It is 5:00AM, and having just left the National Conference hotel I am at McCarran International. I have safely navigated security, where my friendly TSA agent, a man whose name tag disturbingly reads “Two Finger Lou”, assured me that I am still polyp free. He did say something about eating more roughage, however. I must look into that. Having secured my coffee and now firmly ensconced in my comfy Southwest Airlines gate area chair, I finally have an opportunity to put a few thoughts about this years conference onto the digital page.

This was the 21st year of the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo. It is no secret that this is one of my favorite events, and my company has been an active Gold Sponsor for years. This year was the twelfth one I have attended, and I have to say, our baby has certainly grown. 

Nowhere is this more evident than on the exhibit hall floor. The exhibit hall was born years ago in the bowels of the Chicago Hilton and Towers, where the conference was first held. There, attendees had to navigate a labyrinth of cramped passageways to 3 separate rooms in order to gain access to the mostly 10×10 booths there to hawk their products and services. Today, the exhibit hall floor is a closer resemblance to a RIMS conference, albeit on a smaller scale. The booths are bigger, and the presentation formats have gained a more professional edge. It is far and away the best conference exhibit experience dedicated to the workers comp industry to be found anywhere. The exhibit hall floor is a great way to see new products, and meet old friends. The event managers did a good job of integrating social events into the exhibit hall schedule this year. Hats off to Fred Kurst and the gang. Fred, take an extra thousand out of petty cash. You’ve earned it.

One more thought on that related topic. People who work with me know that I am a firm believer that exhibit hall hours are for exhibiting. Our company booths NEVER pack up early, as I view that as contrary to the purpose of the event. Additionally, it is frankly rude to the attendees still in the hall. This year the conference responded to input provided by me and others that the exhibit hall hours needed to be a bit longer for the benefit of all participants. They added a much needed 2 1/2 hours to the second day schedule, and also put a dedicated cocktail social in the hall for that time. It is unfortunate that some of the vendors didn’t seem interested in speaking with us, as they left long before the day was done. This is just a personal rant, but if you worked for me and were not in your booth when the hall closed at 5:30, you would no longer work for me. I don’t care that you had a plane to catch. Next time make smarter travel plans. Your new boss will appreciate it.

Ok – my rant is done.

There have been changes in conference content as well. This conference has always had a strong schedule, but this year a partnership with LexisNexis brought an additional level of legal content not before included. It was a nice addition. The Lexis panels, whose format would be more familiar to those who have attended ABA events, brought a fresh perspective to an already strong agenda. 

And unlike another large conference held elsewhere in the country, which also offers good content, people here actually attend the sessions. Novel concept.

I do have one tiny suggestion. In my opinion, Lexis is a valuable content partner that is a positive addition to the event. I hope they continue that partnership. With that in mind, I am not sure why the Lexis booth was in the deepest, darkest corner of the admittedly vast exhibit hall. And I mean deepest, darkest corner. If they had been any farther back they would have been outside. The taxi fare to get to them was $12. A sign near their booth said “Welcome to New Mexico – The Land of Enchantment”. I am talking way back, people. 

I think it would benefit all for Fred and his fine crew to carve out a tiny corner somewhere more visible next year to give LexisNexis a platform commensurate with the benefits they bring. That is just my opinion, but do that Fred, and I’ll be calling for more largess from petty cash next year.

With those minor suggestions aside, this conference continues to be a must attend event. I will be writing a bit more over the next few days about some of the content and activities, including a look at the bloggers panel that I had the privilege to participate in. But for now, it is time to board a plane and head home. It has been very busy and successful week, but I nonetheless am looking forward to leaving Las Vegas.

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