Category Archives: Meeting Architecture

EIBTM review: the trade show of a grown-up industry


So once more, another fantastic edition of EIBTM comes to an end. I’ve attended this show for the past 5 years, as a visitor, an exhibitor, a speaker and even as staff! (last year I project managed the Innovation Zone). This year though, it was a relaxing one for me – I only had to speak at one session and attend a few meetings. Therefore, I had time to wander around, go to some educational sessions and catch up with friends and colleagues. I have many takeaways from this year’s exhibition, but if I have to choose one word to sum it up, it’s MATURITY. I’m a relatively new comer to the meetings industry, but this year I could sense, in many ways, that meeting professionals are “growing up”. Let me explain it:

1. The first example of Maturity is EIBTM itself: this year, the trade show has gone back to the basics, slashing many educational sessions and focusing on its raison d’être, facilitating business connections. If there is less education, delegates spend more time on the show floor with exhibitors. This makes sense, and even more in this day and age, where we can find so much information online (some people argue that speaker presentations will no longer exist in a few years, since it’s all available online – I don’t agree though). EIBTM has also changed its name, in 2015 it will be called IBTM World. Personally, I find it a good move, this trade show is truly a melting pot of people from all over the world! The organizers can certainly be proud: there was an 8% increase in attendance (over 15.000 visitors!). I also spoke with some exhibitors who told me that, for the first time ever, they had closed deals on the spot. That’s certainly good news for everyone involved.

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

2. There is much more interest in the content side of meetings. The educational programme was overwhelmingly dominated by the topic of meeting design. I myself co-presented a session on it, we had a large audience and by the level of the questions that we were asked, I can tell most were not beginners. It’s as if meeting planners (finally) realize that they create valuable events when they focus on fostering education and networking, besides booking nice hotels. Also, the FRESH dinner (the place to be if you’re into meeting design) was the busiest ever this year. By the way, all sessions were livestreamed and made available on-demand here.

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

And this was the stage where we presented

And this was the stage where we presented

3. Tech start ups are no longer the “new kids on the block”. Event technology companies are getting bigger, booking larger stands, and more tellingly, no longer need to educate their customers so much. Now pretty much everyone knows what an event app is, understands that technology should be used meaningfully and is not so afraid of using gadgets and the venue’s wifi. American Express Meetings & Events said that in North America, hybrid meetings are on the rise (albeit flat in EMEA). Some of the new trends in technology are ibeacons and augmented reality, but in my opinion, for now they are just fancy technologies, with no real added value for event organizers just yet.

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

View of the Innovation Zone

View of the stunning Innovation Zone

4. Event planners are becoming experts at using Social Media. Obviously we’re all still learning and there’s much room for improvement, however, I think we’re in high school now! If you read the latest ebook from Event Manager’s Blog, which was released during EIBTM, you’ll see much more sophisticated information and case studies on using Social Media networks at events. Therefore, we are moving from beginners to advanced users. Still, when I asked a panel of so-called “Social Media experts” about the role of bloggers, most said that they didn’t know any MICE blogger. Well, I think it’s time to look at how other industries are taking advantage of bloggers and use those strategies for event and destination marketing. By the way, some interesting data here: most of the Trip Advisor reviews are positive (the average is 4.6/5), so there is no need to be afraid of social media reviews!

Finally, thanks to the Meeting Design Institute (and all the sponsors of the Video Corner) we recorded a video that explains what The Conference Goer’s Blog is all about. You can check it out here.

Did you go to EIBTM? What was your experience of the trade show? Do you agree with my conclusion that the meeting professional has grown up? And if you read my previous blog post on Tips from a local to enjoy Barcelona, please share what your experience was!

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

EIS 2012: changing the meetings industry one event at a time


Impressive stage with coolux and mapping projection

Stage with coolux and mapping projection

If I had to pick one of the most disruptive conferences from 2012 in Spain, it would be the Event Innovation Summit . And not because I was the meeting designer…. 🙂  but because it was an event that placed the participant at the center, that created an effective learning environment using neuroscience principles. The main goal was to make an impact on the delegates: not just to surprise them with a spectacular setting or delicious food (which we also did) but to add value to their professional lives by providing them with relevant education, delivered in a way that would stick with them. I think that today too many events still focus too much on the logistics, forgetting that content is what really adds value.

This conference was organised by Grupo Eventoplus , who are on a quest to advance the meetings & events industry in Spain. Thanks to a very open-minded CEO, we were able to push the boundaries and innovate on many levels.

Here are my personal highlights:

1. Brain food: following the guidelines from Andrea Sullivan, brain researcher, the only food on the menu was healthy, organic and contributing to learning. For example, during the coffee breaks there wasn’t a single croissant, instead, lots of  power foods such as nuts, yogurts or eggs, which give you physical and mental energy. Same for lunch. Bear in mind that in Spain we usually have a 3-course meal and alcohol… This time alcohol, sweet desserts and red meats were banned! And guess what? People loved it!

