Let´s start with the basics of logistics: this looks like a year of important improvements?
Yes, the long-awaited metro is operational and will stop just at the door of the South Entrance, which will be a great new benefit. People can now travel from the Fira to the airport in about 16-17 minutes, so logistically, the journey should all be a lot smoother. Another improvement is that we will concentrate registration and access to ibtm world for all through the South Entrance. We have the whole registration area to ourselves, as there is no other show in the venue this year, and the buses will drop Hosted Buyers off in the South Entry. It is hard to know how many people will use the new metro service, so we are betting on a limited take up this year but I maybe proved wrong!
Also, following last year´s deal with oneworld Airline alliance all participants can, between seven days before to seven days after the show, book flights to Barcelona with special rates. BCD is still our travel agency and Pacific World are still doing the ground handling, but this gives everyone another alternative. What is your crisis and risk management strategy?
We have an executive council gathering twice a year and security is always on the agenda and we are also fortunate that Barcelona is a very joined up city in this way. The convention bureau has direct access to all emergency services very quickly so we are one short step to bring all these parties together so we will also be having an on-site briefing. Of course, Pacific World our DMC is used to dealing with large groups of people and they are also involved in the contingency plans.
What types of risks are involved?
We split them in two: the risks in the venue, which are co-ordinated by our on-site management plan, worked through with the city and at a high level in Reed Exhibitions. For anything outside the venue we work with all of our suppliers and partners on crisis management strategies. It is hard to plan for specific scenarios, so we mostly look at process and the communication channels identifying roles and responsibilities to ensure the structure and response is pre-planned.
Coming back to the show in itself: after changing quite a few aspects of the format in the past years (piazzas, knowledge village on the show floor...), do you feel you have now found the right format?
Pretty much, yes, though we are always looking for things to improve. Bringing the education on the show floor with our production partner ACS has been a great success, but we are tweaking that this year, so you can expect more changes... The i-zone worked very well too but we will once again improve on it for this year.
We have been working with Certain Technologies to improve how exhibitors and buyers manage their appointments. We will also have a new app provider which aims to incorporate new features, such as the possibility to track appointments and for exhibitors to use the app for lead monitoring (they can scan badges through their smartphone). Technology is continually improving and as an exhibition organizer we increasingly understand the power of a strong integrated app. We are also working to get it as an integrated solution, talking to our CRM and other tools, so that it will benefit all attendees and provide even more value. We already know their tastes and what educational sessions they attend, but it will become more complete including beacons to geo-localise and understand behavior patterns, whilst there always has to be a business reason, the future potential is great!
In the last few years you have tried to make the show ever more tailor made. How advanced are you in this personalization?
There is no doubt personalization and flexibility are the new keys for all participants. Hosted Buyers want a specific experience and we strive to provide them with more flexibility. Also we have more intelligence available to use when matching buyers with exhibitors. We were one of five shows of the ibtm portfolio last year to try a new matchmaking solution and this worked really well, so this whole matchmaking technology is now being used everywhere. We ask Hosted Buyers when they register to fill in a few more fields now, ask them what they are exactly looking for, and we use this information with detailed algorithms to define recommendations of business contacts. Hopefully that throws up some surprises, and enables buyers to meet people they would not have met otherwise. This system drives up both the quantity and the quality of appointments.
Does that increased relevance lead to more appointments?
Yes. We ask Hosted Buyers to do seven appointments plus a destination presentation, but the actual average of appointments is much higher, about 14, which shows the relevance of ibtm world and this unique appointments system.
After its first two years, how is your programme for Association Buyers and MyAssociation-MyClub?
This is working very well. Association Buyers are a key community and giving them opportunities to meet together brings them a lot of additional value. We gather them in the same hotel, which is great for networking. We used to have a dedicated association day, but planners wanted more flexibility, so this programme now gives them that, whether this means their own timetable of attendance or the education sessions they want to go to. We are now consulting with ICCA to see how to make the programme ever more relevant for Association Buyers.
Talking about Associations, this year seems to feature new collaborations?
Yes. For instance, we are giving IAPCO a platform for their PCO Awards, which will be announced during the Leadership Summit. And Rendez-Vous, the signature MPI fundraising event, will take place for the first time during ibtm world. The Holland Convention Bureau is the partner of this event, so Barcelona will be orange for a night! The event will take place at Opium, with an entry fee which will mostly go to the MPI Foundation. It will be great fun, and a way to give back to the industry.
Any personal message to participants?
Understand what you want to get out of ibtm world, whether as an exhibitor, trade visitor, or Hosted Buyer. And use us to get maximum value. We have a great team ready to help you personalize your experience and fulfill your objectives. Prepare your plans well and define YOUR experience, it is worth it.
Finally how do you see the market situation?
You can´t look at the industry and draw a global conclusion. Some Latin American economies are having a tough time; North America is coming back to where it was pre-crash; Asia is still relatively buoyant but the hopes we had for China as an outbound market may not have perfectly materialized, although with currency fluctuations it means some countries are now really competitive. Europe is quite split with the South suffering uncertainty but every day can bring something different as I think we have all learned in 2016.
Another key evolution is that the incentive market is probably the best it has been in eight years; the word incentive doesn´t sound too sensitive anymore.
But a serious challenge is security, which has impacted our industry already. The type of terrorism has changed. It is far less predictable and easier to execute. So the industry in all its supply chain (from airports to venues and hotels) are tightening security protocols. If you organize an incentive, you will look at the least risky options; that is just common business sense. As an event planner (we are one), you always try to estimate the risk and define what you want to do to mitigate this risk. But the industry is highly resilient, and has always been able to adapt to this type of challenge.