Working in the venue finding team at Ashfield Meetings & Events, trade shows form an integral part of our learning and insight gathering. Having been with the agency for 18 months and attended various UK tradeshows, it was time to make my first venture to an international trade show; IBTM World in Barcelona (formerly EIBTM).
With over 15,500 people attending over three days to visit 3,000 exhibitors, the event promised to be the leading global event for the MICE industry so I was excited and enthusiastic to get stuck in and make the most of my time at the show.
We arrived early at Fira Barcelona, where the show was held, to have time to find our way around the huge exhibition space. From the moment I walked onto the show floor it was clear that the show was an international event for the industry. The variety of stands was so vast and there were so many different locations and brands represented, from Cancun to Cannes and from Melia to Marriott.
In the run up to the show I had been inundated with people contacting me wanting to take one of my 20 minute appointments, but with only time for 15 appointments each day, my diary was full weeks before the show. I was nervous that I wouldn’t have time to just wander around the show to take it all in and bump in to new people for those serendipitous meetings that are so beneficial, however, after my first hour at the show any nerves I had were gone.
The atmosphere of the show is all aimed around networking and is a really informal yet educational environment. The appointments were a great guide to structure the day and ensured I got to see the people that I needed to. Walking around the show in between appointments was just as informative and enjoyable as there was time to pop past a stand just to learn something new, put a face to a name and exchange business cards.
The global hotel chain stands were great and the most educational aspect of the show for me. Where I had an appointment with one hotel from the chain, I was then able to meet multiple other contacts from other hotels in the same chain. It was a great opportunity to network and make new contacts. In just 20 minutes at the Hilton stand, I met and shared business cards with ten hotel representatives.
Attending IBTM World has been so beneficial to my role in order to build my hotel knowledge but more importantly, for the amazing networking opportunities. In our industry relationships with our suppliers are crucial to enable us do our job. I was able to meet so many people in destinations that I frequently book but also from some more obscure destinations that come up from time-to-time. Now that I have met these people I will have the confidence to put forward their properties to my clients and will have the contacts to make sure I am getting the best rates and terms.
I have also been able to develop my knowledge and relationships with some of our preferred partners. Whilst at the show it was really important for me to visit these preferred suppliers to build on our existing strong relationships. These partnerships and relationships are so crucial to the success of our venue finding department.
Would I attend IBTM World again next year? Absolutely, yes. The only thing I would do differently would be to have more time at the show. I was only there for the first day and really felt that this wasn’t enough. There is so much to see and do and so many people to meet; I could have easily spent a full day just going around the Global Village visiting all the large hotel chains.
Ultimately, the two things I have taken away from the show relate directly to two of our core values at Ashfield Meetings & Events; expertise and partnership.
Firstly, the partnerships I have made with the suppliers at the show have been built on trust and respect and will be long term and mutually beneficial. Secondly, as a specialist in the venue finding field, the expertise I have taken away from the show will help to increase the wealth of knowledge needed to succeed in my role and add value to our clients.
Georgina Williams is a Venue Finding Executive at Ashfield Meetings & Events.