The 2014 LASIE Conference concluded Friday, November 7th at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Mississippi. As the crowd dispersed, Louisiana Comp Blog sought out commentary from exhibitors about their experience this year.
Overall, the people behind the booths seemed enthusiastic about the Beau Rivage locale and social events, as well as the friendliness of the atmosphere and staff. Matt Davis, RN, an exhibitor with CaseExperts LLC out of West Monroe, explained, “The socials and receptions were better this year at the Beau Rivage, and the food was terrific, as were the opportunities for nightlife in the area.”
Whitney Jenkins, of Gisclair & Associates in Baton Rouge, agreed with Davis’ assessment of the Beau Rivage. “I enjoyed having it at the Beau Rivage more so than Lake Charles. I felt like it was a great venue for the event,” she explained. She also indicated that LASIE is one of her favorite conferences for its beneficial presentations, her favorite this year being the vocational rehabilitation session. “Jill [Breard], Wayne [Fontana], and Larry [Stokes] did a great job, and it was nice to get their insight, as voc rehab is a service our company offers,” said Jenkins. “The topics seemed to touch on key points that everyone could learn from in some way.”
However, Davis, along with several other exhibitors, had some difficulty with the set-up of the conference, citing the one-room constraint and logistical issues during the breaks as a barrier to one-on-one communication with potential clients. “We were scrambling to get [giveaways and paper materials] re-stocked during the breaks, since it’s loud and we didn’t want to disturb the speakers,” said Davis. “We’re networking so I like the idea of the sticker contest, [wherein each attendee must visit every booth and obtain a sticker in order to enter a prize drawing] but still, being in the same room makes it difficult.”
Indeed, the ability of the exhibitors to hear the speakers, often a sidelined priority in favor of networking at most conferences, was a marginal benefit according to Davis and others, but the practical difficulties of set-up and communication in the single room outweighed the educational benefits for many.
John Kocke, an experienced exhibitor and founder/owner of AMC Resources in Mandeville, also agreed with Davis. “The set up was about as good as it could be – if we are limited to that one room,” said Kocke. “Many other conventions put exhibitors in a different room, which lends itself to having more one-on-one contact throughout the day without disturbing the speakers.”
In response to some of the exhibitors’ professed difficulties with the single room set-up, Gary Patureau, Executive Director of LASIE, emphasized the role of exhibitors as active participants in the conference as well as business partners. Patureau explained, “LASIE treats its business partners as part of the fabric of the Louisiana workers’ compensation system with the same common goal of trying to create the most cost effective and efficient system. Most desire to provide their clients with best practice services and being a part of the whole conference gives them the opportunity to market how their services fit into the next steps of creating the best workers’ compensation system possible in Louisiana.” He also noted that continuing education (CE) credit can be awarded to exhibitors because they are in the same room as the speakers; plus attendees can see the booths at all times which, according to Patureau, generates additional exposure.
Despite the lack of a separate exhibition hall, Kocke emphasized his satisfaction with the 2014 venue; he explained: “I do like this venue better than the one in Lake Charles. Overall, I thought the whole thing was well-planned.”
The effective planning was complemented by the addition of a conference app, which many attendees utilized. On the exhibitor side, the app was even more useful, as the multi-tasking reps were able to ensure that they could keep up with the conference schedule on the go.
Elizabeth Lowry, Area Manager at CorVel Corporation, was especially pleased with LASIE’s new smartphone app: “It was great to have information accessible in one place – on my phone – about events, the agenda, and contact information for other attendees.”
Rhonda Coffee, also exhibiting with CorVel, agreed with Lowry and continued, “It also really helped to have the PowerPoint slides on the app, putting the information at my fingertips and allowing me to follow along with ease for better understanding of the material.”
Stephen Brooks, a partner with Pugh Accardo and exhibitor for the same, also thought the event was well-orchestrated and said that he enjoyed the accommodations and conveniences like the app. Overall though, like many exhibitors, networking was his main draw. “My favorite part of the conference was listening to, interacting with, and later dining with guest speakers and other vendors,” he said. “It was a chance for everyone to reunite, talk shop and then let our hair down in the evening.”
Now that the Whistle Stop Tour has reached its destination, exhibitors are left to look forward to next year’s conference. Brooks in particular was enthusiastic proclaiming, “My least favorite part of the conference was having to leave! Can’t wait for the next conference, so just let me know where and when!”