meeting space and had not caught this error until the very last minute. As if this was not cause for a nervous breakdown in itself, the shipment that contained ALL of my meeting material (name badges, rosters, lanyards, handouts, voting cards, tent cards etc.) arrived at the venue on the last day of the meetings. So, hours before the meetings were scheduled to start, a lot of work went into solving the meeting space issue, buying new meeting material and reprinting everything that was not received in time. In the end, apart from having cheaper looking name badges and moving delegates to new meeting rooms, no one really noticed everything that went wrong.

Did you do anything new or innovative? If so, how did it go?

What might be something old for some, having an events APP is relatively new to IAA meetings. Because our meeting format is so complex and different from other events, it took some team brainstorming at the IAA Secretariat to figure out why we should have an app and how to build it so that it would be useful for the attendees. We launched our first APP for our meetings in Cape Town, South Africa in November 2016 and it was a resounding success!

What challenges did you have putting the features together?

For the time being, we are working with somewhat older technology, therefore the database software we use does not accept automatic registration information. Every registration that comes in must be keyed in the system manually which updates to our website but not the APP. For this reason, every time something changes, it must be manually imported in the events APP. It seems like double the workload but it’s worth it for our delegates as they make good use of it.

What were some things that you improved on this year over last year?

The IAA Secretariat as a whole is constantly looking for innovative methods to improve the way our meetings are held. This year, we increased delegate networking time by implementing events such as a cocktail reception for our first time attendees, a speed networking lunch, and key topic round table discussions.

Article compiled by Jill Garner, Sheraton Ottawa Hotel

Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation