by Deanna Ting | April 06, 2015
This is a big year for IBTM America, formerly known as AIBTM. After following a more traditional trade show format with a smaller hosted buyer program for the past three years, the Reed Exhibitions show is adopting a completely hosted-buyer format for 2015 with a 1:1 ratio of buyers and suppliers.

The 2015 installment is set to take place from June 9 to 11 in Chicago at the Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place. Newly appointed IBTM America Event Director Jaime McAuley, who took the reigns from former event director Michael J. Lyons's departure last August, says she is eager to debut the new show format, as well as make good on this year's convention theme, "Connections mean everything."

Why change the show's format this year? McAuley told Successful Meetings, "the No. 1 reason for the transformation" came from feedback from both buyers and suppliers. "We had all these focus groups with suppliers, and they told us that business appointments and the quality of the hosted buyers in attendance were the most important things to them when it came to our show," she says. "This is a big year for us. We want to make sure the show is a success and that the experience is great."

McAuley is also confident that IBTM America will continue to set itself apart from other meeting industry trade shows. "Our show is unique because we have that 1:1 ratio - the same number of buyers as suppliers. We want to build on that community, and we feel like we're unique in that sense to other shows. The new format is more intimate."

She added, "The purpose of our show it so make as many business connections as possible for our attendees. Our new format allows for that; it's perfect for that. That's our No. 1 goal."

When asked about the strength and viability of Reed's IBTM portfolio, too, McAuley said that the portfolio, in general, is "trying to have our footprint all over the world. We just bought a show in Mexico (ICOMEX Mexico), and we want to expand ourselves globally and focus on up and coming markets and regions," she noted.

So far, McAuley noted, the numbers for this year's IBTM America are "on track." "We're tracking according to target."

In addition to IBTM America's entirely hosted-buyer style format for 2015, here are a few other things planners can expect at this year's show:

Meeting Pods

All of this year's exhibitors will be given the same "meeting pod" inside which they will meet with planners. Each supplier will have 30 scheduled appointments with 30 different hosted buyers for each day at their appointed meeting pods.
"It's an all-inclusive package for suppliers," McAuley explained. "Every supplier has the same meeting pod, but it'll be branded with that exhibitor's artwork. The pod includes shipping, appointments with hosted buyers, staff badges, Internet access, and more. It's more of a hassle-free experience for them."

Community Connections

"Although there are set times scheduled for the appointments, suppliers and buyers will have many opportunities where they will get to meet and connect with each other," McAuley added.

Creating a sense of community, she said, is one of the main objectives for this year's show. "Buyers and exhibitors will be on similar rotations, and we want to establish more touch point between them, and give them more opportunities to make connections." Those opportunities include join education sessions, breaks, and the new Connect Zone, an area that will be in the center of the show floor where people can go and network, relax, and participate in some sessions.

"The Connect Zone will be the hub of our show floor," said McAuley. "We'll also have Dress for Success there, asking for donations from the attendees, and there will also be a wellness section and a headshot station. We understand that back-to-back appointments can be strenuous, and we want to have that community building opportunity in an informal setting like the Connect Zone."

Education From SITE, PCMA, and Meetings Mean Business

IBTM America is partnering with the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA), SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence), and Meetings Mean Business to provide education for this year's show. "Most of the education sessions will take place on Tuesday [June 9]," said McAuley. She said there will be sessions covering such topics as big data, making connections, and meeting technology.

Don't Expect to Be Back in Chicago in 2016

McAuley says that the extensive focus group sessions conducted by IBTM America also found that respondents were "unanimous" about wanting the show to rotate every year. The location for the 2016 IBTM America show will be announced on site in Chicago in June.