Graeme Barnett, Senior Exhibition Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions is not only responsible for ibtm world Barcelona, but also AIME Melbourne and ibtm Latin America in Mexico and has been traveling to support the local teams and is now gearing up for the flagship event ibtm world in Barcelona. During his busy schedule, MICExchange spoke at length about how ibtm world evolved and adapted its events according to the needs of exhibitors and attendees to its flagship trade show. Mr Barnett also explored how the MICE industry played a role in shaping local and regional development though the growth of business events and employment.
Graeme Barnett of IBTM World discusses MICE Business Event Economic Impacts and Trends – Interview Excerpt
Speaking from the London Head office by SKYPE Mr Graeme Barnett responded to MICExchange when asked – How ibtm world uses its event feedback to improve the attendee and exhibitors experience. Mr Barnett responded by explaining -”We continually look to evolve the exhibition whether through experience, business opportunities and engagement for our exhibitors and buyers. Our post show surveys and focus groups try and get richer and deeper insight, for instance we have focus groups on the association sector and corporate sectors. The experience of the event is becoming much more important, and people take it for granted that when you are delivering a show with the name of Reed Exhibitions attached to it – people assume that you are going to deliver in terms of business.” “But, it is more about the experience, where the look and feel [and] the journey experience has to be good, from the time our hosted buyers leave their own destination until they return. For instance, we brought the Education sessions down to the show floor which was a themed knowledge hub and that came directly from feedback.”
Mr Barnett was asked – Was it a balancing act it was to meet the expectations of exhibitors and attendees – “Absolutely – exhibitors want to see as many relevant hosted buyers – we try to manage 50% of a Hosted Buyers time and that means they have half their time available for learning and education, peer-to-peer networking or sourcing other exhibitors. There is a balance in providing the right amount of time for formal business appointments and allowing them to discover and manage their own time.”
MICExchange asked Mr Barnett – How does ibtm world balance the human need for business interaction and balance the rising trend of technological innovation within the meetings and events industry. “Of course it as to be about business, but it’s also got to be about other things – people go to trade shows like ibtm world where you have an industry community of some 15,000 people, where you want people to have the opportunity to meet, and we try to encourage that through informal and formal networking events. Again, it’s a balancing act for Exhibitors and Hosted Buyers, so it’s more about a flexible approach rather than – you have to be on this or that program – and thanks for coming see you next year.”
When asked – What is ibtmworld doing to ensure exhibitors get value – Before, During and After the event. Mr Barnett explained, “One of the things we introduced that has been very successful has been our Concierge Service – so what we have is a customer relationship team that is a central function here at Reeds that is a Single Point of Contact – a SPOC for main stand holders, so they have access to a single person that can lead them through the important process of pre-planning until the trade show itself. The service includes every possible assistance from how stands work, appointment processes, hotels and travel to maximize their investment.”
“The SPOC contact on-site is responsible from the minute they arrive until they depart to ensure that their experience is as seamless as possible.”
MICExchange then explores some of the aspects of how ibtm world creates value for clients and we asked Mr Barnett – is Value winning over Experience or is it a tie?
“That’s a good question – you want to ensure that customers are getting value but also having a good experience. Our mantra revolves around a balance between the rational “Head” needs for ROI etc and the “heart” that invokes the emotional experience, so is it an enjoyable experience? You cannot afford to ignore one over the other – from my perspective you have to put equal effort into both.”
Mr Barnett responded to our question on whether – The meetings and events industry can play a significant role in providing an economic boost to local economies. What can government and policy makers do to boost confidence in local business meetings – for instance support destinations at Expos etc? “The function of a trade show is not just about immediate business gains. As a market leading trade show, one of the things you do is bring your community together and it is a forum for discussion as to where it[MICE industry] is going. For ibtm world, it certainly enables peer-to-peer networking and conversation about the economic importance of our whole industry sector. While it is still a bit mixed up with the tourism industry – some studies from the UNWTO have been looking at picking the value of the meetings sector out of general tourism with some success. The more politicians can [understand] that [business] driven by national/regional/city convention bureaus for instance, adds more power to the argument for investment in infrastructure like hotels, airports to support the meetings industry.”
“The biggest example is the Olympic Games where national tourism strategies are built around not only winning the games [bid] but also the legacy afterwards. For example, the Beijing Games was a central part of the central tourism strategy for China and if you look at the impact and the infrastructure that created – hotels, venues and the growth of international [airline] routes into Beijing – so the more governments can understand the economic power of what this industry has to offer, and the more money will be invested which then has a local impact on jobs and economies.”
We asked – if governmental policymakers used the opportunity of trade shows such as ibtm world, and Mr Barnett responded, “When we have a senior figure from government that comes to the show, and they want to see how they[the destination] fits into the global puzzle – they begin to see not only the local city level but the global context along with the competition between global destinations. You can imagine the conversations that hopefully happen when those policy makes go back to their offices and ask the question – How do we raise our game to win more business?”
When asked how much of an impact the MICE industry has on affecting growth and change, Mr Barnett noted, “When you look at the total number of people engaged in the meeting industry – that is one set of numbers. But the MICE industry merges with the hospitality industry so that our industry employs vast numbers of staff. Our industry overlaps and touches many other sectors and I am not sure we have yet made all the links to all those other bodies and sectors. Trade shows like ibtm world have a role to play in getting that message out there and getting policy makers and decision makers together to drive that debate.”
“For example in the transport industry – How do our delegates and attendees get around? It takes thousands of people doing what they do well, to enable us to do what we do what we do – if one of those pieces go wrong our events don’t function.”
MICExchange asked Mr Barnett – Do you see growing evidence that the meeting industry is increasingly regionally focused rather than seeking value opportunities further afield. “There is no doubt that people have been spending money more locally and regionally – the idea of incentive programs was cut short. But the word “incentive” is now coming back into vogue and people are booking incentives again. Meeting planners have looked locally for value but at the same time they still meed a memorability factor.” “While it[MICE Business Events] has been regionally focused, as the global economy flattens out, I expect that over the next 5 years it is going to take on a more global again.”
Mr Barnett responded to the question – With growing technological advances and the human “need” for face to face networking, do you see a likelihood of more integration of technology in meetings and events or new forms alongside traditional networking.
“Certainly we have seen technology become more integrated within the face-to face environment. [New] technology is impacting on our everyday lives and that will be incorporated into the world of meetings and events and we have to get used to it and get value out of it. To me its about what can the technology offer how can it supplement and add value to the face-to-face element of engagement and what doe it mean to the end user.”
Mr Barnett went on to explain – “We have content and education teams here and there role is to understand how do people want to learn, meet and engage – for example our Knowledge Village – people have different ways they want to learn so it’s about creating different learning environments. Our appointment match system uses technology to improve our ability to match the right buyers to the right sellers and the complexity is huge but it’s the investment in technology we have to make to ensure we are delivering the right appointments using technology.”
In conclusion, Me Barnett commented – “At the end of the day this is what we do – We bring people together! But it is becoming more about relevance of those interconnections.” “Trade shows are becoming more experiential and there is an element I would like to see a start to plan and deliver some of those wonderful experience we see in events into the trade shows – we are working on to make the show more successful, hopefully greater diversity in suppliers with a more diverse range of Hosted Buyers on the show floor – Finally, I would like to see us extending our community and making our industry even more proud of what we do.”