RIMS Rocks San Antonio
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the annual RIMS conference and exhibition taking place in San Antonio at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center from April 15 to 18. The theme for this year’s show – “Go Big” – encourages risk managers to think outside the box, expand their relationships and strive to make a bigger impact in their companies and communities.
“It’s a call to action,” said Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president of events and education, RIMS. “How can you as a risk manager ‘go big’ in your organization and in your life? Our programming and design is meant to make attendees think about how they can make the most of this opportunity and apply what they learn to make a real difference.”
This year, the conference will provide attendees with a “journey journal” so they can take notes throughout sessions and meetings on how to apply takeaways to better themselves professionally and personally. They’ll have a lot to think about as the conference this year is focusing on topical issues like diversity and inclusion, sexual harassment, and disaster recovery and resiliency.
Diverse and Inclusive
“We’re starting to look at diversity and inclusion issues a lot more than we have in the past. I take these ideas very seriously as part of the overall experience we want to provide. Data tells us, and we can see for ourselves, how important diversity and inclusion are to our next generation of risk leaders,” Ruff-Lyon said.
Sunday afternoon will see the first ever “diversity inclusion meetup,” where participants can join small breakout groups and have discussions led by a professional facilitator around issues in diversity.
“It’s going to be a safe space for people to discuss sensitive issues and for allies who want more information,” Ruff-Lyon said. “We’ll see what comes out of the discussion and hopefully produce additional content or get new ideas on how we do things at the conference. We’re trying to chart a new course for RIMS, so we can be more diverse and inclusive.”
The selection of keynote speakers underscores a dedication to diversity in age, race and gender.
Opening speaker Alex Sheen, a millennial, reaches across generations with a message of honoring commitments. Sheen is the founder of “because I said I would,” a nonprofit that seeks to better humanity through making and keeping promises.
“That’s a very powerful message that ties back into our goal to encourage risk professionals to follow through on what they learn here at the conference and apply it back home,” Ruff-Lyon said.
Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the nation’s first African-American female fighter pilot, will speak at Monday afternoon’s awards luncheon about how to overcome internal obstacles and mental blocks to achieve greatness and exceed expectations.
“And Jay Leno is for laughs,” Ruff-Lyon said, speaking about the conference’s closing speaker. “It helps to lighten things up and finish on a high note when you’ve had an exhausting four days.”
And while keynote speeches are aimed at high-level messaging and motivation, this year’s educational sessions take deeper dives into the issues facing risk managers today.
Targeting Topical Issues
“We spent more time developing ‘hot topic’ ideas this year, trying to keep them topical and relevant. We have a session on sexual harassment in the workplace, for example. If you’re a risk manager that works for a company that faces a scandal, what do you do? This is a big issue facing every industry,” Ruff-Lyon said.
Some claims management sessions will also focus on the fallout from Harvey, Irma and Maria, and how organizations can proactively align resources to shorten recovery time and keep claims moving post-disaster.
“We’re still continuing to educate risk professionals about the impact of drones, driverless cars, etc. Artificial intelligence and robotics have been added to the lineup as well as they become more and more disruptive,” Ruff-Lyon said. “We always try to make sure that at least 30 percent of what people are seeing and experiencing is new to keep it interesting and different and fresh.”
RIMS relies on attendee feedback to inform session selection, as well as an independent scoring committee comprised of senior-level risk professionals from various industries. The committee reviews session proposals blind, with no knowledge of who submitted them or who the speakers will be. In addition to content quality, they focus on uniqueness.
Ruff-Lyon said the goal is to mix in new topics — or new angles on old topics — to spur creative thinking and provide a more well-rounded educational experience. In line with that goal, conference organizers this year added a new experience dubbed the “Innovation Hub.”
“I don’t think people are aware of all we do to protect attendees, but I think it will provide peace of mind to know that we are taking extra precautions.”— Stuart Ruff-Lyon, vice president of events and education, RIMS
“The Innovation Hub will feature 20-minute TED-style talks on different topics. Monday will focus on emerging risks, Tuesday will focus on claims management and Wednesday’s topic is cyber risk,” Ruff-Lyon said.
RIMS also revamped the experience for attendees visiting the exhibit hall. Now dubbed “RIMS HQ,” the area has doubled in size and comprises the Wellness Zenter, Thought Leader Theater, a publication stand, an opportunity to get a complimentary professional headshot, on-hand consultants ready to analyze résumés or LinkedIn profiles, and a quiet lounge reserved for members.
Oh, and puppies for stress relief.
“We’ve redesigned the entire experience inside the exhibit hall,” Ruff-Lyon said.
Safety and security will also be stepped up this year — one part of the experience that should be imperceptible to attendees.
“We are adding a lot of increased security measures around the event. We always have a police presence as well as plain-clothes officers, but in the past two years we’ve had bomb-sniffing dogs on our loading docks, and this year we added random wand and bag searches,” Ruff-Lyon said.
“I don’t think people are aware of all we do to protect attendees, but I think it will provide peace of mind to know that we are taking extra precautions.”
Things to Do
But not everything is new. Community service projects will take place throughout the show for those able to participate. One on-site opportunity includes assembling care packages for soldiers, veterans and their families, benefitting the charity Soldiers’ Angels.
The anticipated 10,000 to 11,000 attendees and exhibitors also have plenty to explore around San Antonio.
“It’s very walkable, very friendly,” Ruff-Lyon said. In addition to the iconic River Walk, the city also boasts scenic walking trails, a vibrant food scene, canal tours and the historic San Antonio Missions. &