Innovative Meetings

6 ‘Risky’ Meeting Strategies

Nothing was off the table when the Risk Management Society set out to create ‘a balanced, reenergized experience’ for attendees at RIMS ’14.

It’s not called the Risk Management Society (RIMS) for nothing, and so at its 2014 Annual Conference & Exhibition — April 27–30 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver — RIMS bombarded attendees with new initiatives on a scale that a different organization might have found insane.

“It was an incredibly thought-out decision and process,” said Stuart Ruff, CMP, RIMS’s director of meetings and events, “because we’re an association, and like most places, we’re trying to think about a newer demographic. We really wanted to give a balanced, reenergized experience to the meeting for all attendees.”

The shakeup worked: Attendance was more than last year — around 9,700, up from 9,300 — Ruff said, and evaluations were considerably better.

Here are five things RIMS introduced this year:

Controversial keynote

Jordan Belfort, who served time in federal prison for stock fraud and is the subject of the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street,” was the opening keynoter. Attendees weren’t shy about voicing their displeasure about Belfort to Ruff in advance of RIMS ’14. “It did cause me an incredible amount of grief and anguish leading up to it,” Ruff said, laughing. “That being said, however, it paid off tenfold in that it was our largest keynote ever…. It gave us an additional thousand people that attended the opening keynote.”


RIMS also livestreamed Belfort’s keynote for free, garnering 1,800 views in 14 different countries. “We wanted to show what the new RIMS experience was like,” Ruff said. “That we spent more money on our stage delivery, for example.”

More Programming

A few years ago, RIMS shortened the length of the conference and got flak from members for not commensurately reducing the price of registration. To help mitigate that, this year RIMS offered a 60-percent increase in education offerings by reorganizing and streamlining its program, and tightening up its breakout sessions into 60-minute “power hours.”


This year, RIMS-TV broadcast content from the conference to the RIMS ’14 mobile app as well as to hotel rooms, lobbies, and 20 different locations throughout the convention center. RIMS-TV was created as part of RIMS’s overhauled sponsorship package, with an exclusive sponsor as well as commercial slots available during airtime.

Student challenge

Ten universities with risk-management programs competed in the first-ever Spencer-RIMS Risk Management Challenge, presented in conjunction with the RIMS-affiliated Spencer Educational Foundation. The five-member teams were judged by a panel of industry professionals, Ruff said, and exposed the students “to the corporate world of people that are going to be hiring them.”

What Didn’t Work?

You don’t throw as many things against the wall as RIMS did at its 2014 Annual Conference & Exhibition without a few of them breaking. One of the new initiatives that didn’t work was an Innovation Showcase — an area in the exhibit hall with theater-style seating for 50 people where, for a fee, exhibitors could spotlight new products and services. “I guess we were too basic with it,” RIMS’s Stuart Ruff said. “In the end, it was just frankly too noisy, the [exhibitor] booths around didn’t like it, and the people who were participating inside didn’t like it. It’s something we need to fine-tune or go back to doing the old way.”

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.