The Pandemic Effect on Insurance Technology Conferences, Will They Ever Be The Same?
Here we are, 2022, about two and a half years past the point of the initial pandemic forced shutdown for travel and face-to-face interaction. Industry conferences that prior to the pandemic were the stalwarts for networking, business development and showcasing vendor solutions were immediately and forever effected. Initially cancelled, then subsequently virtualized, and now slowly making a comeback with physical attendance. However, as industry conferences start to come out of their virtualized cocoon they are faced with a new set of challenges.
Today, insurance industry conferences are challenged by the significant reduction or elimination of insurer travel budgets due to the ongoing pandemic. For 2022 budgets, most insurers likely did budget planning in the fourth quarter of 2021 and during that time a new variant of COVID, Omincron, was literally taking the world by storm. Fast forward to today and we hear many insurers are still not letting their folks travel, likely concerned for both the employee welfare and brand awareness. Insurers who are letting their folks attend conferences are being much more selective and prospective attendees must go through an approval process given current budget limitations.
Insurers are also talking a hard look at the business value of each conference that prior to the pandemic was an annual no brainer. In the last three months I have had the opportunity to attend four insurance technology focused conferences. This number is already double the amount of conferences that I physically attended in all of 2021 (2). Of the four I have attended this year, one was historically a fairly large conference, another revolved around a specific focal group and two were in the insurtechs space. I also had the opportunity to speak at all four of these events and had numerous interesting conversations with industry peers.
My general observations:
- Euphoria! – people were really looking forward to personal interaction after two plus years of virtual only interaction.
- Value – Both insurers and vendors are now trying to figure out where the most value is for the budget dollar since the budget is much more limited especially on the insurer side.
- Insurtech - Local insurtechs hub events seem to be getting more insurer attention and attendance for a couple of reasons, one of them being most attendees don’t incur the cost of airfare or a hotel. If attendees do have to stay at a hotel, its generally limited to one night since local or regional insurtechs event are normally one to two days at the most. Given the thin to non-existent insurer travel budgets, this now becomes a higher value option.
- Networking – on the whole the balance of insurer/vendor attendance is not what it was in the past and may never be the same again for some industry conferences, but the networking opportunities are still there! In one 48-hour timeframe I had about 25-30 individual conversations, something that has not been replicated virtually.
So if you’re an insurer and thinking about attending a conference, here three things to consider:
- Bang for the buck! – (aka Value) what are your value objectives for attending and how will they be achieved.
- Networking – who is attending from an insurer, speaker, and vendor perspective. Who are you targeting to meet and what are you looking to learn? Many of the conferences now offer an opportunity for you to schedule meetings through a meeting app prior to the actual event, take advantage of this, it is a great way to develop your personal event agenda.
- Results – Now more than ever, if you plan on attending the same event next year documenting the results out of this years event might be key to future attendance. Did you meet you value objectives? Was additional value realized? If you had to go through an approval process to attend a conference documenting results might now be a mandatory requirement. .
And if you’re a vendor and considering exhibiting, here’s what you might look at:
- Balance – the more conferences the more data but based on my 2021-2022 conference experience some conferences are gaining insurer attention and some are not, at least for now insurers are becoming choosier due to budget constraints. I anticipate vendor will be as well.
- Conference Strategy – vendors may need to adjust their attendance and sponsorship based on trends they see in conference attendee “balance”. Can you meet your conference objectives?
- Networking – who is attending from an insurer, MGA, BD, and speaker perspective. Like insurers, who are you targeting to meet and what are you looking to learn from competitors in your market niche? Many of the conferences now offer an opportunity for you to schedule meetings through a meeting app prior to the actual event, take advantage of this, it is a great way to develop your event agenda.
It’s hard to say where the future of our industry conferences will go but if the pandemic and all its variants show some sort of fatigue by the next budgeting period then I would anticipate the travel budgets will grow for 2023. As travel budgets increase, they will likely do so with a higher level of scrutiny for value and a stringent approval process. Additionally, if my observations for this year are an indication of the future, we may see more local and regional hub activity and less large gatherings on a national scale.