As COVID-19 brought the digital revolution worldwide, it snagged the insurance industry as well. Conventions have been traditionally held face to face and we enjoyed them! With the travel bans, what now?
Some organizations are still looking into ways to run a live event, but health rules, social distancing and other restrictions are making it practically impossible. One would argue that face to face interactions are irreplaceable, but when faced with a possibility of cancelling the event entirely, we say let's move online. This is why virtual events got their place on our calendars. The Internet is full of articles on how you can organize a live event, but there is no "one size fits all" piece of advice. Seems that 2020 is the trial and error year for all online events.
Members of the WSIA Insurtech Committee are in the process of organizing the 2021 WSIA Insurtech Conference and we sincerely hope we get to attend and see each other live in New Orleans! Block your calendars for March 28-31!
As a member of WSIA Insurtech Committee, I wanted to share my thoughts of advantages and disadvantages, strengths and weaknesses of this new form.
Wider Outreach and Attendance - The upper hand provided by the digital event that everyone first thinks of is, of course, removing the one location limitation and enabling attendance to everyone with as much as a laptop and a decent internet connection. The ability to connect people all over the world, especially those who wouldn’t be able to attend on site events for numerous reasons is a huge leverage that these events have.
Cost Effectiveness - Another upside is of financial nature. Registration fees are lower, additional payments for accommodation, travel and transportation eliminated, allowing smaller companies to participate too, and granting the possibility of attendance to larger numbers of employees. Exhibitors will still have to pay for the booth, but it is in all cases less expensive than setting up the physical booth.
On-Demand Content is a tremendous benefit we have access to now. No more running through the halls of the conference center to show up on time for your favorite speaker and be on the next meeting within minutes. If you didn’t manage to take all notes, you drifted away in the middle, or simply want to hear the speaker again, recordings are an option for all attendees, along with various data you can download and analyze.
Productivity and Efficiency - One of the main changes that I noticed while attending these events, is that they also seem more straight to the point. Of course, we miss the hallway conversations and the social moment, but we should acknowledge that efficiency is enhanced with more focused discussions.
Environmental Friendly aspects of virtual events should definitely be listed among the advantages. Virtual events empower them with no transportation required (emission of CO2 and other harmful gases is eliminated), paper printing is avoided, and less waste is generated (think about all the coffee cups alone).
Networking, or more correctly, the lack of it, is the first and perhaps vital disadvantage of virtual events. Considerable number of attendees are visiting conferences for the sake of maintaining the relationship with clients, creating new business opportunities, meeting new people, and catching up with colleagues over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Networking apps are on the rise, but can they really replace the live interaction?
Less Personal - very much connected to the previous section, virtual events are missing the personal touch and are way less spontaneous. The old fashioned, sit down, face to face meetings will always have immense value. Body language and visual cues are often saying more than words, and a great deal of leaders are relying on these when making decisions. People seem to always find the time and money to attend the convention due to its in-person moment worth.
Technology Aspect - Live streaming is always challenging, especially with hundreds of people joining. However advanced the technology is becoming these days, we’ve all witnessed it can fail all of a sudden, with various interruptions in connection, cameras malfunctioning, attendees having difficulties joining, and of course no one wants to watch chopped off or delayed streams. And when we all got accustomed to the number of different tools such as Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and others, the virtual conventions came with a countless more. Sometimes I wonder, can they all just agree and use one?
Distractions - Unlike live events, virtual conferences come with a great deal of distractions. People are less focused while watching the streaming on the laptop with the internet on hand, phones ringing, emails coming in, and all other interruptions we are experiencing while working from home.
OIP attended several virtual conventions. In our brainstorming afterwards we unanimously agreed that, in order to have a highly successful event, it should be a combination of educational sessions with esteemed insurance leaders as speakers, virtual exhibitions, Q&A, and networking. Engaging the audience is challenging, but must be the goal, to prevent the convention from becoming a webinar. Content must be very carefully thought through, as the attention span of a participant, is very limited.
In conclusion, we see that majority industry conventions have been moved to an online experience. I am very happy to see the flexibility and fast adaption of the insurance industry, to the new circumstances and trends. There is a huge race in the innovations field, who will be the front-runner?
Personally, I can't wait for the world to return to “normal” and on site conventions are back on track. In the meantime, looking forward to seeing you all at the virtual events!