The 2020 Virtual Event Wasteland
Kaylee Sandstrom | January 04, 2021
By Kaylee Sandstrom and Spiro Skias
The days of airport lounges, pressed suits, conferences, and firm handshakes were wanted memories this year as we all transitioned to a virtual reality. Although any return on investment (ROI) was uncertain at best, many companies gambled on virtual event sponsorships, but did this new virtual reality deliver the goods?
Event organizers have always had the difficult challenge of making each event unique, gaining attendance, and offering great content. This year, those challenges were exacerbated with the dilemma of whether to hold the event virtually or to hold the event at all. Postponements led to further postponements, cancellations, and finally, the brave ones went virtual. This shift affected everyone at every level and put sponsors in a difficult position.
From a sponsor’s perspective, some of the insurance industry’s 2020 virtual events got it right and others failed miserably. At the outset of the year, there were roughly 20 industry conferences in the plan; however, due to the pandemic and other related challenges, only 12 events made the final list of those attended or sponsored.
Show Me the Money!
When it comes to the financial aspects of any event, the math is pretty simple. Organizers need to make money and cover costs, sponsors want the biggest bang for the proverbial conference buck, and everyone wants great content, meaningful business connections, and a memorable overall experience. Moving events to virtual in 2020 didn’t change any of that.
However, this year, something went fundamentally wrong. For in-person events, sponsors can measure sponsorship ROI more effectively because the metrics are tangible. They can physically see people/attendees, manage booth traffic, and so on. Virtual events don’t provide the same experience. Regardless, just about all of the virtual event opportunities were at the same price point as in-person events. Virtual events are cheaper to host; so, from a sponsor’s perspective, if virtual event organizers are going to deliver less (sessions, attendees, speaking opps) and charge the same, where is the incentive to sponsor?
The benefits of sponsoring any event include brand awareness, attendee engagement, attendee contacts, 1:1 meetings, and limitless connections, and all at an affordable price. Conference organizers have traditionally demonstrated a keen understanding of this. So, why did so many conferences miss the mark this year?
From Zoom to Bizaboo
Almost every conference wanted to reinvent the “event platform” wheel, trying to build something bigger and better than what is already available. With so many proven options out there the biggest question is, “Why?”
One insurtech event held later in 2020 built an entire platform from scratch to provide a unique virtual experience to attendees. But it was so complex that the search engine for making connections didn’t even work. This problem was not revalidated after a couple of days of failed attempts. The worst part is that sponsorships paid for this “unique experience.”
The reality is that the more complex the platform, the harder it is to navigate, and for sponsors, that is extremely frustrating. In the virtual world, the event platform has become the gateway for sponsors to interact with attendees. If the platform requires a “training session,” it’s probably too complex. Nobody attends or sponsors an event because of the platform, so KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Networking - Um, Not Working
In this day and age, where swiping left and right through the masses and endless scrolling has become a norm, it becomes all about who you know, who you want to know, and making real connections.
But networking was a missed opportunity altogether. Many conferences allowed for networking where you could request as many meetings as you wanted. However, with no real incentive for the attendees to click “Accept,” meetings fell to the wayside.
In theory, virtual networking should work great for these events. Most of us do some sort of virtual networking on a daily basis via social media platforms. However, when it comes to industry events, attendees are less apt to network. This is not an opinion, but an observed fact.
Part of the problem is that every event has a separate platform, for which every attendee has to create a new profile every time. It would be like creating a new profile on LinkedIn every month and have to start networking from scratch all over again.
Virtual Coffee? Virtual Wine? Or, Virtual Swag?
Setting up an exhibit is a great way for sponsors to create a brand showcase and generate leads. This works great for in-person events where foot traffic in the exhibit hall is tangible, but virtual exhibiting needs a facelift.
Just about every conference provided a virtual space where exhibitors could upload promotional content, brochures, and create a virtual face-to-face experience. Some even created an actual virtual “hall” that users could navigate. But attendees simply did not engage as they usually do in person. If they did, most did not turn on their camera and mic, essentially ghosting the exhibitors.
