Follow me @buzzystreet on Twitter. For the past week I’ve been in my home state of Texas. San Antonio, to be exact, where I was born and also the location of this year’s RIMS Conference. Then off to Austin, the Capital of Texas for a couple of days for a WorkCompCentral seminar and since Friday, I have been recuperating in Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World! where I lived from 3rd grade until I graduated high school before moving to Tampa, FL. There is something about visiting your roots that leaves you heart-centered and revitalized. At least that is my experience…

I always enjoy the annual RIMS Conference, regardless of location, but I have to say this has been the most enjoyable RIMS for me to date with San Diego being a close second. Likely because it’s my home and I know where everything is, but also because the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center is situated in the historic downtown area of San Antonio, with lots to see and do right on the Riverwalk. Walk out of the convention center, right onto the Riverwalk for a pleasant stroll, some fresh air, a boat ride along the river, or a bite to eat at the many restaurants and available within walking distance. Of course everyone knows about The Alamo, originally a mission, La Villita, a square-block enclave of art galleries & shops on the National Registry of Historic Districts and also the oldest “neighborhood” of San Antonio where the first missionary settlers of San Antonio lived near The Alamo. Other nearby points of interest include: the Tower of the Americas and surrounding plaza, the Institute of Texan Cultures, the Historic Market Square, an authentic Mexican “mercado” area including 100 shops in a 3-block area, with apparel, Mexican handcrafts & food galore. It is also home to Mi Tierra, my absolute favorite Mexican restaurant, historic hotels such as The Menger, O’Brien, and Crockett. So many other wonderful historic places within close proximity and very walkable. I hope other industry event planners consider San Antonio, specifically the historic downtown / riverwalk area for future events and conferences. Everyone I talked to echoed the same sentiment: San Antonio made RIMS very walkable, an easy to manage conference with plenty of restaurant and hotel options.

Workers’ compensation is a small subset of the insurance industry, and therefore RIMS, yet I find RIMS does a great job providing adequate sessions to serve work comp professionals. This year’s work comp highlights included:

  • The Wellness ZENter by Sedgwick hands-down my favorite “learning experience” at RIMS this year: including Therapy Dogs in Action — a fantastic demonstration of therapy animals and how they can help reduce anxiety, depression, assist with pain management and rehabilitative behaviors. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the therapy animals throughout the conference; also, Rethinking Wellness at Workwith Virginia Baba, Sr. Manager Claims at PetSmart and Jay Ayala, Managing Director, Casualty at Sedgwick; Engaging Workers Throughout Their Recovery; with Jake Kelly, GE Workers’ Comp Program Manager at Electric Insurance Co., and Kathy Tazic, Managing Director, Client Services at Sedgwick. This is a small sampling of Wellness ZENter sessions — there were many more to enjoy.
  • I also found the Career Innovation Lab interesting: I sat in on a few sessions. They were informative and timely — a great resource for folks in the industry looking to enhance / add value to their current role in the industry, i.e. brush up on current industry skills, advance to the next step in their career or possibly looking to make an industry move. A sampling of these sessions include: Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile; The Foundation of Your Speech; Diversity Training: How to Handle LGBTQ Issues with Cultural Sensitivity; Social Responsibility; The Insurance Industry — The Real Deal. Again, just a sampling of sessions — they had many more.

A few other work comp highlights include:

  • Collaborating for Success: Takeaways from a Team Approach to Manage Workers’ Compensation Litigation and Drive Down Costs with Suzanne Ormond, Risk Manager at Alsco Inc., Misty Price, COO of the law firm Adelson, Testan, Brundo, Novell & Jimenez (ATB), Steven Testan, Sr. Managing Partner of ATB and Glenn Backus, President of Alternative Service Concepts;
  • New Insights into the Impact of Opioid Prescribing to Injured Workers with John Ruser, president & CEO of WCRI and Michael Fenlon, Sr. Director, Corporate Risk Management with UPS;
  • Outcomes of a Workers’ Compensation Early Intervention for Delayed Recovery Program with Denise Algire, Director, Risk Initiatives at Albertsons Safeway Inc, and Michael Coupland, Psychologist;
  • Diversity Training: How to Handle LGBTQ Issues with Cultural Sensitivitywith Chikita Mann, Disability Case Manager Supervisor with GENEX;
  • Fatigue in the Workplace with Emily Whitcomb, Senior Program Manager, National Safety Council.

This is a mere sampling of sessions…there were plenty of other sessions that work comp professionals would find useful and many more for risk professionals.

Best Booth Experiences: Safety National’s “One Size Does Not Fit All” was great. I happened upon Mark Walls, just as the exhibit hall opened Monday morning, flashing his effervescent smile, calling out like a street vendor: “Step right up folks! Full Size, medium-sized and bite-sized candies! Pick the one that’s just right for you, because one size does not fit all!” Other highlights included: Applied Underwriters, who took home the RIMS prize for best “schwag” — large bobble head dogs to match their giant dog in their exhibit: my friend Tammy Boyd scored one! Sedgwick, because their booth is just so appealing — it begs you to come in and hang out. PartnerSource because they had an awesome backdrop of The Alamo — since I did not have time to visit the real one on this trip, I was still able to get my photo in front of this important landmark. Conduent — where I bumped into a colleague I worked with nearly 30 years ago at my first job in the industry — Ron Shapiro — we both worked for a company called ConServCo, previously a subsidiary of The Travelers. Old Republic for having one of the healthiest booth giveaways, an aluminum water bottle filled with fruit-infused waters. Coventry for having the “coolest” booth decorated with doodle art. Mitchell where you could find Brian Allen, one of the nicest (and smartest) people in the industry. One Call Medical because industry friends Kevin Glennon and Zack Craft are always smiling and welcoming me to their oh-so-comfy carpet and GENEX because they have a sharp-looking booth and love catching up with Tom Kerr and Jenn Lyons (missed you Jenn!). EK Health where I connected with Zebrah Jahnke who is in Tampa!!! and Stephanie Reynolds.

My top booth experience: a tie between The Travelers and their very personable interactive robot Pepper and the Argo Group with their yummy and popular coffee selfies: your photo on the milk foam of your coffee! Both experiences were personalized and very memorable.

RIMS Connections…enjoyed rubbing elbows with Tara Escobio and Mike Cirillo of myMatrixx and Carol Valentic of Conduent at the airport on Sunday and Marc Kaufman on the airplane ride to San Antonio, and during RIMS…Kristen Chavez, Kimberly George, Bill Zachry, Jeremiah Bentley, Michael Rydman, Jennifer Jordan Roth, Rudy Flores, Hiawatha Franks, Eunhee Kim, Artemis Emslie, Catherine Bennett, and so many more!

RIMS Networking…Networking events are always fun and a great way to see and interact with industry professionals. Monday, I was grateful to attend the One Call cocktail hour at Club Giraud and enjoyed the river taxi from the convention center to their event; as well as the EK Health cocktail hour at the Valencia Hotel and the Gallagher Bassett event at the Institute of Texan Cultures. Tuesday I enjoyed a great happy hour put on by friends at myMatrixx, NeuroInternational, MKCM and a few other industry partners at Rita’s on the River, followed by a lovely dinner with Sedgwick friends at Bohanan’s Steak House.

Until next year, RIMS! Thanks for choosing San Antonio as your host city for 2018…next year we’ll be Boston where perhaps the theme will be “More Than a Feeling!” Just guessing.