EIBTM 2014 – Interview with Graeme Barnett (Senior Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions)

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Graeme Barnett, Senior Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions

With over 15,000 MICE industry professionals and over 3,100 international meeting suppliers attending EIBTM 2014, MICExchange had the opportunity to interview Mr Graeme Barnett, Senior Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions on what makes EIBTM such a key event.  During the interview, Graeme Barnett explained the importance of EIBTM, “ .. The fact that it is the last global industry event of the year and as such, it is a vital strategic component to our stakeholder’s business plans for the following 12 months and beyond.”  Graeme went on to say, “Research conducted following last year‭’‬s show indicated that‭ ‬98%‭ ‬of exhibitors overall agreed that the event was vital for their business and the estimated average order value for an exhibitor was‭ ‬€417,580.”‭

 The following is a transcript of the interview with Graeme Barnett in the leadup to EIBTM 2014.

Q  How has EIBTM been responding to the evolving face of the Meetings and Events industry?
(G Barnett)  EIBTM has to evolve, it has to be the pivot around which the industry connects, learns and does business, this requires us to keep creating, so that we reflect the issues, trends, opportunities that 15,000 industry professionals expect to see when they attend our event each year.  This year there is lots that’s new from our My Association | My Club initiative to the Innovation Zone where the cutting edge, very latest products and services are showcased, and, an education programme that delivers knowledge sessions on topical and relevant issues.  Plus perhaps of greatest significance to exhibitors is that this year, for the first time they will be given the ability to request additional appointments with Hosted Buyers of their choice. We are continually working to add value for each of our exhibitors attending the show and this new initiative has been implemented as a direct result of the feedback we’ve received from our exhibitors.

Q. Have you seen a change in Exhibitor profiles over say the last 5 years as global and regional development has altered the appeal of destinations?
(G Barnett)  The exhibitor profile at EIBTM obviously varies in line with the industry and is naturally affected by the shifting appeal of various meetings and incentives destinations. Every year we welcome new exhibitors but equally we have a core group of clients that return year on year.  The significance of the meetings industry as both a revenue generator and from the economic impact it has on a destination or city, means that there are few destinations who do not see the relevance or appeal of attending EIBTM, so we always see a good representation of destinations at the show.

Q. Recent surveys have indicated that there is a cautious optimism in the Meetings and Events industry, what evidence have you seen for this trend from the perspective of EIBTM?
(G Barnett)  We are really pleased with the number and quality of Hosted Buyer applications we have received this year, as well as the number of new exhibitors looking to attend our 2014 show. This consistent trend of strong attendance levels is clear evidence that EIBTM provides the ideal platform for the meetings industry and we regularly hear from our clients, that people are cautiously optimistic about the industry as we move beyond what were once, more challenging times.

Q. Studies have shown that the impact of meetings attendees on an economy can be enormous. In the UK alone, meetings contribute about £40 billion annually and support some 423,000 employees. What message should national decision makers take from these facts?
(G Barnett)  That the value of this industry contributes to employment, it accelerates growth – this year alone several new convention centres have been created and new convention bureaus, absolute proof that the value of winning meetings and events for a destination is vital in an increasingly competitive market environment.

Q. For an Exhibitor, how does EIBTM focus and bring new business opportunities and to promote their product?
(G Barnett)  EIBTM is about delivering quality business opportunities to all of the exhibitors attending the show and we achieve this successfully through the Hosted Buyer programme, which secures attendance of some 4,000 qualified Buyers each year.
We continue to work with Group Co-ordinators around the world to source these buyers who have proven budgets and plans for placing international business.  The Hosted Buyers have budgets that range from $1 – $10m and represent some of the world’s major global brands including American Express, Apple Inc., BMW, Deloitte, HelmsBriscoe, Kuoni Group, Procter & Gamble, Thomas Cook, Congrex, European Society of Cardiology, International News Media Association and many more.
It’s not all just about the pre-scheduled business appointments either. We offer a number of value added opportunities for our exhibitors to connect with these top-level buyers and conduct business, including dedicated networking events and the online portal where exhibitors have a profile and can upload white papers, press releases and general information all browsable by Hosted Buyers and trade visitors. This really allows exhibitors to improve their visibility ahead of the show and maximize their diary appointments.
That’s not all – For the first time exhibitors this year will now be able to request additional appointments with Hosted Buyers following the initial appointment match. Once logged in to their diaries exhibitors can browse Hosted Buyer profiles and select those that they would like to request a meeting with and the time at which they’d like to meet them. Hosted Buyers will have the option to accept or decline these additional appointments.
Research conducted following last year’s show indicated that 98% of exhibitors overall agreed that the event was vital for their business and the estimated average order value for an exhibitor was €417,580.  In addition to this, a further €388,693 of business was expected to be confirmed as a result of the show.

