We asked Financial & Insurance Conference Planners (FICP) Board members Shelia R. Cleary, chair, and Joe Scully to give us their take on how the New Year will shape up on topics from technology to ROE. Thanks and a tip of the hat to these two savvy FICP members: Shelia the 2nd vice president, recognition and conferences, for National Life Group in Montpelier, Vermont, and Joe who is senior director, meeting and event management for John Hancock Financial Services in Boston.
CLEARY Overall, you must stay relevant. I ask myself, how do our agents want to receive information? How should we be designing our meetings?
Despite the advent of more technology, face-to-face meetings have increased in value in recent years. Think back to a few years ago during the worst of the financial crisis, we were all thinking, “Virtual meetings are going to replace in-person events.” But the reality is, we’re human beings and we need interaction. Yes, we are distributing tools and education using technology, but the value of face to face is just as relevant and important as it always has been. Our attendance continues to increase year-over-year.
We hear over and over — there is value in hearing agent perspectives about how they do business, in person. Our attendees want to hear from leadership within the company, in person.
With FICP, we are constantly hearing from our members that the value of FICP is in helping to generate more ideas and staying on top of trends face to face with hospitality partners. As planners, we are able to strategically form our lists of possible properties, CVBs, speaker bureaus, etc. because we have the ability to connect with those experts face to face. At our Annual Conference, The Network – Live serves as a perfect venue for this. Ten-minute meetings arranged ahead of time with hospitality partners allow just the right amount of time to meet a new face and to determine if a future partnership is possible.
CLEARY Technology in every area of business continues to expand and improve. Meeting apps seem to be fairly new in our space, but as with any technology, there’s so much more we will be able to use them for than what we have to date. Our audience of insurance agents is in transition — we are seeing younger people enter the industry, so it’s critical for us to remain relevant. A younger audience requires that we communicate to them in this new way. However, we also are straddling the generations and must remain thoughtful of communicating to our more seasoned agents in more traditional ways, too. Overall, I recommend evaluating who your audience is and tailoring your degree of “paperless” accordingly.
We’re also evaluating technology from a transitional perspective. Social media is very focused on people sharing their experiences firsthand. The “selfie” phenomenon is a prime example of this. We hope our audience shares their positive experiences with our meetings and events to their social networks, thereby fostering more positive associations with the work we do.
We’re having fun with technology at FICP events, too. The mobile apps for our Annual Conference and Education Forum are accompanied by a game designed to help users accumulate points for completing actions we deem valuable (e.g. viewing session details, completing evaluations, scheduling networking appointments). Attendees earn digital trophies, and the top point-earners receive tangible prizes after the event concludes. We’re seeing enthusiastic participation and better overall awareness of the technology and how it works.
SCULLY With multiple generations in the work force, it is up to us as meeting planners to take a look at the audience we are serving and decide on a strategy for integrating any type of technology. Meeting apps are a valuable tool because they provide all relevant information in one place, and allow us to make critical updates to information as needed. A change in venue because of rain or a reminder about attire for an evening event are perfectly suited for updates using mobile apps. I think we will see more widespread use in the future.
But, there’s also a segment of the population that will be reluctant to give up those handy pocket agendas, and I think we’re feeling that right now with FICP events. Our members are really embracing the new technology, but I still see people pulling paper resources out of their pocket to see what’s next on the agenda. I believe we will be in this transitional phase for quite some time.
Social media tends to be a bit more tricky, with privacy and compliance issues in the insurance and financial industry. I recommend checking with your legal department before diving in to any activity with social platforms around your events.
SCULLY Return on investment will always be a deciding factor when determining whether or not to hold a meeting or incentive in the first place. As planners, it is on our plate to accurately represent the value of a program to leadership and continue doing so as the planning process continues.
Once you determine that a meeting or incentive is worth the time and money, that is when return on experience kicks in. Planners need to constantly evaluate and tweak meetings and events to keep attendees coming back for more. If your attendees’ experience keeps them engaged and energized, then ROI will take care of itself with a motivated sales force. Questions about FICP? Call 312-245-1023 or www.ficpnet.com. I&FMM