With the one of the biggestmeetingsin the insurance industry just days awaythe Risk and InsuranceManagement Society's annual conference in Orlandoattendance is onthe minds of many.

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The way the economy is going, withcompany layoffs and belt-tightening, its only natural to wonder howbudget constraints will affect conferenceattendance.

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I blogged earlier that attendance atthe Captive Insurance Companies Association conference in March wasdown by about 20 percent, which wasnt a bad turnout. Whatsmore,attendees I talked to were pleased with what they got out ofthe conference.

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RIMS President Joe Restoule told merecentlythatthe RIMS exhibit hall is sold out and attendance islooking good. He expects attendance will dip slightly below lastyears, but because of last minute registrations, wont know untilafter the conference.

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In the publicsector, Sarah Perry, president of the Public Risk ManagementAssociation, said last month thatrevenue sources are tight andpublic entities are cutting back wherever they can. This alsotranslates to slashed travel budgets and fewer representatives sentto conferences.

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I alsotalked to Lance Ewing, vice president of risk managementwith Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., whoobserved that because everyone is in a cost cutting mode right now,fewer risk managers are jumping on planes to attend conferences andmeetings and more are making use oftechnologies.

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Youre seeing travel budgets cut bymany risk management departments, he said. In some ways this canhandcuff you, while in other ways it forces you to work smarter andutilize the technology thats being developed on a more regularbasis.

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Technology has comea very long way, costs less and provides many more options than inthe past. For instance,phone-in conference calls are used regularlynow for interviews.

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At his own organization, he saidmore meetings are Web-based or being conducted telephonically.Also, organizations are hosting more webinars and pushing people toWeb sites more than we have in the past, said Mr. Ewing, a formerRIMS president.

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But while increased use oftechnology seems to be working, he joked: I dont think youll everget away from the underwriter and client meetings, thoughtoo manygolf courses out there.

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My question: Is technology use onthe rise in your organization? Is it replacing travel? What tripshave been removed from your agenda?

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