Would you attend a virtual insurance conference?
I sat in on part of the “virtual insurance conference” held this week by the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance (AALTCI). Initially, I didn’t think I’d stay long, but I was hooked as soon as I started watching, so I settled in, right there at my own computer. Following are some impressions about this particular approach to conferencing in insurance.
The Long Term Care Solutions Sales Summit was a three-day meeting aimed at advisors in the long-term care market. Attendees could go to Kansas City to participate, or they could attend virtually over their own computers. Since many insurance advisors are hard pressed to find the time and money to attend a three-day conference far from home, this provided an affordable alternative. For the online attendees, the cost of airfare, hotel, ground transportation and meals was non-existent, and the advisors could control their time commitment too.
True enough, online viewers did have to pay a registration fee. But it was de minimis in comparison to registration fees for most on-ground conferences — and the AALTCI even offered online viewing of a few sessions free of charge each day.
The programming was comparable to that available at many long-term care conferences over the years. There were sessions on strategies, combo products, linked benefits, options for uninsurable clients and the like. There was an executives’ panel, too.
Some industry professionals may be turned off by virtual formats, due to concerns about clunky technology or difficulty in hearing. Truth be told, I harbored those concerns too. But the audio and video were more than acceptable, at least on my computer.
It was like taking in a webinar, complete with online chat box. However, since both audio and video were live, we could see the speakers as they talked and moved, as well as the podium, the speakers’ table and the monitor for presentations. We could see the backs of some people in the audience, too —they were seated at tables arranged classroom-style. (No one was looking around nervously at the camera, so the online equipment must have been unobtrusive.)
It reminded me a bit of televised classrooms in the local community, except the visual quality was much better and the chat box allowed valuable interactivity.
Another similarity is a televised news conference or speech that is broadcast live, with no edits, no neatly arranged segments, no blooper-fixes. The camera panned back and forth between close-ups of the speakers and distance shots of the room and audience, so it appeared that we online viewers saw and heard what the Kansas City audience was seeing and hearing, although without the ambient noise (coughing, shuffling, whooshes from doors opening and closing, etc.)
Bonus: We could check our smartphones and caller ID messages without disturbing anyone.
But I missed the opportunity to meet new colleagues over a cup of coffee or at a meal, or to set up one-on-ones with industry colleagues, as frequently happens at on-ground meetings. I also missed the hallway buzz — the exchange of industry tidbits that juices many on-ground meetings. The tweets and online chats did provide connectivity, but this in no way compares to getting the skinny on the go.
That said, it’s hard to see how time– and budget-constrained advisors could not benefit from attending a virtual meeting like this. It provided an economical and time-saving way to hear from industry experts otherwise not available.
At the time I was viewing the meeting, Jessie Slome, AALTCI executive director and conference organizer, reported that an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people had already tuned in to various sessions online. The meeting still had another day and a half to go, so the total will likely be higher. That’s in addition to the on-ground attendees. All of which goes to show that insurance professionals can, and do, get on the innovation bus when it meets their needs.