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What we observed in ibtm World, the great meeting-barometer of the MICE industry

What we observed in ibtm World, the great meeting-barometer of the MICE industry

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What is ‘NetZero Events’, the international commitment of the MICE industry? What do ChatGPT and artificial intelligence for events mean? Companies still far from defining sustainability targets in MICE
If you want to understand a sector, better than a big market study (and easier), you can go to its annual event (trade show, congress, conference...) and talk to a lot of people, even watch their faces. You will understand the concerns, trends, and simply the health of the sector in question. This is precisely what we did at ibtm World, the great annual gathering of the European / global MICE industry, where we talked with almost any living soul that stepped into Fira Barcelona (ahhh and we organized the most successful cocktail of the show with more than 200 people and good vibes (thanks to Gran Canaria for their sponsorship and Catering Mas de Sant Llei for doing the catering). We bring you some essential observations. By Eric Mottard

Sustainability: the tipping point

It is undoubtedly the winner. The notion that used to be superficially commented (beyond some green details) now seems to become important or even existential for our industry. Whether out of responsibility (saving the planet) or calculation (saving our business from a threat of flight shaming & co), the industry understands that sustainability is key to its future. Beware: it’s still a bit abstract; we see more of an intention than a clear roadmap; and it is difficult to find a clear vision of what we have to do. Perhaps the most concrete is the Netzero Carbon Events initiative, supported by large international MICE associations and which aims to move towards carbon-free events by 2050, which was presented in a training session in the show (yes, I also believe that a commitment 27 years from now is a bit abstract… we have to define what we will do in the next few years already). But, above all, this notion won out in conversations and meetings, in an edition that could be a turning point at this level. That being said, much remains to be realized, from a complete vision to solving complicated problems such as the number one impact of our industry: transportation.

A very clear (excessive?) optimism

Will there be business in 2023, after a 2022 of undoubted recovery? We see two camps: some see 2023 as a year of good economic health without any doubt, and they comment confirmed and signed (with deposits paid) events. On the other hand, the most ‘pessimistic’ see a good year, with a lot of interest and intention from companies and associations to hold events, but with still some difficulty in getting the final confirmations and therefore some ucertainty. Some large venues already only offer the second half of 2023, with an almost saturated first semester. In any case, nobody sees a market significantly affected by what economists announce as a sharp slowdown in the economy. Are we too optimistic, or are we really necessary? It could be both factors, but a legacy of the pandemic is that companies value contact, community, relationship, and experience more than ever. The “high tech – high touch” world (you know: the more technology we have, the more we need touch) seems to be here, and we could be a more necessary industry than before and therefore more immune to a possible slowdown.

Virtual? What is that??

It seems unbelievable that only a year and a half ago, everyone foresaw a hybrid future, where virtual and hybrid “events” would be normal, frequent. Obviously, the crowd present at ibtm World has a “high touch culture” and they probably pay more attention to everything that is face-to-face than to digital formats, but it is impressive to see that a sector that has led virtual communication formats during the pandemic forgets them so much today. I don’t think I’ve even heard the word “metaverse” during the show, when this concept keeps promising more and more realistic online “experiences” (and we’re the experience industry, remember?). Perhaps we forget online formats too much. Experiential communication is incomparable, but let’s not forget the ability to complement it with online communication, a field in which we have learned a lot and which will continue to exist, albeit in a more limited way than we thought in the middle of the pandemic.

Incentives are doing good

They were the victim number 1 of the pandemic, when the idea of a distant trip was impossible, and we could fear that companies had learned to live without incentive travel. A return to incentives was much commented in the corridors of the show, especially “real” ones (with budgets of 3, 4, 5,000 euros per participant), although they can be a little smaller and more selective than before. Offering to relive unique experiences after the pandemic could have a huge value today.

Stands: pragmatism

The stands that used to compete for their creativity, their concept, their innovation… have become pragmatic, practical. The key to this year’s stands was the fact of feeling good (with a special importance of light) but most of all of being able to have business meetings comfortably. Perhaps creativity and visual impact will return, but today creativity is applied to something very practical: that A can sit with B and talk, among humans. As simple as that.

No surprise: talent management

One of the most pronounced phrases has been “business is very good, the difficult thing is to find people”. Let’s not dwell on this idea, which we have discussed a thousand times already. Almost everyone is looking for talent, there is some inflation in conditions, there is talent hunting in other agencies, and some go for other models such as hiring very young people and provide them with a solid training program. However, the idea according to which post-pandemic companies, traumatized by the idea of fixed cost in an unpredictable market, would be light structures that are completed with external collaborations, is not widely seen; companies want to control their talent.

Nothing will be like before

Really? A piece of advice: the next time you hear that “things will never be the same”, keep in mind that, although we are in a world that is constantly changing, human DNA has been created after thousands of generations of natural selection, and it does not change at any time. 2 years. If you ask me how today’s world and its events sector is very different from 2019, I’ll have a hard time finding more than “more teleworking” (and even this seems to be going down now). The inertia that society, the human being, has is enormous. Things change, but let’s resist the idea of grand predictions of revolutionary change.

It has been a wonderful edition of ibtm World. It seemed to me that we still had some of the joy of seeing each other again, and the awareness that, by talking, we achieved a lot (new ideas, understanding of the other, vision of the situation in the sector, relationship that allows doing business). This joy will not last forever, but we are still in awe watching over and over again how powerful an event it is.


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