For the first time ever assuming a fully virtual form, this year’s edition of IBTM World has wrapped up. As is the case each year, Polish Tourism Organisation hosted the Polish national stand. According to organizer report Polish profile was the 3rd most viewed profile of IBTM World Virtual.
The Polish national stand (F118) showcased the offer of 16 convention bureaux, professional congress organisers (PCOs), professional destination management companies (DMCs), and congress venues, whose representatives took part in more than 260 online meetings during the three-day event staged on 8-10 December 2020.
According to official data supplied by its organisers, IBTM World Virtual has closed with nearly 13,000 business meetings and over 1,400 hours of live and on-demand educational content viewed on IBTM TV. The latter will remain available for two weeks after the event for everyone who registered to attend. Hopefully featuring an onsite component, IBTM World 2021 will take place in Barcelona from 30 November to 2 December 2021.
Poland’s virtual national stand was composed of individual profiles introducing every sub-exhibitor through graphics (including company logo and photos of delegates), overview, video, a presentation of available products with an option of directly accessing a dedicated website, as well as a marketing package for download. The main profile of Poland Convention Bureau of Polish Tourism Organisation additionally featured city graphics by Tytus Brzozowski. The list of showcased products included Poland Online Site Inspection, Safe MICE Venue, Poland Meetings and Events Industry Report, an IBTM World Virtual-dedicated edition of the THINK MICE magazine, and PLL LOT’s flight network for the forthcoming winter season. Visitors to the Polish national stand could navigate between the profiles of particular sub-exhibitors. Each company had a single representative acting as the host of its virtual stand, responsible for managing the meetings schedule and adding colleagues to conference calls whenever required. In addition, the drop-in feature was available to enable hosted buyers to take part in talks also outside of the meetings schedule.
“After IBTM World Virtual wrapped up, we asked our sub-exhibitors for feedback. The vast majority gave a positive assessment, emphasising that all meeting forms (virtual and onsite) that provide an opportunity to present their offer should be recognised as a method of promotion and a chance of securing events for Poland. The more than 260 meetings arranged during the virtual event is a highly promising result, although obviously in many cases we were left wanting more, as hosted buyers did not accept all invitations. Still, we should keep in mind that this type of things also happens during onsite events. While there were some technical issues connected with the quality of calls, the concierge-led support monitoring the timeliness of both clients and exhibitors was greatly appreciated. To reassume: the collective voice of our industry reassured us that investments in the tool (both financial and related to logistics and content) were profitable and provided a chance to confirm our readiness to work in the brand-new reality”, summed up Aneta Książek, Head of Poland Convention Bureau POT.
Below you will find several comments representing the perspective of delegates of cities, organisers and venues. Presented in alphabetical order, they evaluate the character of this year’s event and the process of its development and implementation:
- Convention Bureau – Wrocław
“Attending the exhibition in the form of an interactive platform was a novel and intriguing experience. While we had sufficient time to prepare for the event, we did not manage to secure all the hosted buyers invited to meetings. Still, thanks to the support of IBTM organisers, we got in touch with some of them after the event wrapped up. On a scale of 1 to 10, we give the exhibition a 9: among its highpoints, mention is also due to effective assistance of the so-called concierge team and the option of sending virtual business cards to visitors. However, we all miss traditional face-to-face meetings”, said Agnieszka Szymerowska, President, Convention Bureau-Wrocław
- ICE Kraków Congress Centre
Anna Fryc, Sales & Marketing Department, gave the following brief summary: “The system performed very well without any technical hiccups worth mentioning. On two occasions my calls were interrupted, but this was due to the network quality of the person I was talking with. Well-matched meeting attendants were a highpoint. Among the things that did not work, I need to mention that signing up for the knowledge programme automatically blocked your calendar and that majority of invitations were “suspended”, making it impossible to send successive meeting requests (buyers should simply reject a meeting they do not plan to attend, instead of ignoring it). In total, the ICE Kraków team took part in 20 meetings, including 5 in the ‘drop in’ formula”.
