Andy Talbot, Head of Sales at ARAG Legal Services shares his thoughts on attending a decade of BIBA conferences...
While BIBA 2017 was the association’s 39th conference, it’s now ten years since ARAG first exhibited. Many of us were already BIBA veterans, of course, but the eleven BIBAs that have taken place over the decade since I drove up to ExCel with ARAG UK’s first exhibition stand in 2007, have seen some major changes.
1. Size matters - The growth that the conference and exhibition have seen in the past decade has been phenomenal. Shrugging off a major recession and significant market consolidation, delegate numbers have more than doubled and, little by little, the exhibition has grown in every direction.
2. The immovable feast - Some exhibitors can still be heard pining for the days when BIBA rocked up in a different city or large town each year, and it was fun, but the conference has simply outgrown all but the biggest venues. There was no need to panic though, as Manchester has been a welcoming host for the past four conferences and, as announced on Thursday, will be again in 2018
3. OMG it’s another MGA - The MGA was in its infancy as a market force ten years ago, and ARAG was one of the first to take a stand in the exhibition. Now, as MGA’s are moving on up the insurance agenda, it’s an event that many can’t afford to miss and there’s at least one in every aisle
4. Midweek mayhem - Fellow veterans will remember that BIBA used to run across a Wednesday evening and full Thursday, before the breakout on Friday morning, usually preceding one of May’s bank holidays (three days to recover!). You may miss the black-tie dinner, but there’s no denying that the conference we all love spreads better across two packed days, and makes for a more professional and worthwhile event.
5. Staddon delivers - Peter Staddon was always one of the stars of the BIBA exhibition hall but now, as the first MD of the MGAA, he has crossed the aisle and gets to enjoy the conference he helped to build.
6. Quality and quantity - It’s not just the number of people attending BIBA that has increased. Just one look at the delegate list tells me the seniority of visitors has also gone up. It’s not enough just to be there, companies in all parts of the industry have to get their top people to BIBA too.
7. Meetings, meetings - There was a time, when all exhibitors really had to do was show up with a stand and a friendly face. Whether it’s the scale of the event, the level of competition or the pressure to get return on what is a significant investment, these days BIBA diaries are rammed with back-to-back, sit down meetings.
8. After the Afterparty - BIBA never did stop with the setting sun, but the number and quality of private functions continues to impress. The abundance of great venues close to Manchester Central lends itself to party-hopping, which is one reason the venue has won out over ExCel.
9. The art of the deal - It’s not surprising that the presence of more decision-makers means that more deals get done. BIBA may have been beaten to the claim “…where brokers do business” but you can see more deals being done when you step on the conference floor, than ever before.
10. City of dreams - Manchester was already well on the up, ten years ago, but the place seems to have gone from strength to strength. The idea of United chasing City for a top four place in the Premier League might have been unthinkable back then, but at least there are still roadworks when you’re driving south on the M6.
Some parts of the BIBA experience will never change.