The reality is that attendees can’t blur their faces and mute themselves in a non-virtual world. It’s hard to imagine that people today will turn on their video for an Instagram post of brushing their hair, but are hesitant to video network at a virtual event. Regardless, the whole point of networking is to interact, talk, and engage. Without incentivizing your attendees to visit the virtual booth hall, the value of the virtual exhibits greatly diminishes.
Pay to Speak
Every conference tries to differentiate itself based on the experience and content provided. In 2020, everyone nailed it on the content. Despite COVID being a common mention at each event, there seemed to be more content diversity this year than in prior years. It is clear that the industry has a mostly successful formula for delivering educational content in a virtual world.
But most of the sessions lacked any kind of debate. People learn by listening to differing opinions and viewpoints. Conference attendees do too...if all the vendors, insurers, and analysts on any given panel all agree, attendees are only afforded a one-sided look at the topic in question. The reality is that not everyone agrees, and sessions or panels should reflect that.
In 2020, the rules for vendors speaking at most industry events changed. There were fewer sessions in fewer tracks, so most of the speaking opportunities were “pay to play” – if you’re an event sponsor, you have to pay to speak. If you are an insurer, you get invited to speak. Let that sink in for a moment.
This only furthers the one-sided views being presented, and gives the perception that solution providers are not thought leaders in the industry. Given that solution providers are the ones creating the latest innovative technologies in the industry, it seems right to listen when these experts talk objectively and constructively about emerging technologies and applications of emerging technologies in insurance.
Considerations for 2021
If 2021 ends up being a repeat of 2020 from an event perspective, conference organizers need to really evaluate the value proposition for sponsors. If the cost model doesn't change, sponsors will expect more value for their money, or just not sponsor at all.
Companies sponsor events for brand awareness and lead generation (networking). This year has demonstrated that virtual events are meeting their content commitments, but are not delivering on their promises for sponsors in an effective way.
So ask yourself, if you were considering sponsoring an event, what is the real incentive for companies to continue sponsoring? Here are some of our top things to consider as you plan your virtual events for 2021:
1 Scale the Cost
Hosting a virtual event is cheaper than an in-person event, so adjust your cost accordingly. Companies won’t be as willing to pay in-person pricing for virtual experiences that do not yield the same return.
2 Scrap the AI and Play Real Matchmaker
Virtual matchmaking is based on the questions asked when an attendee is setting up their profile. Bottom line is it doesn’t work, so scrap it. To provide real value to the sponsors, play a real matchmaker and offer personalized 1:1 meetings with key executives. Have the sponsor provide their target list of companies and help make those connections and meetings happen. A sponsor is probably more willing to invest in an event that guarantees those meetings.
3 Close the Virtual Booths
Virtual booths provide no real value to sponsors. It would be more effective to just have the sponsor provide a link to their landing page, and give them five minutes to showcase themselves during the event. If you still believe virtual booths are beneficial, make them more valuable. Host pre-scheduled booth visits for attendees, but make it part of the event agenda.
4 Use LinkedIn
Just about everyone attending these conferences is already on LinkedIn. As a matter of fact, linking your LinkedIn profile with your event profile is common practice, so the tech is already there. It makes no sense to create a separate profile on every different conference platform. LinkedIn connections extend well beyond the life of the conference. So, create a LinkedIn event group, add the registered attendees to the group, and let them expand their network, make new connections, and message people directly.
5 Give Sponsors a Voice
Sponsors and solution providers have much to offer when it comes to technology thought leadership. We all know it doesn’t cost more to have a sponsor speak at an event, so stop charging for it. Create more diversity in your panel discussions and agenda by mixing in a variety of solution providers and insurers of all shapes and sizes. It will spark better discussions and provide different perspectives that will engage the audience. Match solution providers with the content agenda and offer them to apply as a speaker at no additional cost. And the solution provider doesn’t have to be associated with the insurer panelists – in fact, it would be best if they were not partners. Otherwise, it just becomes a commercial for that vendor.
Our Top Picks for 2020 Virtual Events
Having attended so many virtual events this year, here are our top picks of the ones that got it right!
Best Livestream Experience: Marketforce Live - Insurance Innovators Virtual Summit 2020
Hosting a live virtual event is challenging on its own, and it can be difficult for organizers to create that unique experience. Marketforce Live nailed it, though.The livestream was more like watching a news channel on TV. Led by an incredibly talented host, they created an experience where you could turn on the channel to tune into the current discussion. It was also interactive where viewers could submit questions via the chat line. All in all, incredibly well done.