- Jan-Pol DMC Poland
“We took part in more than 20 pre-scheduled meetings. Unfortunately, the number of ad hoc meetings was definitely insufficient. The well-designed syste m of scheduling meetings passed the exam. While I certainly consider the exhibition to be successful, it will obviously not replace face-to-face meetings with business partners. The pre-scheduled meetings were highly substantive. In addition, an air of optimism was definitely palpable, most probably inspired by the first vaccinations administered in the United Kingdom. Sadly, many meetings were plagued with technical issues. We could not hear the clients or they could not hear us, forcing us to move to another platform”, Monika Bączek-Bochenek, Department Manager, Partner, Jan Pol DMC Poland
- Kraków Convention Bureau
“The exhibition was very well-organised, with registration launched in advance and diverse promotional materials available for upload to exhibitor’s profile. Sending invitations was intuitive and easy to repeat. We managed to take part in all the pre-scheduled meetings. There were no unplanned meetings, but several hosted buyers visited our stand in the standard formula to ask some questions and exchange business cards. From the perspective of a convention bureau, we were positively surprised to arrange so many talks with representatives of associations - close to 50% of all meetings. Importantly, 5 meetings related to the U.S. market. One of our potential partners was interested in the offer of medical tourism, whose professionalisation is prioritised by Kraków. To sum up, the meetings were highly substantive, the platform was professionally prepared from a technological perspective, and the help desk provided immediate assistance. The clients we talked with were highly engaged and positively responded to materials presenting the city and conference venues. From the viewpoint of an employee, online exhibitions are less costly and absorbing - they do not generate any delegation expenses and you do not have to spend additional days on travelling. On the other hand, we are well aware that face-to-face meetings, sharing experiences and industry contacts, all traditional highpoints of events such as IBTM World, are simply invaluable”, summed up Monika Popiołek, Kraków Convention Bureau
- Lubelskie Convention Bureau/Lubelskie Centrum Konferencyjne
“As this year’s virtual formula adopted by IBTM World differed from its earlier onsite editions, it called for a slightly updated approach to preparations. Lubelskie Convention Bureau attempted to take optimal advantage of the available tools developed by IBTM and enabling exhibitors to create their offer. The above-average number of talks we were involved in and the number of meetings initiated by hosted buyers testify to the success of these efforts. The quality of meetings did not differ significantly from the level of B2B meetings arranged a year or two years ago. Obviously, virtual talks will never replace their face-to-face counterparts, where we really establish and build relationships with clients. In comparison, a screen barrier affects virtual meetings. Nevertheless, the arranged meetings were very promising and hopefully will end in successful implementation of new projects. If the organisation of and/or involvement in onsite B2B exhibitions proves impossible, LCB will certainly take part in their virtual editions. However, we would need some emergency solutions, such as the creation or availability of an additional platform for online meetings (we sometimes spent half of our time on solving technical issues experienced by hosted buyers) or verifying the English level of attendees at the stage of registration or scheduling meetings. If I were to rate this year’s IBTM World, I would say I am very satisfied”, said Joanna Dera, Lubelskie Convention Bureau
- Mazurkas DMC Poland
“The virtual edition of the IBTM World exhibition was highly successful. We took part in many interesting talks, which enabled us to remain very optimistic about the future. While all of us are undoubtedly tired of online meetings, hunger for exhibitions and interest in what their partners are up to eventually convinced the participants to attend. With all hosted buyers logging in on time, we were able to take full advantage of assigned time slots. Most importantly, none of these meetings was accidental. The clients with already busy schedules were happy to share their contact data and use other communication channels. It is far too early to talk about concrete inquiries. Nevertheless, the meetings were intriguing and inspiring as they allowed us to discuss the latest trends that will become prominent in the nearest future when travel returns to normal. We also appreciate the logistics and technical support of the project, whose organisers were available 24/7 and immediately answered all queries. Our only question mark would be the drop-in meetings. Packed schedule prevented us from taking full advantage of the feature, but our sole attempt failed to identify available hosted buyers that would be interested in sessions of this kind”, said Marta Kicler, Business Development Director
