A preview of the 36th RIMS annual conference and exhibition in San Diego from 26 April to 1 May.

RIMS conference statistics never cease to amaze. This year, there are 4,000 plus registered delegates and spouses and 700 exhibit stands. Add to this the 2,000 plus RIMS groupies who never register but take advantage of the immense networking opportunities. 30 industry sessions and 140 core educational sessions are on offer, the latter of which have been selected by the conference programming committee from more than 1,300 entries.

Learning, communicating and networking is what RIMS is all about. Learning about new ideas and developments, and communicating and networking with peers who share the same concerns and challenges. With so many sessions to choose from, it also sharpens delegates' decision-making skills.

I cannot begin to do the breathtaking array of sessions justice here, but I can pick out a few of the highlights.

Reserves: What Risk Managers Should Know sees panelists leading an interactive discussion on all types of claims reserves, from property to workers' compensation to special liability. Discussion will include what reserves represent, why they are important, how they affect risk and retention decisions and how they can be forecasted and managed in a fully insured program, self-funded program or alternative risk financing arrangement. Speakers will address the effect of large losses on present and future funding and explain how public entities use IBNR projections and actuarial studies that are performed annually, and why they can be valuable to the corporate sector too.

Downsizing Pitfalls will discuss ways of minimizing an organization's risk of loss while going through the downsizing process. Professionals who have lived through downsizing will provide case studies. A risk manager, a legal expert and a communications specialist will discuss specific areas such as discrimination claims, pension and benefit plan effects, class action suits and the impact on company morale as well as public and market perception.

From Wall Street to Pine Street will focus on the innovative solutions achieved through synthesis of new financial products and sources of capital. This session will define the new terms, identify the intermediaries and counterparties in the marketplace and explain the new approaches risk managers use to reduce risk financing costs.

Global Property Risk: Engineering an Emerging World is for those planning on entering an emerging market. Leaders in global property insurance will provide tips, from designing builders' risk programs and engineering in the best practices in loss control to integrating a global property program.

Formed after the popular game show "Jeopardy," the Insurance Quiz Show challenges risk managers to test their knowledge in the categories of property insurance, business interruption, extra expediting expense, workers' compensation and legal issues. Timely topics will be addressed as the emcees read the answers and the audience provides the questions. The panel of experts will then elaborate on the topics, drawing examples from actual loss experience.

Intellectual Property: Who Owns What, When, Where and How? addresses concerns held by many in the corporate sector. Lines are blurring and boundaries are disappearing as businesses expand with new products and services for today's globally connected economy. The convergence of retail commerce with electronic communications technology is creating new exposures to risk, greater potential for infringement of intellectual property, claims of false advertising and prosecution in foreign jurisdictions. Trademark, copyright and patent infringement are a growing issue for risk managers and the possibilities for liabilities and damages are high.

This fundamental session will address the impact of the internet and the world wide web, available insurance products and loss control and protection measures.

Beyond Boring Benchmarks shows how to create dynamic methods to communicate an effective risk management message to company executives from the cfo to marketing vice presidents. Attendees of this session will learn new ideas and tools that can strengthen communications with their management so proper conclusions are reached and resources are allocated effectively to strengthen their organization's risk management discipline. The session will include keys to effective benchmarking, actual examples that attendees can apply to their own organizations and a comprehensive listing of benchmarking data sources.

A Day in the Life of the Virtual Risk Manager is for those risk managers with a desire to understand and benefit from the internet as a "next generation" business communications and productivity tool. With its global reach, multimedia capabilities and pervasive standards, the internet has rapidly established itself as the most time - and cost effective way of handling much of daily business communications. This session will explore the use of the internet as a general purpose business tool and more specifically as a risk management resource. Here you can learn from an internet-savvy risk manager and a respected technologist just how easily the internet can assist you and your business partners in enhancing your communications in an increasingly virtual world.

Do You Really Need An Insurance Broker? will take on an informal format including some role playing with audience interaction. The focus will be on the present and ever changing roles of brokers from the perspective of experienced risk managers who employ brokers minimally to extensively within their insurance placements. The use of direct writing insurers, both old-line and new entries, will be discussed as will the use of specialty brokers. Threaded throughout the presentation will be the various decision elements that need to be considered when determining the most appropriate use of brokers by a company.

Among the industry session topics will be amusement/theme parks, conglomerates, drugs and pharmaceuticals, healthcare, restaurants and telecommunications.

Not everyone stays the whole week, of course, but the morning solution sharing sessions and information exchange brunch on Friday 1 May offer a pretty convincing reason. Indeed, many of last year's attendees reckoned these final activities alone were worth the registration fee and well worth the wait.

Each interactive session includes a panel of experts and a roving moderator taking questions and comments from the audience. Topics vary based on input from the participants; the main categories will include employee benefits, finance/insurance, international, loss control, risk management, and workers' compensation.

Following this, attendees can network further at the information exchange brunch where copies of handouts from educational sessions held during the week will be available. However busy delegates have been, they will no doubt have plenty more work to take home.

Valerie Denney is editor of this publication.