• Ed Halsey

Event organisers are missing the point...

I'm just going to throw this out there, but digital conferences suck.

But the real question is; "Why?".

The lack of physically being there appears to be the common reason given, but I don't think it's as simple as that.

First, let's ask ourselves; what are the best things about the insurance industry events we know and love? By the best, I mean the thing that causes you to go back year on year. The things that, if they weren't present, would cause you to stop going.

Is it the great lineup of speakers on stage, access to people trying to sell you stuff or access to top brass from insurers?

  • Well, TedTalks already offer great speakers on stage and the viewership of shows that people are perfectly happy to consume that content digitally and not in person. They perhaps even prefer it.

  • Nobody enjoys being sold to at a conference. It sucks. Most conversations that happen "on-stand" are with juniors wondering what they can get from the vendor's stand of freebies. And for most vendors, the spend is vast, £40k+ just to be there. The problem is that as a result, they feel they've bought the right to sell at everybody who comes near them.

  • Access to the top brass? Just because you can see them 3 metres away, doesn't mean they're accessible to you. Who are you kidding?

That pretty much makes up the entire conference and bizarrely THAT is the part that event organisers are trying to replicate digitally - the bit that sucks and that you put up with, in order to get to the good stuff.

And what is the good stuff?

It's the human interaction, the networking, the staggering back from a bar at midnight with your "new best friend" from an insurer who you've just promised a million-pound book of business to. It's getting invited to a great party by a vendor who wines and dines you and makes you feel important for an evening. It's the people you meet along the way, the stories that are told, the loose-lipped conversations over steak dinners that build relationships and trust at a rate of knots.

Yet nobody is trying to replicate that part of the events. The bit we actually go for.

I remember going to an Insurtech event a few years back in which I set aside the entire day. The talks were most definitely confirmational, rather than inspirational, telling me things I already knew or suspected and nothing that rocked my world. I realised that of course, they're not going to share their secret sauce to a room of strangers!

But on one of the breaks, I sat at a table and was joined by a young lad who was looking for an ally in that same room of strangers. We chatted for an hour about the industry, ideas we'd had, changes we'd love to see and that hour was worth 100x the value of the 6 hours of talks I'd near-on slept through.

So event organisers, please, stop doubling down and asking us to spend tens of thousands of pounds on the bit we don't actually want and start looking and innovating around how you can digitise the latter part. The valuable part. The part that actually drives us to your events and delivers insight, relationships and leads back into our business.

If you can nail that, you may find that you can charge more than ever.

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