AIBTM, The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exposition moved to Chicago in June, after spending two years in Baltimore. The change in venue and additional education for meeting professionals helped to improve its buying audience, both hosted buyers and “trade” visitors (those who pay their own way to come).

Officials said some 1,000 hosted buyers attended this year’s show and conference, roughly a 30 percent increase over last year. Hosted buyers receive free air, accommodations, and airport transfers based on their commitment to meet with at least eight suppliers a day during the trade show, which took place after the education day, on Wednesday and Thursday.

Tuesday kicked off Americas Meetings Week with this year’s theme of "Defining the Future of Meetings… Together." Keynoter J. Walker Smith, an analyst on U.S. consumer trends, talked about the “kinship economy,” which resonated with those who make their living managing face-to-face meetings.

Some 35 sessions and workshops were offered on Tuesday, including breakouts on the art of social networking for your career, the role that colorful nutrient-dense food plays in helping the body and brain thrive, and the newest trends in event management technology.

AIBTM officials report that more than 3,700 people—buyers and exhibitors—attended Education Day, were supported by the industry's associations. Attendees had the opportunity to earn more than 30 CEU clock hours toward their Certified Meeting Professional designation. In addition to the increase in buyers, AIBTM reports it attracted more than 50 new exhibitors, for a total of 707 exhibitors, making the show its largest to date. The pre-scheduled appointment system also hit new highs, with some 15,000 business meetings taking place between hosted buyers and exhibitors.

Michael Lyons, AIBTM exhibition director, said, “AIBTM has combined business with a whole range of new industry talking points that affect us, from brain food to neuro-marketing, future events experiences to meeting design, social engagement and content marketing to the collision of the generation gap. The interaction of our debates, education sessions, and crowd sourcing has given us insight into how we will build on the theme of ‘Defining the Future of Meetings… Together,’ when we take AIBTM to Orlando next year.”

Next year’s AIBTM will be held June 10–12 at the Orange County Convention Center.