By Christopher Durso, Executive Editor | Aug 03, 2013
The Refresh Zone was a new feature in AIBTM's exhibit hall, where nearly a thousand hosted buyers and more than 700 exhibitors met for appointments.
The theme of AIBTM 2013 was “Defining the Future of Meetings … Together” — with an emphasis on that last word. Held at McCormick Place in Chicago on June 11-13, Reed Travel Exhibitions’ (RTE) three-year- old show began with an Education Day program powered by the full constellation of meetings and travel industry organizations: IAEE, Site, ACTE, ICCA, MPI, and PCMA, whose contributions included “Wharton Negotiations Workshop,” a day-long, invitation-only Executive Edge course.
“We really wanted AIBTM this year to be a true meeting of the minds,” the show’s exhibition director, Michael Lyons, said at a press briefing on Education Day, “to harness the incredible brain power you have gathered here for the next few days.”
As a hosted-buyer expo, AIBTM lives and dies by its show floor — and RTE introduced a variety of new programs there this year. The Refresh Zone was a 40,000-square-foot area with food, drinks, smartphone and tablet recharging stations, and games, where exhibitors and buyers alike could take a break. The 100-seat Lecture Theatre offered Fast Track Learning and Speaker Show- case presentations. And the returning Future Events Experience include new initiatives such as the TECHbar, where technology experts offered hands-on training and one-on-one appointments for attendees.
The numbers looked good at AIBTM. Nearly 3,700 people attended Education Day, and the show drew nearly a thousand hosted buyers and more than 700 exhibitors — 31-percent and 6-percent increases, respectively, over last year. And, according to Lyons, 51 percent of this year's hosted buyers were first-time attendees.
With all the mixing and mingling going on — the relationship-building and deal-making — AIBTM’s show floor mirrored the thoughts shared by opening keynote speaker J. Walker Smith, executive chairman of The Futures Company, who spoke about “the kinship economy.” “Relationships are the ultimate commodity,” said Smith, quoted in the AIBTM Daily News, whose production was supervised on site by Convene. “The idea of a kinship economy is a percent of this year’s hosted buyers were first-time attendees. With all the mixing and mingling metaphor. It’s what drives value in the marketplace. Social engagement is more important than anything else.”
Where do meetings and conventions fit into that? “You need to offer your attendees a place they can connect and participate with one another,” Smith said. “What kind of social currency are you placing in your attendees’ hands? How are you deploying technology to give attendees social currency they can use with one another?”