What use is the annual beano, asks Andrew Holt

' Do insurance conferences have a future? I only ask because after attending last week's Airmic conference the exhibition area has shrunk so much it could be held in a Brighton phone box next year.

The gossip over dinner was that Airmic is finished and RIMS is the future. This is a highly moot point.

But it's not just Airmic that is suffering from conference overexposure. At Biba, earlier this year, many delegates also wandered around muttering that it was smaller than last year.

Does size matter? Taking comments from the floor could be taken out of context. But there do seem to be so many similar events that one has to ask what real purpose do they serve? Granted it is a good opportunity for delegates to have plenty of booze and nosh, but insurance professionals do that most of the time.

It isn't just a case of numbers. The standard of lectures at many of these events is usually so low that it can be fun counting the number of people still awake or pretending to be listening after 20 minutes. Or even counting the number of people present can be fun. Does it reach double figures? Sometimes not. And for those that do attend, what do they really take away?

Yet the number of such lectures and workshops seems to increase each year. Having the same old faces with the same overused speeches doesn't help.

Take CBI director general Digby Jones at Airmic. His frequently churned out speech had so many references to Great Britain that I thought he was turning into Tom Baker introducing Little Britain. He could in fact be a character from the BBC series such is his other world quality.

He criticised the pub bore's negative attitude to aspects of British life while sounding like a pub bore himself.

And after seeing Bono preaching to his supporters at Twickenham on Saturday I have had the terrifying thought that Bono and Jones should embark on a tour together to irritate the nation. We wouldn't learn anything, but it could be entertaining.

Airmic cannot be blamed for Jones reproducing the same tiresome speech, but it could have steered him closer to a risk angle.

But the real reason these events take place is financial. Most make good money for their organisations, - they wouldn't take place if they didn't. But is that enough of a reason? Airmic, Biba et al should, and need to, have gatherings of their members but all too frequently they are an opportunity lost. IT