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.
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.
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.
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!
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!