Most exhibitors and other attendees at the 2010 ACORD LOMA Systems Forum agreed that last year’s event was a low point in the history of the conference, but the big question on my mind this year—with ACORD and LOMA working hard to make changes—was whether or not things had improved.
The answer to that question actually depended on which of several slots you fell into. To summarize the feedback I received: Those who were new to the conference felt the exhibit hall experience was good, or at least adequate. Comments from exhibitors who had been to previous versions of this show ran the spectrum—from believing that things were worse than last year to citing improvements and optimism. Those who were dealing in the life and health arena, however, were universally displeased with the volume of show floor traffic and the scarcity of customers for their wares. Each time I walked by the LOMA show booth, the impression I got was that a funeral had just taken place (more on this later).
On the pessimistic end of the scale, one long-time exhibitor remarked: “This is a show waiting to die.” While most comments were not quite this negative, it would be fair to say that the average P&C exhibitor was only willing to acknowledge that there had been some improvement over last year—which had been, as several put it, “a disaster.” That said, there also was a noticeably more optimistic mood at this event, despite the fact that the exhibit floor was smaller and attendance seemed lighter (more on this when we get figures from ACORD and LOMA).
Some improvements were appreciated. Exhibitors liked that ACORD LOMA had taken a page from the IASA conference marketing playbook and put together “vendor tours” of the show floor focusing on various technology and insurance sectors. Complaints about the volume of show floor traffic, while still voiced by several exhibitors, were fewer than I heard in 2009, so this must also be counted as a plus.
Regarding the mixing of life/health and property/casualty cultures, it simply continues to be unsuccessful at this conference. ACORD LOMA is still not drawing as many insurer decision makers as it needs to for the life/health side—at least not from the exhibitors’ point of view. For years I have been saying that these two groups need to separate and have their own events as they once did. There may be financial incentives for LOMA itself to remain tied to this conference, but it is apparent that the benefits do not extend to vendors who exhibit life/health products and services.
There is an even more compelling challenge to this conference, however, and that is its proximity in time to the IASA Business Conference. Several exhibitors remarked to me on the folly of having these shows so close together, adding that it forced them to divide marketing budgets and reduce staffing at one or the other event. In some cases, exhibitors were saying they could only participate in one of the events next year, and opinions varied on which show they would attend.
Let’s just say it: One of these conferences needs to be held at a different time next year. It would obviously benefit exhibitors, and the conferences themselves also would likely benefit if, for example, one was held in the spring and the other in the fall. Most marketers don’t mind budgeting for two similar conferences, unless one happens to fall within 10 days of the other. And now that ISOTech has vacated the autumn insurance technology spot, it creates a perfect opportunity for someone to fill that space.
Which one will it be (if either)? This may end up being quite a contest of wills, but it is clear that the current scheduling situation is not a healthy one. In my view, the conference that moves to the fall will actually have an advantage in terms of being the only game in town for the insurance technology space for a good chunk of the year.
Of course, the organizations could just flip a coin and be done with it, but nothing is ever that simple.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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