Pen’s Perspective On… staying focused and fighting virtual fatigue
Published On : 05 May 2021
BY NICK MILTON
Around this time last year, I wrote about the general insurance industry’s disappointment – particularly for those of us in business development – not to have had our usual May convergence on Manchester.
With no real window to shift to an alternative format after lockdown hit last March, BIBA’s outright cancellation of its 2020 conference was understandable and inevitable.
And we all had plenty to keep us busy in any case. Every UK broker, MGA, insurer and supplier firm was still grappling with the new world of remote working, physical isolation and virtual-only connectivity. Our collective challenge was just to keep the wheels of commerce turning, stay connected to clients and make sure our people were safe and well.
But when I referenced there being “no real prospect of any large scale broker and insurance market interaction – not this month, and not for the foreseeable future”, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was quietly confident that the Spring of 2021 would find us in a very different and more normal place.
Call it my natural (salesman’s) optimism, call it naivety at never having experienced the reality of living through a global pandemic, but Spring 2021 was going to be all about prepping for another packed couple of days of in-person networking and business generation at Manchester Central and the city’s great venues.
And yet, here we are, arriving in another May, with another industry gathering in Manchester to be missed.
But there is a huge amount to be positive about. Thanks to the UK’s impressive vaccine roll out and lockdown ‘dividend’, we’re on track for restrictions to continue to lift, millions of businesses to re-open or return to full capacity and the country’s economic recovery to finally get underway.
Plus BIBA is back.
Ok, Covid-compliance conditions mean that 2021’s conference has to be online, but it’s a welcome step towards what everyone hopes will be an all-bells in-person event come 2022.
BIBA’s mix of 24 speakers, 10 technical sessions and unlimited networking opportunities over 12 & 13 May, still has the power and potential to draw together the UKGI community. Exhibitors and delegates can gather their decision-makers in one place, at one time, to make new introductions, discuss challenges as well as opportunities, and find solutions.
And, of course, no matter where brokers are based, attendance is accessible for all.
Our team here at Pen is certainly gearing up to maximise the value, the connections and the business we generate from BIBA’s interactive online event. And as our own one-day virtual conference last year taught us, we don’t need to physically come together to make business happen.
The results spoke for themselves – that single day of 100+ meetings, involving 35 of our specialist underwriters, divisional heads and exec members supported by our business development managers ultimately led to a significant amount of business booked. And I’m tasking my team to better that at BIBA 2021.
But let’s also be honest – virtual fatigue is real and something we’re all now experiencing, if we haven’t been for months. After minimal, if any, colleague and client physical interaction, it can be hard to galvanise the enthusiasm for yet another online event. We’re craving being back together in an actual room, not a virtual one.
Arguably, we’re feeling this fatigue now more than ever – when ‘normal life’ feels so close, when we’re beginning to return to offices and when we’re starting to gather socially once again.
But we are where we are when it comes to large-scale industry events. And you’ll only get out of any event what you put into it. So let’s ring-fence those two days like we would do normally, book time to reinvigorate old connections and make new ones, and bring together brokers and underwriters to ultimately help our customers reduce the risks they carry.
After all, it’s more than likely that once we’re able to achieve a healthy dose of in-person collaboration, networking and deal-making, we’ll relish afresh all the upsides that doing business virtually brings: less time lost to business travel; the ability to gather multiple decision makers at relatively short notice; and the capability of attending some industry events from the comfort of our own homes when diaries or distance would make physical attendance impossible.
To echo BIBA’s own theme, let’s strengthen our resilience and resolve, and crack on.