Langham's Thoughts on People's Choice at the Comp Laude Awards and Gala

By David Langham

In 2016, I introduced readers to the People’s Choice program at Comp Laude. I remember when no one knew what Comp Laude itself was; boy has that changed. But in 2016, David DePaolo started the People’s Choice segment, built around a “TED Talk” format of very short (less than 6 minutes) presentations by a spectrum of workers’ compensation constituents.

I recall last winter, after the Laude program, I ran into a “Comp Laudian” (© Langham, 2017) and the People’s Choice came up (s/he had no idea I had been the chair of the selection committee that year). As we discussed how s/he enjoyed the format and the speakers, s/he made a telling comment, “how do you even get nominated for that?” Well, obviously not an assiduous reader of my blog-wanderings (see links above). 

The People’s Choice speakers are not elected or even nominated. They each submitted a proposal themselves. They suggested their topic and the spirit of their talk, and submitted it. That’s all there is to it. Sure, not everyone that submits gets selected. Even with each speaker getting only 6 minutes, there is still a limit on how many can be presented. That limit is seven, because time is also required to start the breakout, transition between speakers, etc.

Last year was a huge success. In the first ever People’s Choice, the audience selected Dwight Johnson. Read that again, the audience selected. Unlike all the other Comp Laude awards, that involve applications, nominations, vetting, narrowing, voting and months of preparation, the People’s Choice is all decided live, in San Diego, by the people sitting in the audience. You be the judge!

This year, I was proud to serve on the People’s Choice selection committee. Great proposals were submitted for the 2017 People’s Choice. Some were pages long. Those speakers will have to trim, I could not even read them in 6 minutes. Others, were very brief overviews. Those speakers will have to expand, I read some in less than a minute. But, they all had a commonality, they speak to the greater humanity of this industry and its people. And, after all, that is precisely what David envisioned. 

What follows is an overview of the seven 2017 topics. I struggled with whether to share the speaker names or not. I thought leaving them out might generate curiosity that would lead you to attend. Then, I thought knowing the caliber of the speakers might also lead you to attend. And, in the end, I elected to “out” your “seven wonders of the workers’ comp world” (© Langham, 2017), the seven People’s Choice presenters for 2017. 

(my lawyer suggests that I clarify the following are in no particular order, the mention in this blog in no way endorses any speaker or campaigns for the victory of any speaker. Speakers may not appear in this order in your program or on the stage; your mileage may vary; use, freeze, or discard by November 1, 2017; do not remove this warning under penalty of law). 

Tammy Boyd will present "Failing Forward." It will be an expose of a fair few famous failures (say that seven times really fast, then continue to read) at a variety of endeavors, who each thereafter achieved monumental success in their fields. The fame and notoriety of these examples will bring instant audience recognition, but recognition for their eventual success. Ms. Boyd will talk you through their “hard work, tenacity, and spirit of curiosity.” 

Comp Laudians (© Langham, 2017) will revel in the challenges and failures of some of the most inquisitive, motivated, and persistent characters imaginable. None of them had success and fame delivered on a silver tray, nor fed to them with a silver spoon. Each exemplifies instead the value and benefit of motivation, focus, and persistence. Ms. Boyd will advocate learning from failure being motivated by these inspirational individuals, and continuing to try. 

D. Diann Cohen will present an expose on “ordinary people,” and the impact they can have on community. She will overview individual’s contributions of time and effort in community outreach, and the lives that have been touched in the process. But, this is not a presentation about just Ms. Cohen, or just her community.

Ms. Cohen will expose the simplicity of volunteering to assist and enrich others. She provides a game plan for taking “the first step” in your own communities. She will outline how you become a “mover and a shaker,” find others like yourself, find help for your goal, and create an impact. Finally, this presentation will focus on how to make a difference, which does not require being perfect. 

Becky Curtis is an injured worker. She has become an advocate for injured workers, and their recovery. Hers is an inspiring personal story of pain, challenges, and success. Ms. Curtis will present in the People’s Choice on the “learned phenomenon” of chronic pain, a reaction or training of your very own brain. 

Her topic focuses on the “the latest discoveries in neuroplasticity,” and the “unlearning” of pain. Ms. Curtis is not focused on quick-fixes, but on individual development and education that helps people develop “effective tools for managing pain, redirecting negative thought patterns, and refocusing on positive solutions.”

