Ah, New Orleans. Great food, great music, great storms.

Huh?

This year’s Risk & Insurance Management Society (RIMS) Conference and Exhibition kicked off in style. A party at Mardi Gras World, I heard, was great. I can’t speak to it personally — I had arrived at my Air BnB room about two hours prior, but the humidity — something I’m not a total stranger to — was like a wall. Moving across my B&B room required three changes of clothing. So I opted to rest for the next day’s show.

This year’s exhibit is as expansive as in previous years. Exhibitors were doing their best to outdo each other in a cavernous space. Foot traffic on the floor was heavy on Monday. No wonder — storms blew in. Hard. The wind was so strong that security moved everyone away from the glass front of the building and into the safety of the meeting rooms and exhibit area. The rain came –and continued –in torrents throughout the day.

Still, that didn’t dampen the party atmosphere. Once again, Safety National held a great bash at The Chicory, this year including a jazz band and plenty of food and drink. I left that party and headed to the Willis event, which was held one block from the convention center. Clearly the part of choice, possibly due to the proximity to the convention center, there were hundreds in attendance. Plenty of food (alligator? Really?) and great music.

The next day calmed down both in terms of weather and traffic. On the exhibit hall floor, attendees were absent. Vendors either put on a brave face or admitted openly to the lack of people walking by. Possibly hampered by the previous day’s tornado-laced weather (one touched down in the area, knocking out power in a few neighborhoods. The winds were high enough to push a train over.), people were enjoying the return of fairer skies.

I was one of the lucky handful of people to be invited by Chubb Insurance  to a wine-tasting class at the Wine Institute of New Orleans (W.I.N.O. as it’s known locally). Ten of us, including Chubb’s Jodi Dorman and Mark Schussel, Mark’s lovely wife Joanne and members of the press, were treated to a lesson in how to tell the difference between high-priced varietals and cheap swill. Then seven of us managed a walk to Capdeville, a neat little restaurant on Capdeville Street.

Throughout the show, vendors were shaking their heads over the low foot traffic in the hall. Sessions, however, were packed. RIMS has added numerous educational sessions, which raises the bar for the organization. I remember the late Henry Good, a pushy, well-meaning champion for the advancement of the risk management profession, complaining to me and anyone who would listen that RIMS needed to “step it up” in terms of education. I’d love to think it was Henry’s influence at work in the pages of sessions now available to risk professionals.

The show is winding down today, with foot traffic at a bare minimum despite RIMS’ in-hall events (themed lunches, which rivaled the local restaurant fare) and its impressive roll call of speakers and topics at the RIMS booth. Was New Orleans a success? From early accounts and despite the various individual challenges, I’d say yes. RIMS’ Josh Salter and crew have come as close as ever to providing a great, necessary industry experience for risk managers and vendors.

Were you in attendance this year? What were your key takeaways?

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