Best Networking Experience: WBResearch - Digital Insurance Connect 2020
As we previously said, networking and lead generation is one of the top criteria for any company willing to invest money for an event as a sponsor. This is where WBResearch deserves major props. Although they had general networking in their app, they went above and beyond for sponsors. WBResearch offered guaranteed personal meetings with key decision makers. The sponsor provides their top picks, and WBResearch handles everything else. By far the best networking experience for a sponsor.
We do need to give an honorable mention to Insurtech NY for incentivizing meetings with a raffle giveaway if you attended three or more meetings.
Best Platform Experience: Insurtech NY
There really is no “perfect” event platform out there; however, based on our experiences this year, Insurtech NY deserves recognition. What we liked about their platform is that they kept it simple. They used Zoom for the live sessions and Grip for the networking. What we liked about Grip is that they did not overly customize the experience. It was easy to navigate, the search actually worked, and holding virtual meetings through the app was simple.
- COVID Drives More Reliance on Risk Management Systems, New Study Finds
- Electronic Chat with Robert Clark, CEO, Cloverleaf Analytics
- Solving Customer Communications Challenges with Hybrid Mail
- Six Trends Shaping Digital Insurance Tech Strategies in 2021
- Billing a Key Component of Customer Service, Celent Finds
- Why Data Science Fails
- Electronic Chat with Andrew Jernigan, CEO, and Allen Koski, President and Chief Innovation Officer, Insured Nomads
- Electronic Chat with Allison Martin, CEO and Founder, UDoTest
- Are Carriers Ready for the Coming Crash?
- Electronic Chat with Christopher Moore, Director for North American Sales Engineering and Solutions, Trifacta
- Next Insurance Partners with Amazon Business Prime to Provide Small Businesses with Affordable Digital Insurance Options
- An AI Walks Into an Electronics Store...
- InsurTech NY Announces Global Early-Stage Competition Winners
- World’s Worst County/Western Insurtech Song
- Electronic Chat with Anne-Laure Klein, COO, Akur8
- COVID-19 One Year Later: The Digital Transformation of Insurance
- Electronic Chat with Michael Kassing, CEO/CVO, insured.io
- BrokerTech Ventures Announces 2021 Cohort Class for Accelerator
- An Entirely Preventable Disaster
- Flipping the Fraud Triangle
- The January/February ITA Pro Magazine is here!
- Credit Risk, ESG, Cybersecurity Top Risk Concerns for Financial Institutions, Deloitte Finds
- Electronic Chat with Ellen Moser, Senior Client Executive, Origami Risk LLC
- The Answer to “So What?”
- Leaders Rise from a Year Like No Other!
- Electronic Chat with Jonathan Roomer, Co-Founder, YuLife
- Getting Creative to Hit COVID Curveballs Out of the Park
- Electronic Chat with Eugenio Gonzalez, Plug and Play
- New Report Projects Global Insurtech to Grow by $21 Billion During 2020-2024
- The 2020 Virtual Event Wasteland
- Insurtechs, Investors Optimistic About Post-COVID Future, New DIA/McKinsey Study Finds
- Finding Grandmas
- No Code / Low Code: The New “Shortest Route” In Insurance Delivery
- Are You Addicted to Copy-and-Paste?
- Electronic Chat with Nino Tarantino, CEO- Americas, Insurance and Mobility Solutions (IMS)
- Driving Life Insurance:Tech Alone Won’t Solve Business Problems
- Electronic Chat with Robin Roberson, Managing Director, North America, Claim Central Consolidated
- How Do You Make It Happen?
- Electronic Chat with Jason Liu, CEO, Zywave
- New Partnership Models Take Program Business to the Next Level
- New Study Finds Less than Half of Consumers Trust Insurers to Respond to Their Needs
- Electronic Chat with Andrew Mauritzen, CFO and Head of Insurance Industry, Exactuals
- You Want Us To Do WHAT For Free?
- Electronic Chat with Evgeny Aleksandrov, Co-founder and CEO, Pilotbird
- Electronic Chat with Chris Cheatham, CEO, RiskGenius
- New MIT Sloan Study Finds Few Companies Gain Big Benefits from AI
- The September/October ITA Pro magazine is here!
