IMEX America and IBTM World – I am a little bit disappointed

MICE industry trade show IBTM World Barclona Fira

November was the month that many in the MICE industry had been waiting for. After the last cancellations due to the pandemic situation, IMEX America in Las Vegas and IBTM World in Barcelona finally returned in their traditional form. It is gratifying that, despite many adversities, it was possible to organise both events, there were exhibitors, buyers and panels, discussions and lectures with key note speakers.

However, many people were unable to attend for various reasons. Distances, obligations, quarantine, infections and other various reasons. I, for example, could not go to Barcelona because I was ill with Covid. I finished my isolation and for a while it seemed that I would be able to come to Barcelona, but in the end I had to resign because of the check-ups and medical recommendations. I could only observe the IBTM 2021 via the Internet.

I expected that thanks to the pandemic the MICE industry would learn lessons, change and broaden its horizons. I hoped that during these two years we would get to know the opportunities brought by the Internet, new platforms such as Hopin, Hubilo and Swapcard. I really hoped that the organisers and exhibitors would not forget about those who do not participate in the fair.

There has been so much talk lately about sustainability and inclusion in the MICE industry, technology can prevent exclusion like never before. You no longer have to fly to the other side of the world to attend an event and listen to a key note speaker. Are these just empty slogans and boxes to be ticked off by organisers?

I know we are all strenuously waiting for a return to normality and a return to the state of 2019, to IMEX America / IMEX Frankfurt and IBTM World trade shows as we know them. The same way I see it, the organisers of the fair were thinking, forgetting about the equally wide and absent audience.Over the last two years, however, the world has changed a lot.

I know that the above mentioned trade show organisers have created virtual equivalents of the show. Reed Exhibitions has created IBTM World Online 14-15 December this year and IBTM Wired, the second edition of which will take place 28 June – 1 July 2022, while IMEX has organised a new online event IMEX Buzz Hub on the Swapcard platform and maintains an active community. However, this is not the same as attending their most important traditional trade show online.

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How could you participate online at IBTM World this year? By watching LIVE streaming on IBTM’s social media platforms that showed booths and short interviews with exhibitors. The longest live streaming lasted 17 minutes from the South American section of the fair. In addition, you could watch a video – a summary of each trade fair day – on Facebook. The video from the first day on Facebook had nearly 130,000 views, many other videos had tens of thousands of views. For comparison, it is worth seeing what results were recorded by videos from 2019. You can see the difference and much greater interest.

It is a pity that this year the organisers could not live stream the speeches of IBTM World Knowledge Programme speakers on LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube or any other platform. I missed the talks on Twitter Spaces or any other social audio platform. The only longer (1.5h) live broadcast I managed to watch was “Re-connectem – Presentation of the Barcelona MICE Destination Support Programme” on Youtube VisitBarcelona.

IBTM World Barcelona

Credits: IBTM World; Addressing Diversity, Equality & Inclusion in 2022 Stephanie Corker

What was another way to observe IBTM this year? Follow the hashtag #IBTMworld and look at what texts, photos and videos were published by trade fair participants and exhibitors. As I know with every major event I create a project in Brand24 and listen to what is happening in the online sphere at the fair. Congratulations to the marketing teams of

  • Germany Convention Bureau
  • Meet in Ireland
  • Finland Convention Bureau
  • France Convention Bureau

who were very active in sharing the content from the Barcelona fair.

eventprofs IBTM World Education Programme Barcelona

source: IBTM World; Journey to ChangeThe Future of Business Events after COP26. Panel Laura Lopez, Neil Brownlee, Kathleen Warden, Rory Archibald

I have already spoken to many people about it, both attendees and those not present, and they have similar impressions. Unfortunately, the pandemic has picked up again and more restrictions are being introduced. I was curious to see how destinations had prepared for the new reality, whether they had presented suggestions at their stands as to how the technology could be used in future events. Unfortunately, there were not many such examples.

For all my complaining about IBTM World in Barcelona, I have to admit that at least the organisers made some attempt to broadcast the fair. I am really very unsatisfied with how the current technical possibilities are not used. All the more reason for me to believe that the organisers should not only follow the trends, but even set them themselves and inspire their own exhibitors to develop. I would really even be willing to pay for access to online platforms where you could watch the aforementioned talks, interact with other attendees, see each other, comment and ask questions.

What will 2022 bring? We’ll see.

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