The new virtual reality in insurance

How can the industry make this new reality work?

The new virtual reality in insurance


By Mike Keating

At the MGAA we successfully hosted our first virtual Capacity Exchange, bringing our MGA members together with 20 of our insurer members, a move we had been forced to take due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This was our first proper foray into virtual events, outside of our regular webinars, and as the coronavirus pandemic looks like it is not going anywhere fast, it will not be our last.

The reality is that this would not be our chosen vehicle for helping our members connect, but as this is going to be, for the foreseeable future, the new normal we are determined to embrace this change and make it work, for all participants. The feedback from our first event was very positive, however in the spirit of continual development, there were two key areas of cultural change that stand out if we, as an industry, are to make the virtual world work.

The first is that even though it is virtual event you still have to prepare – either as a host or as a delegate. Preparation may sound obvious for a physical event. As a delegate you would not just go to the railway station that morning without having put in some preparation first - be that buying a train ticket in advance, booking a room if you needed to stay overnight, making sure you had your ticket and business cards and knowing how to find the venue. It is the same with a virtual event. You need to make sure your technology is set up to enable access to the site (venue), that you know if there are any firewall (visa) or software issues; and that you have thought about who you want to talk to and about what.

So, you have done your preparation, and know that you can get into the site, and you know when you intend to be there.

The second major difference is the tone and pace of the meetings; there is no time for sparring at virtual meetings and they tend to be more direct and business focused.

Rather than hovering around on a stand, perhaps exchanging gossip about former colleagues, you are, a bit like Captain Kirk and Spock from the SS Enterprise, beamed or transported directly into a meeting. This is not really the place for a broad-ranging and casual chat just due to the nature of the format, and conversations tend to be much more direct and to the point. More business-like.

We’re currently not used to the brusqueness of diving straight into a short sharp meeting, or so it appears from comments from our members following the event. The overwhelming feedback was that people would have liked a little bit more time to dig into these conversations - we will be taking this on board for our next virtual event.

Despite the more functional aspect of the meetings, and the lack of time for general chit-chat, as a networking opportunity they do work, and many of those taking part have agreed to meet up (virtually) at a later point to follow up on opportunities discussed or issues raised.

There are other key differences to a physical event as well. You can, of course, make yourself a decent cup of coffee rather than the usual, sometimes dubious, event hall coffee, or pour yourself a drink and crack open a bag of crisps of a flavour of your own choosing at any time. You can make notes, rather than having to remember what is said. You can plan your time and you can sit down, whenever you want.

So there you have it. We are all facing having to move from physical meetings and events at this present time. But this new virtual reality can be made to work for us all. It has to at the moment.

Maybe this time next year we can start to return to hosting physical meetings, and - despite the benefits of the more focused virtual environment - I imagine most of us will want to go back to face to face. After all, what can beat aching feet, bland coffee, a bag full of corporate freebies and hours of travelling?

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