- “Being Right” is Just the Start of the Battle
- Electronic Chat with Amit Ranjan, Executive VP and CAO, Xceedance
- Planning for Your Business and Tech Future: Strategies, Plans and Budgets for Rapid Transformation
- Electronic Chat with Jimmy Padia, Founder and CEO, Floatbot
- Gelato with Dots and Sprinkles
- COVID-19 and the Insurtech “Junk Drawer”
- Even “Change” is Different Now. Your Strategic Planning Needs to Be Too.
- The Road Ahead for P&C Insurers: How to Understand Customers Better and Navigate the Post-COVID Insurance Market
- Electronic Chat with Jake Tamarkin, Co-founder and CEO, Everyday Life
- Strategic Planning in the “New Normal” Digital Era of Insurance – Your Next Move
- Insurer Tech Investment Priorities See Major Shift in a Post-COVID World
- Plug and Play Selects 25 Insurtech Startups for Winter Batches
- Digital Transformation – A Top Strategic Priority and New Reality
- Four Steps to Successful Migration of Insurance CCM Applications
- COVID-19 Accelerates Insurance Digitalization to Meet Customer Demand: World InsurTech Report 2020
- Electronic Chat with Greg Williams, Co-Founder, President & CEO, Acrisure
- Electronic Chat with Matt Perlman, Partner, IA Capital Group
- Insurer Digitalization: Are you a Competitor or a Laggard?
- Leaders are Leading and Creating the Future of Insurance Distribution
- 3 Things You Need to Know About No-Code
- Electronic Chat with Adam Kiefer, CEO, Talage
- Underwriting in 3D: Using Data to Adapt and Improve Life Insurance Sales
- Getting Past the "Gelato Syndrome"
- Insurers Know CX/UX is Important, but Don't Agree on Execution, Study Finds
- Electronic Chat with Steve Lekas, Branch Insurance
- How AI Can Attract Millennial Talent to the Insurance Industry
- Preventing Data Breaches
- A New Boom for Life Insurance: Shifting Away from the 250-Year-Old Policy Transaction
- Electronic Chat with Ty Harris, Founder and CEO, Openly
- A Digital Wildfire Creates a Burning Platform for Digital Insurance Business Transformation
- Digitalization, COVID-19 Spurring More IT Investment in Cybersecurity
- Electronic Chat with Michael DeGusta, CEO, ClarionDoor
- U.S. Consumers Significantly Underestimate Flood Risk, New Survey Finds
- The Future of Insurance: Opportunities in Ecosystems
- Electronic Chat with Todd Greenbaum, CEO, Input 1
- Majesco to be Acquired by Thoma Bravo
- The Evolving Role of Managing General Agencies
- Electronic Chat with Char Hu
- Electronic Chat with Allan L. Egbert, Jr.
- Electronic Chat with Christopher Tramontano and Zbigniew Gawienczuk
- Data Science is Gelato
- Insurance Innovation: Alive and Kicking
- Independent Agents Divided on Digital Experience, New Survey Finds
- Electronic Chat with Michael Jones
- Electronic Chat with Paul VanderMarck
- As Auto Insurance Premiums Shrink, Insurers Need Mobility Ecosystem, New Study Finds
- Property & Casualty Insurers Raise Digital Games as COVID-19 Elevates Customer Expectations, J.D. Power Finds
- Electronic Chat with Bobbie Shrivastav
- Meet the Board: Marissa Buckley
- Big Data and Insurtech: A Carrier Perspective
- Traditional Insurers Need Open Ecosystems, Partnerships to Remain Competitive, CapGemini Report Finds
- Electronic Chat with John C. Siegman
- 4 Ways AI is Empowering Insurers During COVID-19
- 6 Big Changes to Insurance from the COVID-19 Crisis
- Electronic Chat with Christopher Ewing
- Independent Agency Staff Morale High During COVID-19, New Survey Finds
- Electronic Chat with Brad Epker
- Tapping AI to Improve Policyholder Experience
- Electronic Chat with Manisha Bhargava
- ITA Pro Magazine, March/April 2020
- COVID-19 a Game Changer for Workers’ Comp
- Electronic Chat with Steve Comer
- COVID-19 Pandemic Forces Cancellation of ITA LIVE 2020
- Leveraging Digital Resources in the Time of COVID-19
- Electronic Chat with Robert Hartwig on COVID-19 and Insurance
- Celent Study: Most Small Businesses Still Unclear on Importance of Cyber Insurance
- The January/February 2020 ITA Pro is here!