2. Starting the day with visualization exercises and doing a Qi Gong session after lunch. Want people to be ‘present’ and forget about their daily stresses at work or at home? Then using some visualization techniques helps delegates focus on the conference. Feeling drowsy after lunch? Some physical exercise (like Qi Gong, which is very smooth) will surely help!

3. Short sessions to optimize learning. There’s many empirical evidence that people have really short attention spans (even just 30 seconds, as this study found!). So why program sessions that go on and on for 1 hour? At EIS, most of the sessions lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. In this way, speakers go to the point and attendees don’t fall asleep.

2012-10-23 14.23.384. An Innovation Lounge to encourage networking, including the Lego challenge. Because networking is one of the top reasons why people attend events, we made sure to introduce ample of opportunities for people to connect. We prepared both structured and unstructured networking, including plenty of games and ice-breakers such as this one in the picture. We included a Lego block at each delegate bag and a set of instructions: the NASA was looking for a new aircraft prototype and wanted them to design a new one. That gave delegates a fun way to interact and work together.

5. Highly interactive sessions, aided by tech (such as IML Connector) and  non-tech tools (eg. coloured paper cards to vote). Interactivity helps getting attention, however, we just didn’t include it for the sake of it. Everything had a purpose and helped to enhance learning in one way or another.

6. ROI Point and Social Media Point: at the Innovation Lounge there were two ‘Genius Bars’ where participants were able to get free advice on social media and ROI during the entire day.

By the way, this conference was sold out in just 3 weeks, which shows how hungry people are for this kind of events!

If you want to know more about it, watch the making of video or this cool review by William Thomson from Gallus Events.

And stay tuned because this year we’re putting together another Event Innovation Summit and its younger brother, the Meeting & Incentive Summit!

What are you doing to transform the industry? Would love to hear your examples of other cool events!

Another reason to become a meeting designer


Just this morning I’ve come across an article from Meetpie where the director of a ‘traditional’ events agency (that is, mainly focused on the logistics of events) was claiming how Internet is a big threat to their services.

Since their main income comes from booking venues and flights, now their clients are increasingly doing it themselves. Personally, I always skip the ‘middle men’ when I book my travels or holidays. That is not to say that organising the logistics for 5,000 delegates is quite the same as my personal holidays! But, I’m sorry for this man but I think this was bound to happen. Although I understand his concern, I hope he realises that this ‘threat’ is also a big opportunity…

Let’s face it: this one and other major shifts (like the increasing use of virtual or hybrid events), from my point of view, are turning event agencies solely focused on logistics in obsolete business models. Or at least, there won’t be enough room for all of them.

On the other hand, event professionals focused on the content of events can take advantage of all the new trends and become an essential partner.

Do you think this is a statement too bold? Where do you see the role of a meeting designer in 5 years time?

The impact of virtual meetings: can we have some common sense, please?


This week I’ve come across to a very interesting article that I’d like to encourage you all to read.

Thought leaders of the meetings industry, such as Corbin Ball, give their views on the future of events, mainly talking about the changes brought about by the Generation Yers and the technology innovations.

Basically they claim that virtual events are an opportunity, for those event planners that want to embrace them. And, in case anyone had any doubt, they reassure us that face-to-face meetings will continue having its prominent place.

And I’m wondering, if hybrid meetings are the meetings of the future, aren’t the event professionals going to have to be more focused on meeting design and  experts in technologies? If not, who else can perform these tasks?

Any thoughts?

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Impressions from IMEX’10


I’m back from my first visit to IMEX, in Frankfurt, one of the biggest trade shows of the events industry. I’ve been sponsored to attend it as part of the Future Leaders Forum, a joint program between IMEX and MPI for students.

It’s been 3 extremely intense days with lots of seminars, networking, receptions, and parties. I’m going to briefly talk about my main impressions and learnings:

– Although the show is clearly (and predictably) still dominated by the hospitality and tourism industry, it was great to see the TechTap booth. Members of the Meeting Support Industry showcased their latest products, such as the Spotme device.

– Attending the Future Leaders Forum meant that I got to see many seminars on the latest trends on events. No speaker mentioned the concepts of ‘meeting design’ or ‘meeting architecture’. Nonetheless, I was pleased to see that actually many sessions were connected to it: yoga to improve attendees’ energy, the relevance of personality types and cultural differences between delegates, or the measurement of ROI.

– Generally the industry is optimistic about the future and predictably, some of the trends announced are increased importance of CSR and ROI measurement.

– During the Meeting Architecture dinner, I had the chance to experience for the first time a new gadget called Poken. And I LOVED it and I’m convinced that if it reaches its tipping point, it’s going to be on everybody’s hands soon. Basically it allows to exchange digital business cards, sending all the information to a website. I will talk more about its features in another post, because I think it deserves it!

One curiosity, it turns out that on average, 50% of the population are introverts, and the other 50% extroverts. Guess what’s the proportion between event professionals? 9 out of 10 are extroverts! Perhaps not very surprising, but still I found it interesting.

Now, anyone else here went to IMEX? What did you like most? Would love to hear your comments!

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