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Guest Feature

RILA Asset Protection Conference: [CAUTION] An Opinionated Review 

May 2, 2018:

By Amber Bradley, Owner & Brand Strategist - Calibration Group, LLC

Building a conference that creates demand for people to return year after year requires attention to every detail.  Attendees must leave fulfilled by academic discussion, lively networking, and that little piece of themselves re-energized to take on their daily challenges.  The Retail Industry Leaders Association’s (RILA) annual conference held in Orlando this week at the Gaylord Palms had a tall task to fulfill in such a changing environment. But did they make the grade for attendees to pencil-in Denver into their schedules for 2019? 

Let’s take a look at a few key factors attendees typically judge their overall experience by: venue, content, after-hour activities, exhibit floor, and one more category I like to add; sizzle.


VENUE: The Gaylord. Again.

As many times as this weary conference-goer has been to the Gaylord Palms over the years, it still doesn’t disappoint.  Yes, we’ve been there a million times, but something is nice about knowing your experience will be a positive one with good service, nice rooms, and lots of choices for cold drinks and delicious food without stepping outside the property.


CONTENT: Connect the dots

Honestly the kickoff keynote struck me as an interesting choice and I was very curious how 7-Eleven’s Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, Rankin Gasaway, was going to carry the task of setting the tone of the conference.  Gasaway was up to the challenge as he found his groove discussing how leadership traits translate into the conference theme: “Growth. Relevance. Influence.” A highlight of Gasaway’s presentation was the description of one of his favorite quotes from Dr. Habecker, “A good leader absorbs chaos and returns order.”  Gasaway spoke of the importance of creating meaning from data and engagement with senior leaders within an organization.


Following Gasaway was Carol Spieckerman, a retail consultant.  Spieckerman’s presentation was interesting and provided lots of insight into the overall changes happening in retail.  One of the many positives about the RILA conference is how its diverse content allows attendees to hear multiple perspectives on broad retail initiatives and enables the audience to connect the dots back to their own domain and uncover how to make this information beneficial to his or her own environment.


Other conference session highlights that were extremely on-point with retail challenges were:

  • The Anatomy of a Social Engineering Attack by James Spencer, Senior Manager Asset Protection Systems & Technology, Walgreens, Gage Saunders, Lead Penetration Tester, Enterprise Security Assessment Team, Lowe's 
    Karrie Harney, Special Agent, FBI truly gave actionable strategies for retailers facing the costly forms of social engineering.

  • RILA created several panels of experts that tackled the most relevant content in the industry today including:

    • Shoplifters, ORC, Shrinking Justice & Opioids: What’s a Retailer To Do? with Paul Jaeckle, Vice President Loss Prevention, Meijer; Attorney General Curtis Hill, State of Indiana; Kevin Kolbye, Assistant Police Chief, Arlington Police Department; Honorable David Larson, Presiding Judge, Federal Way Municipal Court; John Rappaport, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Chicago, and moderated by Walter Palmer, Practice Leader, EPIC Integrated Risk Solutions 

    • From 40,000 ft. View to Practical Application tackled the complicated issue of how to craft policies and programs to address retail fraud’s co-morbidity with addiction and mental health.  This was an impressive panel that offered so many perspectives about a problem all retail is facing. Speakers included George Kelemen, President & Chief Executive Officer, Texas State Retail Association; Chief Deputy Aaron Negangard, State of Indiana; Kevin Kolbye, Assistant Police Chief, Arlington Police Department; Honorable David Larson, Presiding Judge, Federal Way Municipal Court; John Rappaport, Assistant Professor of Law, University of Chicago

To see more sessions and topics covered at RILA click here.


SIZZLE: Serious Is as Serious Does

This category is the hardest to execute because it’s so subjective…but in my opinion, helps conferences stand out in the memories of attendees long after the badges are hung up.  When it comes to pizazz or showmanship, RILA offers the meat of the matter.  RILA’s backbone to a great conference rests with gathering real subject matter experts that help retail practitioners do their jobs better.  That is a very serious task to accomplish and RILA does it in spades.  Retail is living in serious times and RILA understands that.  That was super clear with the subject matter experts they brought together for education at this conference. 


AFTER HOURS: Apply named

As conferences go, if you’re looking for a party you’ll always find one.  RILA definitely wasn’t short on solution provider networking events and the ever-popular bar conversations at the onsite venue, Wreckers, was hopping each evening.


EXHIBIT FLOOR:  It’s a Win-Win

Exhibit hours were slim but meaningful for those solutions providers wanting to make a connection.   RILA allows solution providers to attend sessions and they don’t schedule exhibit hours while attendees are in session.  This is huge for both exhibitors and attendees since exhibitors learn the most from attending sessions and attendees are free to explore the floor without missing content. RILA hosted attendees with well-stocked appetizers and cocktails on the exhibit floor each evening. The “Exhibit Experience” was certainly a positive for retailers plagued with issues.  All types of solutions were displayed so if you didn’t find the help you needed for your retail challenges, it might have been “operator error.”


RILA is a straight up brain workout.  Their frills are in the depth of education an attendee receives.  Attendees walked away with valuable content that helps loss prevention retail practitioners do their jobs better and keep their employees and customers safer.  This year, RILA challenged attendees to think, connect the dots, and provided plenty of stocked panels with subject matter experts covering relevant topics.  If your goal is leaving a conference a better practitioner with a stocked rolodex (ok, iPhone) of contacts, then pencil in your schedule RILA in Denver for 2019.

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