- Deloitte: New C-Suite Roles Mean More Opportunities for Women
- Electronic Chat with Pankaj Parashar
- Electronic Chat with Tara Kelly
- Electronic Chat with Chuck Wilson
- ITA, InsNerds Collaborate to Enhance ITA LIVE 2020 Content and Coverage
- How SMBs Can Compete in Digital Ecosystems in the 2020s
- 4 Ways Insurance Can Prepare for New Data Privacy Laws
- Brewer Lane Ventures Launches and Hires Insurtech Vet Martha Notaras as Managing Partner
- 2020 GIA Cohort Launches on January 14
- The November/December 2019 ITA Pro is here!
- Electronic Chat with Joshua Snead
- Electronic Chat with Wendy Aarons-Corman
- Simplifying the Move to a Third-party Print Provider
- Take a Business-Driven Approach to Continuous Improvement for Core Systems and Processes
- Electronic Chat with Ron Glozman
- Guidewire’s Data Guru Mike Byam on How Insurers are Using Internal and Third-Party Data
- Electronic Chat with Russ Bostick
- Electronic Chat with Rock Schindler
- Electronic Chat with John Siegman
- Electronic Chat with Martin Burlingame
- Insurtech Landscape 2019: Top 5 Takeaways
- Grinnell Mutual Tackles Massive Transformation -- in Stride
- A Candid Conversation with Paul Mang
- SageSure Insurance Managers Improved Competitiveness by Consolidating Payments to a Single Digital Platform
- Digital Does Matter in Insurance-- And Insurers are Missing the Mark
- The 22nd-Century Insurer: Taking a Cloud-First IT Approach
- The September/October 2019 issue of ITA PRO magazine is now available in digital format here:
- ITA Pro Magazine May/June 2019
- Spotlight on the 2019 IASA Conference
- ValueMomentum Selects Erie as Site of Regional Development Center
- Capgemini and Majesco Become Alliance Partners
- Electronic Chat with Dr. Dan Shoham
- Electronic Chat with Todd Greenbaum
- Martha Notaras: The “Outsider” with an Amazing Inside View
- Electronic Chat with Larissa Tosch
- Martha Notaras Will Join ITA LIVE 2019 as a Keynote Speaker
- Five Things to Consider When Evaluating Your Cyber Risk
- ITA Pro Magazine, January/February 2019
- Synergy Between Insurers' IT and Analytics Teams Key to Operationalizing Insights, Says Novarica
- Major Ransomware Attack Could Hit U.S. with $89B In Economic Damages
- ITA Announces 1st of Three Keynote Speakers at ITA LIVE 2019
- Electronic Chat with Jeroen Morrenhof
- Legacy Systems Are Dead. Really? Don't Count On It.
- Now Accepting Nominations for the 2019 ITA Bridge Awards
- It's time to register for ITA LIVE!
- Registration is Now Open for ITA LIVE 2019!
- What to Expect from a Digital Experience Platform Implementation
- ITA Pro Magazine September Edition is Now Available
- It's National IT Professionals Day
- Save the Date for ITA-LIVE 2019
- OneShield Software and UrbanStat Work Together to Improve Real-Time Analytics and Risk Decision-Making
- ITA LIVE 2019 - SAVE THE DATE!
- Insurance Technology Association Announces New Editor-in-Chief
- August 2018 Edition ITA Pro Magazine is Now Available
- Enterprise Architecture in an Agile World
- Top 10 Tips for Securing Your Mobile Devices and Sensitive Client Data
- Industry Insight: 4 Global Insurance Trends in Digital, Data, Content Services and Security
- Diving Deeper into Prioritizing Your Strategic Digital investments
- Why Content Rules
- How Mass Personalization Will Open the Small Business Benefits Market
- At Year End 2017, Will Your Organization Be Protected from Cyber Risks?
