An Interview with Ty Gagne, CEO of Primex³

It’s that time of year and many GEM member conferences and annual meetings are being planned for 2019. We all know the amount of planning and attention to detail needed to pull off a successful event. But what more can you do to make the greatest impression on your members?

In this article, we are profiling one of our GEM members who has really taken their annual conference to the next level and seeing what’s behind their success.

Primex³ is a Not-For-Profit Public Entity Risk Pool meeting the needs of New Hampshire’s cities, towns, school districts, counties, village districts, and other governmental entities. One of GEM’s largest members, Primex³ serves a membership of 540.

We sat down recently for an interview with their CEO, TY Gagne, just days after their most successful conference to date to find out how they did it.

What is the goal of your conference
“In our conferences, we want to interact with our membership to exchange best practices, offer HR training, and other leadership management development. Our hope is to create an environment to convene and learn current trends present at the national insurance level, pool level and staff development level.”

Why was this year’s theme chosen?
“By enticing attendees with a single, powerful word like EXPLORE as our theme, we gave them an idea of what they themselves can expect from the conference by attending, both in leadership and decision making. But we were also able to project what we want them to do as a member of our pool – a call to action if you will.”

Were there specific topics you tried to emphasize?
“What we did this year was have keynote speakers at the beginning and the end of the conference to greet our members. The second keynote speaker attended both days of sessions and was able to link all the session track concepts together in her talk. It reinforced our call to action, showed an attention to detail, and threaded the theme for us nicely.

“Specific topics we emphasized this year were HR and cyber. We wanted to offer topics to all members representatives. They may not necessarily be of that discipline, like HR, but they could explore the topic even if it wasn’t their area of expertise. We also try to draw speakers that we have seen at other conferences that provide excellent content and an engaging delivery. We source from ICMA, AGRiP, and PRIMA to name a few.”

How do you determine the success of the conference?
“Our success is not only in the numbers – although this was our largest conference attendance yet at 358 – it is also in the demographic of that attendance. Are we getting municipalities, counties and schools represented? Are there line staff, department heads and public officials in the mix? We were able to say “yes” to both this year.”

Where has participant feedback influenced the planning for subsequent conferences and meetings?
“Implementing an electronic evaluation immediately after the conference has provided the most valuable feedback for us. We get a great response and the feedback has influenced the planning for future conferences. We make continuous improvements and offer more experiential learning as a result. Members told us they like being off site for two days so they can network with their peers and colleagues and immerse themselves in learning without distraction. Also, having that feedback in real time allows us to start planning next year’s conference as soon as this year’s ends.

“It is also important to get that feedback straight from the source. The best planning strategy is to never assume and never become complacent. Engage the returning participants and don’t forget the new faces. And by respecting the time and logistics needed by presenters, they indicated they too will come back.”

What strategy have you found to be most successful over the years?
“It’s the people. A lot of people make our conferences successful. I have full confidence in my staff who organize and execute – they all make it a worthwhile event.”

Nothing showcases a pool more than the annual meeting. It’s a powerful reminder of the value of membership. There isn’t a secret sauce, in fact as Ty reveals, it’s sometimes the smaller details that resonate most. The Primex³ Risk Management Summit is just one example of the many successful events laid on by GEM’s members. I encourage you to reach out to your peers to understand what’s worked best for them.

Andrew Halsall
President & CEO