Jeff Chapell hopes this year's conference is not such a blur...

Jeff Chapell, head of broker development at Arista Insurance:

We turn up. Chat to people. Have fun. Go home. Reap the rewards...

If only it were that simple!

The truth is the build up to Biba is actually one of the most intensive times of the year. The planning and preparation that goes into it is quite phenomenal.

Being in Manchester makes it even more significant for us since we have enjoyed such huge success since opening a branch here last year. Hence, the countdown for Arista started months ago. But my approach is always to begin with the end in mind. By doing so, there is a common sense of purpose and everyone involved rallies round to make sure that it all goes as smoothly as possible, understanding the end value.

The stand is very important so we invest both time and money in getting this right. Not just in terms of the design and production, but making sure it gets there – in time and in one piece!

I’m always encouraged to see how many of our staff are keen to attend the event and part of the planning is deciding who will go. Subsequently, planning our broker guestlist, the entertainment, booking venues, hotels, travel, menus...

Not forgetting of course, that once all this is done, the changes then start to materialise. Right up until the very last minute.

Frustrating as this is, it is undoubtedly worth it. The Biba conference is so valuable. As well as catching up with supporting brokers and old friends, and meeting new ones, I relish the chance to talk to so many people about the things that interest me.

What a luxury to have three days to chat about issues such as how the wider economic picture will impact the market during 2009 and 2010; where are we really in the market cycle; Is cost cutting and hardening rates really happening? Are consolidators feeling the squeeze? Which MGAs and underwriting agencies will flourish? No doubt everyone’s crystal ball will hold a different view. Who at last year’s event would have thought that NIG would cut eight of its regional offices?

It doesn’t seem like a year since we gathered in Glasgow. I still remember quite clearly the thrill of being the new kid on the block with a fresh and exciting story to tell. And this year, we have even more to shout about.

I anticipate Thursday to be a hive of activity. Last year it became a total blur! Thankfully, Thursday night is the time to relax and celebrate - of all the challenges the conference brings, one of the biggest is getting to the stand first thing Friday morning!

Apart from the inevitable aches and pains caused by standing for hours on end, one of the worst parts of the event is packing up time – it always seems to take forever. But come Monday, it’s back to the office and the final test – remembering all the brokers and old friends that I promised to contact.

Then let the countdown to BIBA 2010 begin...

For more Biba countdown, see the RELATED ARTICLES on the right.