Q. The EIBTM Hosted Buyer Programme aims to bring qualified Buyers and Planners together with Suppliers.  How has EIBTM ensured the effectiveness of this important aspect of building business connections and actually doing business?
(G Barnett)  The Hosted Buyer Programme is based on quality, and demands that only the buyers with genuinely relevant business to place are selected to attend the show as part of the programme.  The strict criteria we set, preserves our unrivalled quality Buyer programme and ensures we go some way to safeguarding the effectiveness of business building.
This year some 90 new group co-ordinators have helped fill over 4,000 places. We have a year round job to seek out new faces and new Group Coordinators to help with the process. As part of the business development for the event, the team now has more than 400 Group Coordinators worldwide. We have seen a huge increase in new groups coming on board from Europe, with 57 signed up to date. Our team has also recruited an additional 33 long haul groups for the show this year.

Q. Based in Barcelona, EIBTM has a very European “home-base”, however exhibitors and visitors seem to have a very international cross mix of exhibitors and attendees.  How has EIBTM achieved this international flavour?
(G Barnett)  As the flagship event in the IBTM Event Portfolio, EIBTM has always been positioned as a global event and we’ve always looked to attract global exhibitors and buyers. There’s no doubt that the city of Barcelona plays a big part in attracting EIBTM’s participants, but as important is the fact that this is the last global industry event of the year and as such, it is a vital strategic component to our stakeholder’s business plans for the following 12 months and beyond.

Q. To meet the challenges facing the travel and meetings industry going into the future, how does an Event like EIBTM provide participants the forum to keep up to date with technology and opportunities?
(G Barnett)  Industry technology is probably one of the areas of the show floor that provides exponential growth, and EIBTM is considered to be one of the key forums to address the trends in a very significant way.  From the annual Technology Watch Award that this year attracted some 48 international entrants and was won by The Live Group for its innovative event mobile App, to the dynamic Innovation Zone where innovators and entrepreneurs with technological talent and ideas can showcase the future in action through live and interactive experiences.  Finally there is a Lecture Theatre on the show floor dedicated to the EIBTM Tech Hour where each day something new is presented and debated for the audience.

Q. How does EIBTM assist exhibitors in raising or maintaining their industry visibility and profile?
(G Barnett)  EIBTM is a must attend industry event for a huge amount of reasons, not least, the support it provides exhibitors when it comes to raising and maintaining their visibility and profile within the industry.
The show provides a global platform that exhibitors can harness and utilise, creating a clear association between themselves and the leading global event for the meetings, incentives, conferences, events and business travel industry.
EIBTM allows exhibitors to showcase their services to an audience of over 15,000 meetings industry professionals who are expected to attend the show in Barcelona as well as providing opportunities to jump on board with social media campaigns, Show Daily coverage, exhibitor catalogues and the official show preview, all of which, allow exhibitors to share updates and news with their target audience.
Onsite, there are also countless opportunities for exhibitors to get involved in networking events, press conferences, onsite advertising and events including the Meetings Leadership Summit. You can visit www.eibtm.com/Exhibit/Why-Exhibit for the full details – the list is endless.

Q. It has been a feature of EIBTM that Panel Discussions and Knowledge Programmes seem to be very popular.  How have these contributed to the success and effectiveness of the event?
(G Barnett)  The EIBTM Knowledge Programme provides a key platform for learning and discovery in the global meetings and events industry and as a result, it attracts a great deal of interest from not only all of the Hosted Buyers and Exhibitors at the show, but also from a number of Trade Visitors who attend solely for its content. People want to learn and discover what’s new in the industry and EIBTM provides the perfect place to do so.
The programme has been designed to ensure there’s something of relevance for everyone and all of the sessions; designed to cover key topics in the industry are extremely well attended. So in summary, the Knowledge Programme is a core factor in the success of the show as it provides an additional stream of critical content throughout the course of the three-day show. This year, the programme is going to be themed as well so everyone can see at a glance what subject is best suited for their business or career advancement. 

Q. As EIBTM evolves, what do you see as possible future trends that participants can look forward to?
(G Barnett)  Technology will definitely have an impact, the next generation of meeting planners will also influence the use and importance of social media in communications and of course the building of a year round international community will be a serious objective for us. 

Q. The EIBTM Meetings Leadership Summit provides a platform for meetings industry leaders to discus how to make their organisations more competitive in a changing business environment.  What has been the feedback to this high level event?
(G Barnett)  Feedback and response for this event have been very positive The second Summit has been re-designed and we have personally invited every guest to ensure it remains exclusive to the leaders of the Meetings and Events Industry.  The format will include an elegant drinks reception and buffet supper in the opulent surroundings of the converted Hospital de Sant Pau, as well as a unique and engaging networking opportunity. The highlight of the evening will be the main programme featuring an insightful and inspirational line-up of speakers and visionaries.

Q. Finally Graeme, as the Senior Exhibition Director of Reed Travel Exhibitions, what keeps you motivated about the future of the Meetings, Events and Travel industry?
(G Barnett)  The changes, the people, the new generation, the technology advances and the fact that EIBTM is the centre of the meetings universe for one week each year – the international aspect, the different cultures and that fact that 15,000 industry professionals come to Barcelona every year to achieve their business goals, is what keeps me motivated!

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