2014 was clearly a good edition in terms of visitors, buyers, appointments. What are your targets for 2015?
We still aim to grow, and all the signs are that will be the case in 2015. , In terms of sales, we are seeing good levels of interest from long-standing exhibitors but also strong levels of interest and enquiries from new prospects, particularly from Europe. We see slightly earlier decision-making and a higher willingness to commit, perhaps as a result of economic improvements but also we look to meet even more frequently with our customers face to face.
Generally there is a positive feeling about the event, a lot is due to the success of last year´s event but also the desire for suppliers to drive sales forward and for planners to be sourcing for more events. Many participants thought 2014 was the best edition to date, largely because of the quality of buyers.
We also see positivity coming back for Spanish meeting planners: attendees from Spain were up 16% in 2014, as the feel-good factor begins to return. And generally, even if the global economic slowdown was patchy with some regions suffering more than others, many areas are seeing the impact of investment in tourism and particularly business tourism and are clearly booming: London and the UK for example is seeing record breaking arrivals.
IBTM World is a show in Europe but, especially with the new brand, a global show. What is the relative importance of Europe and global markets?
Suppliers are interested in three things: covering their local market, maintaining and building their share of mature markets whilst at the same time keeping an eye on emerging markets. These strategies run in parallel which co-incidentally mirrors the demand for meeting with hosted buyers - from local short haul markets to farther afield long-haul markets.
Although the prime requirement is to meet buyers who place significant business from Europe and North America, we aim to deliver a broad spectrum of international planners including emerging markets but all must have proven international business to place an it is our role to create relevant meetings for both. Our priority is to have the right buyers - it really is about relevance on both sides.
The numbers of hosted buyers attending ibtm world in 2015 will be similar to those in 2014 approximately 4,000 hosted buyers, for 3,250 exhibitors. Ensuring we keep evolving the programs for the corporate, association and agency planners is key to delivering the right numbers but crucial in delivering the right quality. Without a doubt, with good profiling and pre-show communication, the number of appointments matched can still rise from current levels.
Ensuring the right profiling of both planners and suppliers is fundamental to the matching process and we continually strive to ensure exhibitors complete their profiles with very specific and relevant information, which is key to helping planners identify who they want to meet with.
We engage exhibitors from the moment they sign up to be at the and all the way through the planning cycle particularly now via our customer service team which will help exhibitors through their exhibiting journey: whatever we can do to help, even if they don´t have time to complete their website profiles and other information, we will do that for them.
The exhibitor concierge programme is a dedicated team of people who will phone and email each exhibitor and see the level of service each one requires. Some very experienced exhibitors don´t want much help, others perhaps less experienced, are hugely grateful for our assistance - from organising their accommodation to helping organise a client dinner, filling in website information or designing a brand or sponsorship promotion.
In 2014, exhibitors enjoyed the possibility of requesting appointments, but seem to have often met challenges when using the online tool. What changes do you plan to bring in that respect?
We realise there were challenges in 2014. Enhancements have been made to the tool and we are confident this year´s tool will be much improved and deliver a better user experience.
What have been the results of "my association / my club"? Are any changes planned for this year?
It was a clear success, with more than 350 planners participating. Flexibility was the key, whether it be travel schedules or hotel accommodation. What was clear was that planners want to source providers and products on the floor in a timely and efficient way, access great education (with a specific sessions for association planners), and enjoy peer to peer engagement.
The pressure on their time whilst they are in Barcelona is great and the offer gave greater flexibility, with a structure program that each planner could build as part of their own personal schedule.
The idea of accommodation over 100 association planners in one single hotel greatly helped networking with opportunities away from the show to meet and discuss and share common problems and solutions. Flexibility was a clear objective of last year´s changes - this notion seems to go further this year with the more flexible options for tech companies...
Your research shows this is a key demand of exhibitors and visitors alike?
Flexibility is increasingly important as we are all under huge pressure to make the most of our time both in and out of the office. We can´t expect people to come to Barcelona for three or four days and dictate their itineraries, gone are the days when you ran programs where the choice was "in or out." Our job is to provide a fantastic choice of options which planners and exhibitors can select from - we want people to build their own programs and schedules that meet their own unique requirements..
Can you explain this change in the modes of participation of tech companies?
We have the opportunity to provide companies at whatever stage they are in their evolution - from startups in their infancy to SME´s and well established orgainsations. They have the choice of stand packages to suit their needs and budget and can also build their own activity program, from entering the Tech & Innovations Awards, participate in the Innovation Zone as well as building their industry and event profile by running demonstrations. What is crucial is that we can build their program around their individual needs.
Any other changes planned for this year?
We will announce changes to the corporate programme - taking the learnings from My Association My Club and create a great program for corporate planners. We have introduced a new appointment matching program -