More than 1,000 convention and meeting planners attended the Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (AIBTM) in Chicago last week (June 11-13) at McCormick Place to explore future trends in the industry.

AIBTM 2013. Courtesy image

AIBTM 2013 presentation during the educational day. Courtesy image

“Face-to-face meetings are important for business growth and shortened sales cycles — despite what technologists and the digital marketplace would have you believe,” said Jamie Rosov, AIBTM marketing director. “Business is more than ever about building relationships that will never change despite social media, online meetings software, and streamlining media. It’s about ‘state of the heart,’ not the state of the art.'”

Despite her tougher stance on the role of electronic media, Rosov does have a point.

As marketers know — and meeting planners are gaining in their own appreciation — it’s the appropriate use and mix of channels that allows organizations to build relationships with their key constituents and achieve goals. So the meetings industry should not be shy about highlighting the benefits of face-to-face, and recognize that technology can serve as a value-added channel for this purpose.

This impression is gaining validity. According to the IBTM Global Meetings Industry Research for the Americas which was released at the show, roughly 75% of meeting planners are predicting an increase in the use of technology to shape event content and nearly the same number confirm that they use social media to communicate with attendees before and during events.

The IBTM research also helped to affirm some key global meetings industry trends that Business Travel Destinations has previously identified: 50% of the planners who responded to their survey confirmed a direct interest in placing business in Europe and 40% confirmed an interest in Asia. UK, France and Germany were also identified as attracting a significant number of events in the last year.

AIBTM 2013

The combination of research, education and scheduled appointments at AIBTM 2013 certainly seemed like it generated new enthusiasm for the value of meetings in Chicago — where the Motivation Show historically served that role for the incentive travel industry.

AIBTM included one full day of dedicated educational sessions for corporate, association and agency planners that were shaped by industry leaders from PCMA, Site, IAEE, ACTE, ICCA and MPI — plus continuing education credits. This was followed by two days of scheduled meetings with destination trade show exhibitors from the U.S., North America and other destinations and hospitality suppliers from around the world.

Some key statistics for AIBTM 2013 include:

  • Hosted Buyer Acceptances are up 33% over 2012
  • 14,441 pre-scheduled appointments, a 20% increase over 2012
  • 51% of the hosted buyers attending the show are first time AIBTM attendees
  • Main stand holders up from 175 to 205 for a 17% increase over 2012
  • Total exhibitors went from 667 in 2012 to 707 in 2013 for a 6% increase
  • 2013 Hosted Buyers: 55% agency/3rd party; 22% corporate; 17% association; 1% government; 5% other
  • 165% increase in corporate buyers over 2012; 15% increase in incentive buyers over 2012
  • 30 hours of CEU-accredited education sessions

While the show was heavily focused on North American destinations, it was nice to see other global destinations there, such as Spain and Shanghai.

AIBTM 2014

Next year’s AIBTM show will take place in Orlando (June10-12, 2014) at the Orange County Convention Center, which is the second largest convention facility in the U.S. which hosts more than 200 events each year. Orlando is also recognized as a leading destination for conventions and meetings in the U.S. AIBTM is planning a two year rotational between each of these cities between now and 2016.

AIBTM was first established in 2011 and previously held in Baltimore, MD. Reed Exhibitions organizes AIBTM and other similar shows, including AIME (Australia), CIBTM (China), IBTM India, EIBTM (Europe) and Business Travel Market (UK), as well as other exhibitions in the travel and tourism industry.