Elliot Lane finds his way through the Biba labyrinth

' All was quiet on the Brighton western seafront. Particularly for those on stands in Exhibitor Hall D at the Biba conference.

With 142 exhibitors, which consisted of a majority of brokers (on paper at least), the actual delegates wandering the labyrinthine layout of the Metropole Hilton were insurers. It was as though the broking fraternity had decided to hide, for a laugh, and the insurers were given a complex map and venue to try to find them.

One delegate joked: "If I'd known it was going to be this confusing I would have brought my GPS or at least a ball of string."

Axa Insurance chief executive Peter Hubbard was peeved that the "footfall in Hall D consisted of roughly two people" and one of them was him.

Again the frustrations surrounding the trade association events reared its head and, as Insurance Times' front page article said last week, talk of a 'superconference' was mooted.

The one thing Biba does offer is the greatest networking opportunity and hardly anyone I spoke to had ventured into the auditorium to listen to the 'stellar' line-up.

Most people spent time either in the lounge bars or restaurants adjacent to the conference.

However, Lord Coe's sterling speech on the Olympic-winning bid conjured up deep-rooted patriotism dating back to Agincourt that left even hard-bitten brokers from the North East weeping like babies.

Though the uber-conference has its merits, the most likely solution to get the most out of any Biba/CII joint efforts would be a trend to 'super-niche' instead.

The CII and Biba have discussed setting up smaller regional events that are more business sector focused.

Biba has always been accused by the grassroot brokers that is far too concerned about the national brokers and ignores their needs. Hence the on-going popularity of Andrew Paddick's IIB, among many.

Targeting regions and specific topics/issues would bring much more inclusiveness.

With both Biba and the CII showing healthy surpluses, it shows the membership interest is still there and that both are becoming business-focused in their approach.

But one thing is for sure, the industry conference format needs an overhaul. IT