IBTM World 2021 Reunited the Events Industry In Barcelona

December 14, 2021

As the first face-to-face IBTM portfolio event to take place in two years, IBTM World once again succeeded in reuniting the global meeting, incentives, conference and events industry in Barcelona, Spain. Held Nov. 30–Dec. 2 at Fira de Barcelona, the annual industry event attracted more than 7,000 attendees, who participated in more than 30,000 pre-scheduled, one-to-one business meetings, as well as a slew of networking and premium education opportunities.

“This has been an incredibly rewarding three days, and it has been amazing to see people reconnect after so long apart,” said David Thompson, IBTM World event director. “For many, this may have been the first event they’ve attended in two years, and it’s fantastic that we were able to play our part in bringing the industry together again.”

He continued, “The whole team has worked exceptionally hard to make this event a success in quite challenging circumstances, and I’m so proud of what we have achieved. Stepping away from our screens and enjoying some face-to-face interaction, inspirational education sessions and one-to-one business meetings has been wonderful.”

More than 1,200 exhibiting companies from 70 countries attended IBTM’s flagship trade show and conference, including the CVBs of Germany, Dubai, Istanbul, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Croatia and Norway, as well as Atout France, Meet in Ireland, Turespana Convention Bureau (Spain), Hilton, Titanic Hotels, Hyatt and GL Events. Many hailed the show as a positive experience.

“The fact that everyone’s here proves how much we’ve been longing to come back together for in-person events,” said Nick Tinker, sales manager at Event Solutions, Cvent. “Also, the quality of meetings this year has been fantastic. The footfall has been lower than previous editions, which is expected, but that’s allowed us to have higher quality meetings, have more time to build relationships and make new connections. This has also meant that buyers did make an effort to speak with as many exhibitors and make the most of their attendance.”

According to IBTM officials, of the more than 1,400 high-quality hosted buyers from 72 countries who participated in the show, almost half were completely new to the IBTM portfolio, representing more opportunities for exhibitors to find new prospects. 

Delegates from big-name global agencies, corporations and associations were also in attendance, including HelmsBriscoe, HPN Global, First Incentive Travel, HPN Global–World, Citigroup Inc, Pfizer, Michelin and General Motors, to name just a few. 

IBTM World 2021

In keeping with past years, innovative and targeted learning opportunities abounded at the show, including specially curated education streams for association and corporate buyers, as well as sessions as part of IBTM Accelerate, which offered attendees an interactive experience showcasing solutions, applications and technologies on specific meetings and events industry challenges.

Designed to provide tangible learnings and innovative solutions for attendees in a post-pandemic world, a schedule of inspirational educational sessions under the theme of “New Business, New Tech, New World” revolved around four topical themes (trends and technology; gamification and engagement; the future of event planning; and career and personal development) and were delivered by expert speakers from the United Nations Climate Change, LinkedIn, CrowdComms, VisitScotland, BBC Creative and more.

New to IBTM’s educational programming this year was the Association Program, created with the support of the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE); American Society of Association Executives (ASAE); African Society of Association Executives (AfSAE) and Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO), along with the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Designed to spark fresh ideas, encourage peer-to-peer learning and sharing of best practices, and help deliver tangible solutions to real issues facing the associations and events sector, the program followed three core themes: inspire, exchange and solve. 

Additionally, IBTM’s Elite Corporate Program, supported by American Express Meetings & Events, explored key insights specifically focused on the needs of corporate hosted buyers, with themes including the future of the meetings experience, restarting events and evaluating their success, and peer-to-peer learning and insights. 

On the first day of the show, the IBTM World Trends Watch Report, one of the industry’s most comprehensive and far-reaching studies on the future of meetings and events, was presented by Alistair Turner, managing director at EIGHT PR & Marketing, and touched on key trends affecting the industry, from the micro to the macro, looking at the differences in global regions and investigating the role of vertical markets. 

Inspiring keynotes were also a big highlight of the event. Kicking off the program, Alba del Villa Olano, an expert in digital transformation and a serial entrepreneur, encouraged attendees to take the fear out of digitalization and how to use this as a tool to grow the reach and impact of their events. On day two, Gian Power, founder and CEO of TLC Lions, inspired attendees to use the power of storytelling to grow their businesses, while on day three, Dr. Darren Coleman, a brand strategy and experience specialist, outlined how event organizers can win through the power of experiences.

The highly anticipated Stand Awards returned to IBTM World this year with Discover Moscow winning for Best Large Stand, Beon Worldwide taking home the Best Small Stand award, and Barcelona Convention Bureau receiving the Best Stand Personnel award.

IBTM World 2021

IBTM’s technological amenities also exceeded expectations, with the IBTM World app celebrating its best year ever with more than 3,600 downloads, more than 142,000 page views and a 60% adoption rate among hosted buyers. Meanwhile, nearly 900 exhibitors representing 71% of all exhibitors took advantage of Emperia IBTM’s digital business card exchange system, resulting in the exchange of 20,000 digital business cards. 

All attendees were required to follow a comprehensive range of health and safety guidelines and practices during the show, including showing proof of COVID-19 status to enter and wearing masks. As an added layer of security, hosted buyers received complimentary medical insurance, and all visitors were able to purchase PCR testing if needed.  

As an enhancement to the in-person show in Barcelona, IBTM World Online is taking place Dec. 14-15. Designed by Sector Global, the event technology and management agency that delivered IBTM World Virtual in 2020, the interactive platform will allow digital exhibitors, hosted buyers and visitors the chance to network and do business with some of the world’s leading suppliers, buyers and destinations. 

Along with pre-event matchmaking, one-to-one video meetings between buyers and suppliers, enhanced exhibitor directories and an exhibitor zone, the digital show features a full schedule of on-demand educational content, including the complete IBTM World Barcelona Knowledge Program consisting of more than 65 sessions from leading industry experts. 

Additionally, hosted buyers will benefit from dedicated content tailored specifically for them with elements from the Association Program, The Elite Corporate Program and IBTM Accelerate available on demand.

“We believe the best way to experience IBTM World is to be there in person, to maximize the many opportunities available at the live event, and to meet and connect with exhibitors and colleagues,” said David Thompson, IBTM World event director. “However, we do understand that some people may be unable to travel, especially those from longer-haul destinations, so we have evolved our offering in line with the new business landscape to better meet the needs of all our customers. Combining online as part of the mix allows our community the opportunity to engage with new markets and offer additional flexibility and extra layers of engagement.”

IBTM World will return to Fira de Barcelona Nov. 29–Dec. 1, 2022.


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