Canadian Underwriter

Do webinars have a future, post-pandemic?

July 14, 2021   by Adam Malik

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Webinars are here to stay, says a brokerage executive.

Many organizations turned to webinars following the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. It was a way to connect, share information, and maintain a foothold in providing expert opinion and research.

But after the pandemic passes, once lockdown restrictions ease and in-person events resume, is it possible that webinars wind up being a relic of a dark, distant time?

Not so, according to Bill Besse, Toronto-based chief client officer, commercial risk solutions at Aon. In fact, the last 16 months have cemented webinars as valuable tools for brokers.

For one, he noted, webinars produced far greater turnouts than any in-person event held pre-COVID.

“We’ve probably conducted more webinars [during the pandemic] than we’ve had before,” Besse told Canadian Underwriter. “Historically, we may have had in-house meetings, breakfast webinars, lunch seminars, and invite people. With the ability to do these focused webinars virtually, we found that we were able to get more attendance. We were able to target the audience a little bit better.”

Webinars can also be more interactive than an event being held in a hotel conference room, he observed. “They were more interactive. We included things like polling questions to gain further insight and get feedback on the webinars as we were going along.”

In-person events remain helpful and necessary, Besse qualified.

“There’s a real sense of everyone wanting to get together for in-person meetings because you can’t replace that interaction when you’re in a meeting with a client or somebody else,” he said in an interview. “[You miss] that personal interaction: ‘How was your weekend? How are things going? Tell me a little bit more about things.’”

That said, virtual events have made their mark, and Besse expects they will continue. “Especially when you’re dealing with your ability to have a meeting with the C-suite of an organization, and your ability to have a meeting with them,” Besse said. “When they know it’s only a half-an-hour meeting, and it’s focused on a particular topic, it’s much easier to schedule. It’s much easier for us to put our team together to execute on the timeframe that fits with their schedule.”

It’s a matter of picking your spots, he advised. Sometimes, a virtual event is better than something in-person and vice versa.

“If you’re trying to get a broader audience around a specific topic that we know is of concern to our clients, or [that is about the] challenges clients are facing, that virtual webinar…will continue,” Besse said. “It will be a challenge for a long time to get 100 people or 1,000 people into a room to run a seminar, which we’ve actually done several times over the last year-and-a-half.”


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