Social networking really came alive for the industry at 2011 Biba conference

Last week’s Biba conference is already shrinking in the rear view mirror, but the lasting impression it has left on me is all about the positive impact of good communication.

Maybe it’s just me, but I like to talk, hear the latest news and get things off my chest – and I think our market works best when it communicates effectively.

Last year, I felt that the emphasis of the conference had swayed too much towards corporate entertainment and had not done enough to justify itself on the grounds of providing market critical information and good networking opportunities.

This year was different. Even in the days before the event there was a buzz about the Manchester conference.

Most noticeably, this year social media really began to take a grip and be used effectively. The Biba put a hash tag in place for the event and all of a sudden it was easy to see every tweet about the conference.

At one roundtable discussion, the chairman was tweeting interesting points out into the ether simultaneously, giving people access to the very latest views in a heartbeat of them being uttered.

Away from the conference, I’ve used LinkedIn to post the fact that we’re looking to hire more underwriters and have had applications in response. At last, we are no longer using the likes of Twitter and LinkedIn to tell people what we had for dinner or to just hold hands electronically – they are being used as genuine business tools and have added an extra dimension to our market.

I also met brokers at the conference who were marvelling at the fact that even though they were out of the office, they had been able to field calls from clients, log into their broking systems remotely and make the policy adjustments required. Brokers no longer lose the ability to service their clients just by being away from their desks, and seeing this work in practice was excellent.

The venue itself was also conducive to great communication. There were a heap of new stands to give a buzz to the conference centre and its size and location helped keep people together and foster an atmosphere in which everybody seemed to be blethering away for Britain.

Often conferences held in London suffer, owing to the size of the venue and the city itself. Delegates can drift off and once out of the arena they get lost in the metropolis beyond.

In Manchester, it felt that the proximity of the venue to the hotels in which everyone was staying meant people were happier to stay around the stands for longer and then meet up in the surrounding bars. I think this helped to give the event an identity and to make it more than just a day out of the office for everybody, whether they were speakers, delegates or exhibitors.

On a final note, I was surprised at how many stands were still using sex to sell in the form of scantily clad dolly birds. I don’t know how effective the tactic was, but it seemed a little outdated, however pleasing it was to the eye!

What did you think? Post a comment and tell me – after all, that’s really what this industry is all about.

Jonathan Davey is managing director of Keychoice Underwriting.

Twitter: @Daveyj6607