Behind the scenes: what makes the Airmic conference tick

Published on Wed, 31/08/2016 - 10:27

The Airmic conference has become the event of the year for risk managers, but what is the key to its success and have there been any disasters? Jessica Titherington talks to events manager Susi Ozkurt.

Airmic’s annual conference just keeps on growing: every year it breaks the previous year’s record for number of delegates and size of exhibition hall, and the 2016 conference in Harrogate was no exception.

But bringing together almost 2000 risk professionals, insurers, brokers, speakers and even celebrities into three packed days is no easy task. Everything has to run like clockwork which takes years of planning – conference venues get booked up to five years in advance.

So what’s the key to success? Susi Ozkurt has been Airmic’s events manager for five years and says the growth of the conference reflects Airmic’s growth as a company.

“We are constantly striving to run a successful programme of training and events for our members.  Our technical agenda is expanding each year and we also seem to be gaining more and more sponsors. All these factors help make the conference successful,” she explains.

But a good conference is about more than ensuring things run smoothly – it has to have that “buzz” that makes people want to return the next year. “The conference isn’t just about learning, it’s about meeting new people, reconnecting with former colleagues and, I hope, having fun. Whether it’s the ladies lunch, the fun run or the parties in the evening, there’s something for everyone.”

There are only a handful of UK conference centres large enough to accommodate Airmic’s exhibition hall, so the same venues are usually rotated. This year’s location, however, was a first.

“Going to a new venue for me, is always an exciting challenge. I like working with a new team and using new suppliers. There are always challenges, but I thought Harrogate was a success.”

Every venue has its pros and cons, she believes, and Harrogate was no exception. “I would say the split exhibition hall and hotel selection were the downsides, but Harrogate as a location was beautiful and you could walk everywhere making it very easy for delegates.”

And have there been any disasters? “For the conference no, but for the annual dinner in 2013, we booked comedienne Jo Brand as our speaker and she just failed to show! No one could get hold of her. Her manager called the next day to say that she had completely forgotten about her booking as she was busy doing a pantomime. She became known as “No Show Jo” after that!”

The next conference will take place at the ICC Birmingham in June 2017, Ozkurt says. “Our technical team will be working on some really good projects next year which will be released at the conference, so watch this space!”