- Do Insurance Bots Dream of Mitigating Risk?
- Conditioned to Respond
- Managing & Mobilizing Insurance Data in a Connected World
- Race to the Finish Line
- New Tools, New Opportunities in Claims
- ITA LIVE: Reaching Insurance Industry Crossroads
- Advice to Insurance IT Leaders: Keep Your Eye on the Ball
- New Date, Venue for ITA LIVE 2017
- Guidewire Makes Major Push to Small and Midtier Market by Acquiring ISCS
- Insurance Disruption is Happening Right Now
- Insurity Adds Strategic Investment Partner, General Atlantic
- Beyond Transformation: The Convergence of Finance, Risk, and Actuarial Functions
- The Rapid Evolution of Consumer Protection Regulation
- Talent Hunt: Finding, Attracting, Retaining Top People
- Insurers Flexing Their Distribution Models
- Technology Driving Disruption in Insurance
- Fear of ‘Next Bubble’ Challenges Life, Annuity Carriers
- Technology Allows Commercial Lines Insurers to Stand Out
- Single Sign-on Viewed as Biggest Tech Challenge for Agencies
- ISCS Observes 20th Anniversary; Scurto Predicts Major Changes Ahead
- Policyholders and Their First Impressions
- Progressive Making Progress on the UBI Front
- High and Dry: Insurers Search for Disaster Recovery Plans
- Insurers Sign The (Un)Dotted Line
- Reflections of a Retired Insurance CIO
- Mobile Device Management Just One Answer to BYOD Issue
- Lessons from GEICO and Progressive on Winning the Critical Buying Stage
- You Are a Target for a Cyber Attack
- Web-based Systems are the Next Evolution in Claims Technology
- Gaining a “Wow” Experience from Web Users
- Time to Shift from Business/IT Alignment to Business/IT Alliance
- Healthcare Insurers Changing to Consumer Model
- Organization is the Key for Selecting Software Vendors
- Analysts Expound on the Needs of the Mid-tier Insurance Market
- Finding the Cure for Obamacare’s Website
- New Software Solutions Benefit Insurers on the Inside and Outside
- Products, Market Impede Investment in Systems for Life Insurers
- Combatting Cyber Threats: Predict, Prevent, Persist
- The Future of Telematics Heads Beyond Insurance
- The Shame in Cyber Security Lapses
- Building Policy Administration Systems for the Future
- Insurers Look Into The Eyes of Their Policyholders
- It’s a New Dawn for the ITA
INSURANCE IT NEWS
- Crawford Technologies Announces Second Annual Customer Communications Virtual Summit
- Zywave Acquires Risk Management Solutions Provider Enquiron
- eMaxx Launches Customer Centric Platform for Variable Cost Captive Programs
- Brewer Lane Ventures Hires David Castellani, Former New York Life Executive and Head of Technology
- RW Exchange, Sterling Seacrest Pritchard Announce Partnership
- Protecht Hires Todd Hancock as Chief Insurance Officer
- IMS Signs Partnership with Car Sharing Marketplace Turo
- Erie Insurance to Upgrade Majesco Billing for P&C on Majesco CloudInsurer® and Implement Majesco Insurance Data and Analytics Platform
The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
ITA LIVE 2020
ITA LIVE 2020 –SAVE THE DATE!
April 5th – 7th, 2020
The Diplomat Resort
Become a member today to receive updates – www.itapro.org/MR
BLOGS AND COLUMNS
Even the most digitally transformed insurance organizations struggle with ad hoc customer communications. Luckily, technology can help... READ MORE
Data science projects that “fail” all have one element in common... READ MORE
You have surely heard it said that small businesses are the growth engine for America. Today, the phrase has a special ring to it for benefits... READ MORE
With stagnant growth and lingering low interest rates, the life insurance industry faces a challenging future... READ MORE
Finding insurance carriers willing to write commercial lines risks has always been a challenge for producers... READ MORE
As Guidewire Software prepares for the start of Connections, its 11th annual user conference that begins on Nov. 2, Brian Desmond, chief marketing... READ MORE
COVID-19 has accelerated digital adoption, especially in the areas of claims adjustment and fraud prevention... READ MORE
- Vendor Views