When I’m chairing an event, the most important bit of preparation I have to do is to understand the speakers. Who they are, what they represent and what sort of questions they should and shouldn’t be asked.
If they are people I know well, I have to think about their personalities and how they might gel and interact with one another on the day. They may spark but they can occasionally also grate and rile each other.
Some are shy and need prodding and others are incredibly nervous and require chaperoning or matchmaking.
Knowing who and what you have in front of you is key.
The only type I worry about is the sort who tries to monopolise and control a group discussion.
On the one hand, such characters are invaluable because if they are attending I don’t have to worry about filling any embarrassing silences, but on the other hand, they can be unruly and a little tricky to bring under control.
The amazing thing is that there is no way we would have put together a roundtable on this subject three or four years ago.
The market would have run a mile and senior people wouldn’t have wanted to attend.
First, many would not have been interested in the subject, and second, and perhaps more crucially, they wouldn’t have had too much to say on the subject.
In fact, the real reason not to come would be because they wouldn’t want to look foolish and be caught out.
Look how things have changed. The operational side of our business – for so long, sitting in the back office – has moved decisively to the front of house in the past couple of years.
Indeed, things have changed to such a degree that many of the most articulate and impassioned speakers now hail from this segment of the industry.
Read on for a fabulously detailed and highly informed debate covering a huge range of the technology-related issues that are affecting the industry right now, as well as a dissection of many of the far longer-trend matters that are going to transform it over the coming decades.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, unstructured data, shared data, data ownership, culture change, innovation and the attraction of talent all get a thorough work-through.
I started the afternoon apprehensive that the conversation might be hijacked by one or two of the stronger characters.
But in the end, I needn’t have worried. Read on to see what I mean.
Artificial intelligence is all very well, but still I prefer sitting around the table with the real thing.
To view the Artificial Intelligence Roundtable 2018, please click here.
Mark Geoghegan, Editorial Director, The Insurance Insider