Last month I joined several hundred hotels, destination management companies, conventions and visitors’ bureaus, entertainment companies, event technology solutions and other hosted buyers at IBTM America. Nashville, Tennessee acted as our gracious host as we networked, collaborated, ate and danced our way through the week.

As a member of Ashfield Meetings & Events’ global Sales Support team, my primary purpose at the tradeshow was to connect with the industry as a whole, engage with my peers and discover new concepts and different ideas to offer more innovative and impactful solutions in our event proposals.

A secondary, and perhaps more selfish goal, was to experience Nashville as it stands today, so new and improved. If you haven’t been in the last 18 months you must go back because it is rapidly changing and expanding. In addition to Nashville’s newest 1.2 million square foot addition – Music City Center (which has an impressive wayfinding app) with an 800-bedroom Omni attached – the city has cut ribbon on three new properties this year with another 24 hotels (with over 5,000 bedrooms) planned to open over the next few years. There are also plans afoot for another 25 planned renovations and updates to surrounding hotels, venues and attractions.

I have long pushed Nashville as a solution to a client’s preference for a central US city to hold their event and in the past it’s been a tough sell with less direct flights and far less bedrooms than the more obvious choices, like Chicago or Dallas. I am so happy to report that I can now confidently promote Nashville – both internally and to clients – as a premier central meetings destination.

Nashville rocks IBTM America

Moreover, the IBTM America team put together a top notch agenda, a new format and focus on learning, entertainment and networking that hit the mark for both suppliers and buyers. Pre-matched appointment preferences made it effortless to book time with the suppliers I was most interested to chat with and made their time with me worthwhile because of my genuine interest in what they had to offer.

The use of Poken technology had us ‘high-fouring’ all week long, exchanging green lights and giddy smiles, happy that we didn’t have to grab our business cards out of pockets and bags, allowing us to focus on getting to know one another. Poken check-ins at supplier booths kept us accountable to our appointment times and 20-minute back-to-back sessions left our voices hoarse but our spirits high.

The tradeshow floor was uncharacteristically inviting with networking breaks, a TECHCollective showcase (introducing the latest concepts in event technology), wine and tapas hour (sponsored by Spain) and interesting entertainment like LiveCrew (a custom event musical experience), Slow Motion Video Booth (my absolutely favorite new event idea) and BrightBox leaving us fully charged. IBTM even organized complimentary professional headshots with hair and makeup touchups, a nice touch for busy professionals to update their LinkedIn profile.

While I continued to deepen my love affair with Nashville, I have become just as smitten with IBTM America and will be showing up  groupie-style for the 2017 event in gorgeous Hollywood, Florida. I couldn’t agree more with IBTM’s ethos; when businesses connect at IBTM America, great things happen. Connections mean everything. Will I see you there?

Nashville rocks IBTM America