AIBTM, The Americas, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition, is not only relocating to Chicago in 2013, it’s also adding new buyer-focused features, including concierges, express coaches, and a crowd-sourcing initiative to define the future of meetings.
The event runs June 11–13 at McCormick Place, the start of a four-year rotation between Chicago and Orlando. (For its first two years, AIBTM met in Baltimore.) The show’s hosted-buyer program gives meeting buyers the opportunity to set up pre-scheduled, one-to-one appointments with some 1,500 exhibitorsand receive complimentary travel and accommodations. About 1,000 hosted buyers are expected, along with another 1,000 trade buyers—those who either can’t accept free accommodations or are only attending the .
A key part of this year’s educational program will be a new initiative called “Defining the Future of Meetings … Together.” AIBTM will run focus groups and other interactive events at the conference to get attendee feedback on the future of the industry. Where are meetings and conventions headed? What trends are shaping the market? “We will merge all of the perspective and define the future of meetings together,” said Michael Lyons, who joined AIBTM as exhibition director last October. In the months after the meeting, AIBTM will compile the results and share them with the industry.
In addition to the new venue and the future of meetings project, here are some other twists for 2013:
• International exhibitor networking.Organizers have added new morning networking sessions for buyers who want to meet with exhibitors from Europe and Asia. The informal events will be held before the show floor opens on Wednesday and Thursday morning, June 12 and 13.
• Education on the floor.A 80-seat theater on the show floor will feature 20-minute presentations, giving buyers the opportunity to take in short educational sessions between exhibitor appointments.
• Show-floor concierges.Student ambassadors from Chicago-area universities will greet buyers when they come into the exhibit hall, escort them to their appointments, and answer questions.
• Express coaches.AIBTM will run express coaches from Wisconsin and Indianapolis, two areas that are buyer hotbeds, says Lyons. The busses will pick up the planners, bring them to Chicago, and then drive them home at the end of the day. Educational content will be provided during the trip.
Hosted-buyer applications are accepted based on a variety of factors, including the number and size of meetings, events, incentives, and annual conferences planned; individual purchasing authority; annual meeting budgets; amount of business conducted; and potential for future business.Buyers must participate in a minimum of eight appointments per day. To fill the hosted buyer program, AIBTM is working with its meetings industry partners—Professional Convention Management Association, Meeting Professionals International, International Association of Exhibitions and Events, SITE—as well as other sources, and buyers are vetted by a third party, explains Lyons. Applications are now being accepted online at AIBTM.com/register-today.