By MATTHEW BRODSKY, senior editor/Web editor of Risk & InsuranceŽ
Let's be honest here. For many people, the variety and volume of chotchkes are the metric to measure the quality of the expo hall. The question is, do some people look up when nabbing their goodies at a booth long enough to even notice the name of the vendor, or the face of the person serving booth duty?
So let's cut to the chase, shall we? Here's a quick review of what was offered at the 415 booths at the 19th Annual National Workers' Compensation and Disability ConferenceŽ & Expo, which began Wednesday and ends today.
My vote for the best chotchke was a pen. Yes, out of the hundreds of varieties of free pens being handed out on the showroom floor, one stood out, stood out so prominently that it took the cake as the best freebie of all.
The pen itself isn't anything special. In fact, I just wrote with it and found its grip and feel and ink output to be subpar. Its unique and repetitively entertaining feature, though, is the orange, Nemo-looking, plastic fish on top of it. Squeeze the fishie by his fins, and his eyeballs pop out of his head. I have so far avoided showing this pen to my colleagues or strangers for fear they will steal it. I'm not sure if that says more about my trust in them than about the pen.
My fascination with my Nemo pen might also have a lot to say about the overall quality and number of chotchkes on the show floor.
Was the quality and quantity of chotchkes down in 2010? There were the aforementioned pens available, and a delicious assortment of candies too. They ranged from the ever-present bite-sized Snickers and Musketeers brands, to an assortment of mints and breath fresheners. Even warm chocolate chip cookies were in the offing.
But in terms of substantial giveaways, you had that blindingly gold-colored tote bag and a few other less extravagant satchels available at booths. A tangerine-colored Lamborghini greeted us at the entrance of the floor. No one was allowed to drive that home, but there were plenty of would-be "drivers" opening the front door, sitting in the front seat behind the wheel and posing for a photo snap.
Coozies, water bottles, coffee cups, key chains, photos with a person dressed up like a couch potato--no other booth freebie really stood out. Sorry, vendors. Try harder next year.
Of course, the serious-minded among us do not visit the booths on the expo floor to stuff their pockets and their free tote bags with more "stuff we all get," otherwise known by the acronym SWAG.
We all come to this annual event to gain knowledge, they would say, and one of the best places to get this knowledge--besides the session rooms--is the expo floor. There perhaps was no better way to begin shopping for a new vendor this week than to visit them in person at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
The opportunity was also prime time to pick a vendor's brain about a particular issue or problem that had been dogging you. And a survey of the expo floor can also give us a sense for emerging issues facing the industry.
Take the issue of chronic pain. A number of pharmacy benefits management firms were on the floor. Whether you view them as the center of the universe when it comes to dealing with prescription drug issues or not, PBMs have their hands full dealing with the pain-pill scripts of injured workers.
Also on the floor you could find the two major firms that do drug testing for employers and claims payers, so that they can know whether employees are taking their prescription opioids or instead selling them to their neighbors.
Another vendor sells the drug meant to help wean injured workers off opioids, while others help employers with early interventions and help employees to cope with the behavioral aspects of chronic pain.
You also could find medical device manufacturers whose products are implanted in the middle of the chronic pain debates as well.
On the expo floor were vendors that can help clarify some of the obscure but pivotal controversies surrounding permanent medical impairment.
After all, judges base their workers' comp awards on an impairment rating. Attendees with questions about how the latest edition of the ADA guide lowers impairment ratings and why the plaintiffs bar isn't too happy about them, should have stopped by the booth of an impairment expert.
You had your share of "standard" vendors too, of course, those selling insurance, claims services, hospital beds and everything in between.
Judging from the 258 companies presenting on the expo floor at this year's show, new blood and new products and services are emerging apace, and the workers' comp and disability industry is "alive and well," as Peter Rousmaniere, Risk & InsuranceŽ magazine's workers' comp columnist, put it.
Which means that next year, there will be no excuse for booth vendors not to offer better chotchkes.
November 11, 2010
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