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There’s a very different buzz around BIBA this year.

While we’re obviously disappointed not to be hitting the road and swarming into Manchester, as we have so many times before, the sense of anticipation around this week’s digital conference is huge.

The BIBA buzz has always been quite hard to define. A bit more than the sum of its parts, it’s the product of many years of work that has built an event quite unlike any other in our industry.

There’s the social side of course, catching up with familiar faces we might not have seen in the preceding 12 months. But the commercial intensity of these two days in May is what has always made the BIBA Conference such an unmissable event.

The cancelled conference of 2020 was titled ‘The Year to Pioneer’. Amid the sudden hiatus that struck almost every aspect of our lives last Spring, BIBA’s abrupt deletion from our calendars was unfortunate but unavoidable. While it was very disappointing, most of us had even bigger things to worry about at the time.

As it turned out, the ill-fated conference’s title was strangely prophetic. In many ways, 2020 was indeed the year that companies had to pioneer. It was the year we all learned to conduct business in very different ways that, challenging though it has undoubtedly been, have created new opportunities and enabled new relationships to flourish.

It’s true that there really is no substitute for meeting people face-to-face, but at least we won’t have to contend with those infamous BIBA hangovers or the long journey back down the M6.

Even though this year’s conference is entirely different from the forty-something live events that have gone before, many of the ingredients are the same. New products are being launched, big announcements are being made and deals will certainly be done, over the next few days and in the weeks that follow.

So, if the recipe is necessarily a bit different from the one we all know so well, the taste is very familiar. The mix of learning, conviviality and commercial opportunity may have changed but the overriding flavour of optimism is coming through as strongly as ever.

However, we should spare a thought for the huge economy that exists around big events like BIBA’s conference. It’s not just the event itself, but the production, logistics and hospitality efforts that all go into putting on a show of this scale.

As their legal expenses insurance provider, ARAG has had a unique perspective on the challenges many such businesses have been facing over the past year, as they have tried to avoid laying people off or getting embroiled in legal disputes with customers and suppliers.

Our policyholders’ thirst for legal advice to help navigate this strange new world has been enormous and is indicative of the accompanying hunger businesses have to survive the pandemic and emerge even stronger. If last year’s conference title was prophetic, the title of BIBA 2021, “Strengthening Resilience” couldn’t be more appropriate.

Many businesses in and around the events sector have had the toughest time over the past year and, while some have been able to adapt or at least hibernate under a blanket of furlough and other financial support, many are unlikely to even start recovering properly until we can all gather in great halls like those at Manchester Central again.

Until then, we have a new world of our own to explore and I can’t think of better guides to help us navigate it than the team at BIBA. This new world won’t be anything like the old one, of course, but I’m as excited about what BIBA has in store for us in 2021 as I have been any other year.

Andy Talbot is one of the team that founded ARAG UK, in 2006. Now Head of Sales and Marketing, Andy is responsible for marketing and account management activity across both before-the-event and after-the-event business and is a veteran of more than twenty previous BIBA conferences.

Disclaimer - all information in this article was correct at time of publishing.


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