Sunday, 6 November 2011

Employer Healthcare Congress (5) The final night (Medieval Times) and post script.

In my self appointed role as roving reporter for last week’s Employer healthcare Congress in Chicago, I could not let final evening’s entertainment go without comment.

An epic adventure awaits’…the publicity promised .. ‘Be swept away to an age of bravery and honor and witness epic battles of steel and steed’… This was all due to take place in the ‘ The gorgeous, expansive Schaumburg Castle … one of Medieval Times' most memorable, due to its colossal stone tower and emerald lawn’.

Admittedly, on the final night of the conference, I was already feeling a little jaded as I boarded the coach en route to the castle. Too many (well two, anyway) late nights in the bar (as my father would say – ‘of course I was in the pub – it was open’) so maybe my sense of humour was doomed to failure from the outset.

Sitting at the front of the coach was a lady dressed in full medieval regalia. As she sat there in silence, briefly nodding (was that in welcome?) to each delegate, I couldn’t help wondering if she was a member of the ‘cast’ aboard to jolly us along or a delegate who hadn’t noticed the ‘business casual’ instruction on the invitation. Awkward.

Call me an snob (feel free) but I am fortunate to have been brought up just a few miles from King Arthur’s round table in a magnificent 13th Century Hall in Winchester, England, so the ‘Legoland’ plastic looking castle set in a parking lot failed to impress. We were greeted with gushings of welcoming jollity by knights and pages who put me in mind of a children’s entertainer called Rainbow Bigbottom (this is true), who I once hired for my daughter’s birthday party. No the ‘actors’ didn’t all have big bottoms, but they spoke with multiple exclamation marks throughout!!!!

I decided to stop being grumpy and embrace the fantasy so partook of some medieval wine (I think it really was fermented – is that the right word? centuries ago) out of a plastic cup. I did consider the cocktails but they seemed to glow with so many colouring additives that I didn’t want to risk being hyper for the rest of the week. We were then ushered into predetermined, colour coded sections of the arena. On a serious note – this was a real shame. The main point, I believe, of the final hurrah of a conference should be an opportunity to network, hopefully chiefly on a social basis with new friends and colleagues whom you have met along the way. Alas, as this was a spectator event, akin to going to the cinema, sitting in the dark in rows, the only conversation possible was with the delegates either side of you. I’m glad to report I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to two delightful people.

As we awaited the main event we were served surprisingly delicious food as the serving wench (who looked remarkably like a standard bearer in the arena later) dutifully went through her script – suggesting that the potato wedges were dragon fingers etc etc.

Our allotted area was colour coded, and we were each given the appropriate coloured paper crown, linking to the knight we were supposed to support. Great for a hen party, but not so great for the row of business men sitting next to us. I think they were from the Philippine Tourist Board, attending the Medical Tourism conference and they were clearly separated into two groups. Those who slept throughout the whole performance, (while still wearing their crowns - bless), and those who sat bolt upright for 90 minutes, looking petrified!

The show that followed was as spectacular as it was confusing. There were horses, swords, knights, pages, a king, a damsel in distress (or was she a princess?) some baddies, some goodies. There was impressive horsemanship, scary sword fights (with real sparks flying as metal clashed), jousting and plenty of posturing, I had absolutely no idea of what was going on at any time. The actors delivered lengthy speeches, I guess in English, but either my hearing or the dodgy sound system or both meant that I didn’t catch a single word. It was a bit like watching a medieval sci fi with a complex plot (I never did really understand the Matrix) but everyone seemed to be having a good time and I think the goody won in the end.

There we upsides of course. Some of the knights were quite cute. Some of the audience – especially a few girls who I think were confused and believed they were, after all, at a hen party, had a ball. I was presented with a carnation (without the stalk for health and safety purposes) by the red knight. I would like to think that the handsome young man picked me for my obvious beauty, wit and intelligence, but I suspect he noticed my look of utter bemusement and felt sorry for me….

In summary, the evening was an eclectic mix of confusing activity, good intentions and a bit of argy bargy - the perfect metaphor for healthcare reform (both sides of the Atlantic).

Post script…
Back to the business of the Employer Healthcare Congress. Was it useful? Absolutely. It was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones, to share fascinating views on corporate wellness and receive highly informative updates on healthcare reform. I really appreciated the added bonus of presentations on marketing and brand development. Was it better than last year? Yes it was. The multi-stream options continue to be beneficial and this year’s format and agenda were much easier to follow.

Will I attend next year’s congress? Of course. The conference is going to be ‘on the beach’ in Florida – it would be rude not to….


Chairman Chegwin said...

Verily, 'tis a goodly blog....

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