When the notice arrives in the mail from the CAS president, many a new Associate is excited to use those four wonderful letters after their names—letters for which they have invested countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears. This notice also contains an invitation to attend the next Spring or Annual Meeting. The thought of attending your first meeting can be daunting, and it is hard to know what to expect, so here are some pointers to help make the most out of the event.
Get a feel for the meeting structure
Generally speaking, CAS meetings are divided into three types of events: general sessions, concurrent sessions, and networking events. General sessions include keynote speeches as well as lectures and expert panels on topics that affect the insurance industry or the actuarial profession. Concurrent sessions (or breakout sessions) are smaller and tend to be more focused on specific topics like predictive modeling or advanced reserving methods. Between these sessions and at the end of the day, there are networking events that are great opportunities to meet people in the industry
Plan out the sessions you want to attend ahead of time
Each CAS meeting has a variety of concurrent sessions, some of which are offered twice during the course of the meeting. Pick a mix of sessions that are relevant to your current role and some that are just topics that interest you. Think about what is appropriate for your level of industry knowledge and career aspirations. Be sure to make it to a professionalism session because this will help you meet your continuing education requirements. If you are unsure about a session, you can always look at the slide decks that are published ahead of time; this can keep you from spending time in a session on a topic for beginners when you might be an expert, or vice versa.
Use the CAS Events meeting application if you have a smart phone
The app provides the itinerary, rooms, the list of meeting attendees, and much more. It can be easier and faster than checking the paper program.
Know what you hope to get out of the meeting
If you have spent time thinking about your goals, it will be easier to make decisions about where you spend your time. When reflecting back at the end, you will be able to articulate what the meeting accomplished for you.
Consider whether your employer will expect you to report back on anything
If there are topics of interest to your entire team, make sure to take good notes so you can share at your next team meeting. Even if your employer does not expect you to submit a summary of the sessions you attend, doing so is a good practice and can help you stand out at your company. Employers are always looking for new and interesting business opportunities, and presenting such potential opportunities to your boss can go a long way in your career development.
Meet new people
Talk to people, but do not feel like you need to get to everyone. Have an elevator speech prepared that includes your name, what you do, why you are at the meeting and a little bit about your company. Wear your name tag at all times and bring business cards. If you make a good connection, be sure to add them as a LinkedIn contact. Between sessions, check out the vendor exhibition tables. Even if you are not the person who makes decisions about vendor relations, it can be helpful to learn what they do to support the industry. Ask questions anytime you get a chance.
Break away from the herd
It is okay to have a conference buddy to discuss topics and learnings with, but traveling in a pack does not encourage others to approach you. Don’t spend the entire conference with co-workers. You can miss out on the huge networking benefit of the meeting. Particulary at meals, sit at a table where you will meet new people.
Take advantage of all the networking events
Enjoy meals, happy hours and other planned activities. Be sure to attend the events for new Associates or Fellows, because this will give you an opportunity to meet peers and the leaders of the CAS.
After all that hard work to get here, you have earned it. Even though a CAS meeting is a business trip, most meetings include several fun events, like visiting an amusement park and exhibitor-sponsored cocktail parties. If you are excited about the location of the meeting, consider extending your trip. You will still get to explore the city without taking time away from official events.