The Conference Effect: Where Lasting Connections Form Organically

By: | November 17, 2023

Michelle Kerr is Workers’ Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

Each year, I have a mission for what I want National Comp to deliver to the conference community.

That mission is best summed up in three words: Educate, Elevate and Connect. We seek to educate attendees on the latest trends and innovations in the industry, elevate the people and ideas driving the industry forward and connect people with ideas, solutions, information — and each other.

Connecting people with each other was an especially gratifying experience at this year’s conference — even in ways I didn’t expect.

Our first pre-conference workshop was a success, and Andrea Dosedla of Quad did a fantastic job as the instructor of Bridge the Return-to-Work Gap: A Hands-On Guide to Creating Functional Job Tasks. When we spoke afterward, she told me how the attendees had engaged with one another even beyond the presentation itself. They bonded over shared experiences and challenges; they wanted to keep the conversation going with each other, even after the half-day session they’d just attended was over.

What an incredible outcome that those workers’ comp leaders went home with not just a wealth of takeaways from Andrea but also a powerful new resource — a direct line to each other. They have the collective knowledge and expertise of engaged colleagues facing similar RTW challenges. That’s a level of connection that can produce shared value well into the future.

Those who had the opportunity to stay through to the end of the conference caught the final session, Women Leaders Across the Industry: Optimizing Results Through Inno­vation. It was presented by a panel of amazing women including Jennifer Morris Jones of Cranfill Sumner LLP, Caryn Siebert of Gallagher Bassett, Caty Wynn of Whole Foods Market, Jodi Loud of The Hartford and Sheri Lawrence of SoCalGas.

They talked about the journey through the COVID era — about feeling untethered from everything we knew. While that gave rise to personal and professional challenges, it also brought forth new ways of thinking.

To hear these women talk about the mountains they’ve climbed was inspiring and deeply relatable. Along with their professional perspectives, they brought the human side of the work we do to the table, and it clearly connected with the audience.

But the connection that really caught my attention that morning was the one they’d made with each other. After the session, they told me what an incredible experience they’d had working together and talking about their work and their experiences. They had bonded deeply and added a new element of community to their worlds. They plan to keep it going.

I thought later about what dividends that could give rise to. Sure, I’d be delighted to see them on the National Comp stage again. But what else might these creative leaders collaborate on, brainstorm about, develop or create? Possibilities abound.

In the end, that’s one way that conferences help drive us forward. We are pulled from the relative vacuum where our daily work occurs and exposed to other experiences, other ideas, other ways of doing things and perspectives on the challenges we face.

I hope everyone who attended National Comp this year made important connections, not just to ideas and solutions but to the people alongside you on your journey, dedi­cated to protecting employees and healing them when they’re hurt at work.

The more we come together to learn from each other, the more we can create and innovate. As we look ahead to 2024, let’s find ways to keep those connections alive. &

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