How Airmic took its annual conference online

15-09-2020

How Airmic took its annual conference online

Susi Ozkurt, events manager, Airmic

The virtual Airmic Fest aims to offer the best qualities of a live event, but in an online format.

This year’s Airmic conference originally planned to take place as a physical event in Edinburgh is now an online event for the first time ever.

Running from September 22 to 24, Airmic Fest offers over 60 hours of CPD, with 26 workshops to choose from. Delegates can drop in and out at any time and have the option to view events online later if they missed the live version.

Billed as “the perfect virtual event for risk and insurance professionals”, it offers many of the features you would expect from a physical conference, including networking opportunities, an online exhibition space and recreational breaks including yoga sessions.

It is hoped that some of the benefits and flexibility achieved with the online format will inform part of the offering for future events. Here Susi Ozkurt, events manager, Airmic, explains how it all came together.

“We have invested in a purpose-built platform designed to replicate the community feel of a face-to-face conference.” Susi Ozkurt, Airmic

How has COVID-19 affected Airmic, and the conference in particular?
It has been a challenging 2020 for everyone on a business and personal level. For Airmic, it was a huge disappointment to have to cancel our annual conference in Edinburgh. We wanted to respond with something positive and new and to build on the digital change that is happening around us.

Airmic Fest is a three-day virtual conference, offering learning, networking, an exhibition floor, knowledge hubs and a wellness centre. The event was inspired by our members’ and partners’ fantastic adoption of virtual learning and networking.

It combines educational on-demand sessions, bite-sized hub sessions, high-profile speakers, panel debates and online networking opportunities. There will also be a festival floor where exhibitors can showcase.

Ultimately, nothing can replace face-to-face networks. However, Airmic Fest will bring the risk and insurance community together to learn and network, albeit in a very new way at a time when collaboration has never been more important.

Do you feel it has accelerated a digital change that was already happening? What particular possibilities and solutions has it brought to the fore?
It’s usually the case that adversity drives innovation, and sudden crises in particular. Digital transformation was already happening across every sector before the pandemic struck, and events are no exception to that. However, events have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, for obvious reasons, and that has forced change upon us faster than anybody could have previously imagined.

Born out of necessity, we want to take the digital experience to the next level. For example, we have invested in a purpose-built platform designed to replicate the community feel of a face-to-face conference. I invite people to register and check out the wealth of virtual learning and networking on offer.

What challenges did you face in organising this year's conference as an online experience?
Airmic’s annual conference usually takes 18 months of planning, from outset to delivery. We are delivering Airmic Fest in five months. The challenges are much the same as everybody has experienced in lockdown but on a greater logistical scale!

What opportunities did this present?
It’s worth considering the benefits that digital ways of working are bringing to the party in 2020, something we have experienced across Airmic’s broader online programme of events.

Virtual events are not tied to geographical constraints, for example, so that in many cases we’ve seen rising numbers of virtual attendees and speakers engaging with us, adding to the wealth of knowledge and expertise, networking and content at our fingertips.

Airmic Fest’s online approach creates many benefits. The live sessions are designed to be interactive and engaging and will allow for plenty of opportunities to interact with the speakers, take part in polling activities and submit questions before and during the sessions.

All sessions will be available to view after the event. These will be available in the Learning Library. The beauty of an online approach is that you can plan your schedule with flexibility around your work needs.

What do people expect from the Airmic conference and how did you go about ensuring you are able to deliver this in an online format?
People expect to be able to learn and to network and communicate. We’ve moved those key elements online as best we can. There is an exhibitor zone, wellness sessions, presentations in the knowledge hub, on-demand sessions, special interest group meetings, and the opportunity to meet and reconnect with peers through our Big Conversation forum.

We hope it will be a lot of fun.

What elements are you especially excited about?
I’m looking forward to the Knowledge Hub. This is designed for learning and development through a series of 20-minute Ted-style Talks on topics such as captives, technology, life skills and thought-leadership. Attendees can pick and choose the topics that interest them the most, and are relevant to their role and career path.

I am also particularly excited about our wellness centre. This a place for delegates to visit to watch fitness and yoga video and as well and read or download content on mental health at home and in the workplace and nutrition.

What will be the key themes of this year's conference?
The theme will be “Working Together in a Time of Accelerated Change”. Clearly the risks and challenges posed by the pandemic is a big theme for this year, and we believe COVID-19 has clearly shown the benefits of managing risk from an enterprise-wide perspective.

There is no going back, to quote the title of one of one panel discussion. Resilience will be a running theme, as well as many of the resultant risks and challenges for risk managers that have been raised or accelerated by the pandemic. There are too many to mention, all the more reason to check it out.

How do you see the future of the conference are there online elements that will endure?
The opportunities created by adding online elements to traditional events are so great that it’s clear we can’t simply go back to old ways of working.

Like anything new, there will certainly be lessons we can learn from Airmic Fest. We’re already working on which elements we will build into future Airmic Conference events. Watch this space!

Airmic, Risk Management, Virtual event, Insurance, Reinsurance, Susi Ozkurt, North America

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