Jonathan Mast will provide a motivational presentation on the collective nature of this industry. He acknowledges that we “workcompians” (© Langham, 2017) are not well understood by the outside world, but stresses that this is a caring industry that often provides mutual support to those who toil in it. He cites personal instances in which he faced personal challenges, only to find people in this industry behind him. 

He will help the audience to “unpack this concept” and focus upon how we can individually and collectively better commiserate with and support those around us, as they face challenges which we may not first-hand understand, and perhaps may not even know about. Each of us faces challenges and struggles, and there is room in this industry for us to support and encourage each other. Mr. Mast provides a plethora of exemplars demonstrating “we are that industry of caring people who are better together.” But, can he pack it all into six minutes? Well, after all, you be the judge. 

Jeannette Ward will present on the tragedies that may lurk in wait for any of us. Life constantly presents them, hurricanes, fires, human aggression. Ms. Ward’s focus will be the spirit of response in the face of such events, with the example of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, and along the Gulf coast. In the year of Harvey, Irma, Maria, Nate and California wild fires, everyone will be conscious of the impact of such events, have been affected, or know someone that was. 

Ms. Ward will overview a supportive and conscious corporate mentality of recovery. Events will impact employees, customers, and vendors/suppliers, and all may have resulting needs. Needs may be personal and professional, large and small, but will nonetheless be needs. There will be room for contributions of time, money, and emotion. Emotion bears stress, as the commiseration of our peers may be the most valuable of all. 

Cari Miller will present upon her experience at the WCI one August, and her conclusion that “There’s a Hero in Everyone.” She details her experience volunteering at a unique and exceptional central Florida treasure called Give Kids the World or GKTW (if you have never heard of them, check out this video by a workers’ compensation lawyer who has first-hand experience; Caution, it may bring a tear or two). 

Ms. Miller will describe her day at GKTW helping deliver “wishes” to “children with life-threatening illnesses.” She worked the ice cream shop, a seemingly quiet morning assignment, but finds it busy. She meets many, sees excitement, witnesses joy, hears stories, and reflects on the challenges that bring these exceptional families to this venue. The experience of giving to this community inspires her, and she realizes that GKTW is a “true hero,” one which depends on the “hero in everyone,” because these heroes need people to be heroes. It is the volunteers that make such impact possible. 

Marques Torbert will highlight the “Humanity in Workers’ Compensation.” The presentation will be based on the foundational theme that workers’ compensation is about people, and that humanity is perhaps sometimes overlooked. There is a need to remind that injured workers must be “treated with dignity and respect.” From this premise, would simultaneously come “better outcomes for injured workers, payers, and our society.”

On this theme, examples will be provided for building a “feeling of belonging” and developing a “connection to their humanity,” which “connects us all.” The speaker will contend that the “Grand Bargain has failed to live up to its promises” as regards the “one inalienable right we all seek – humanity.” With recognition of this failure, this presentation will encourage new emphasis on “three main elements: Consideration, Freedom, and Health.” The speaker will advocate that through re-emphasis on these, workers’ compensation can return to the Grand Bargain. 

The stage is set. The die is cast. (Langham’s cliché’s have become tiring?) The finalists are preparing, cutting, supplementing, practicing, anticipating, and more. But all you have to do is show up, listen, and vote. See, without you there is no purpose of these presentations. They are about you “workcompians” (© Langham, 2017), they are for you, and they will benefit you. And, do not forget, that the audience and only the audience get to pick the winner. You “Comp Laudians” (© Langham, 2017) will be the judges of the People’s Choice 2017.  Perhaps next year someone will do a People’s Choice talk on how easy it is for a “workcompian” to become a “Comp Laudian?” (Hint, you just register and show up). 

Oh, and don’t forget to have your selfie taken with Rafael Gonzalez! He and a who’s who of other experts are presenting Tuesday morning on the exciting challenges of Medicare Secondary Payer issues in Seaport B). Of course, you will probably want to attend the Real Conversations about Comp in Seaport DE that morning, but we ( will not be offended if you leave a few minutes early to sneak across the hall and catch Rafael for a selfie.

See you in San Diego in just a few days!


  1. ‘Her topic focuses on the “the latest discoveries in neuroplasticity,” and the “unlearning” of pain. Ms. Curtis is not focused on quick-fixes, but on individual development and education that helps people develop “effective tools for managing pain, redirecting negative thought patterns, and refocusing on positive solutions.”’

    This is something I’m learning on my own. It’s been an interesting journey so far.


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