- PolandPops Meetings & Incentives
“Overall, I consider the event to be highly successful. I have not come upon any so-called random participants, as was often the case in onsite meetings. Now that we know exactly what to expect, we can prepare ourselves even better. I would like to thank POT for this initiative and for giving us a chance to secure new clients in these highly challenging times. It provided us with actual support, not only enabling us to promote our own businesses, but also to stress Poland’s vibrant presence in the so-called international arena. Let us hope that things will be back to normal soon. This should be on the top of our wish list”, said Dorota Goetzen, Managing Director/Founder, PolandPops Meetings & Incentives
- Poznań Convention Bureau
“This year’s virtual formula of the IBTM World exhibition was a novel and good experience. During the discussed edition we took part in several pre-scheduled meetings and only 2 drop-in meetings. I am glad to say that meetings rejected due to an overpacked schedule were successfully transferred to LinkedIn and even postponed to the week after the exhibition. As is usually the case, the drop-in meetings were focused on sales, but still proved to be highly interesting and might successfully promote the presented tools. We are also highly satisfied with the pre-scheduled meetings, seeing their potential for continued cooperation in the future when working on events in Poznań. What we did not like was the fact that the exhibition’s system was divided into two sections: one with the exhibitor profile and one with the calendar and meeting requests. The structure was unclear and delayed the process of inviting guests to the stand. There were also problems with successive team members joining the system; not everyone was able to log in, not all e-mails were received. Still, the platform of calendar and online meetings operated effectively without causing any issues”, summed up Aleksander Rudawski, Poznań Convention Bureau, PLOT
- Trip Group
“While one-on-one meetings cannot be replaced with their online counterparts, the latter formula does provide us with new, different options. It is too early to say if they are in any way better, as we will need to wait a bit longer to verify the effects of virtual meetings. Personally, I believe they boast a major advantage in the form of the lack of any distractions, the buzz that accompanies meetings at onsite exhibitions. As for disadvantages, we do not rely on materials when taking part in talks and not enough of us have the time to look up an exhibitor’s profile when preparing for a meeting. From the technical viewpoint, reminders sent by the logistics organiser are a first-rate solution. The option of listening to lectures and meetings of experts and industry professionals at a convenient time is also highly welcome. In addition to the obvious lack of face-to-face meetings, the list of downsides includes the fact that by involving participants from various time zones, some sessions are held throughout the whole day, which does not happen during traditional meetings”, said Wioletta Kadziszewska, Event Manager, Trip Group
- Travel Projekt DMC
“We can definitely say that the IBTM World Virtual exhibition was an intriguing experience. What is more, its virtual formula has proven well-matched to our expectations. We appreciated the preparation process and the appointment system, which enabled us to set up 24 meetings, out of which only 2 did not happen for fully justified reasons. Unfortunately, we were not involved in ad-hoc meetings and the knowledge programme. The quality of meetings was more than satisfactory, with everyone interested in Poland as a host destination for their future projects, inspired by its proximity, a sense of safety, superb infrastructure and diverse programme options. Due to the current pandemic, many clients that earlier did not include Poland in their portfolio are now planning to make it a part of their offer. If IBTM is still going to need an on online formula next year, we will be happy to attend. Still, in our opinion virtual meetings will not fully replace face-to-face meetings and their invaluable networking options”, said Joanna Montenarh, Managing Partner, Travel Projekt DMC Poland
- Warsaw Convention Bureau
“With IBTM World Virtual now over, our final opinion is that the exhibition was not particularly successful. Not enough buyers (737 on the afternoon of 10 December 2020), imprecise appointment system instructions - all of this draws a rather unfavourable picture. To make the situation worse, the system was not prepared for the option of sharing a virtual stand. In addition, we could not initiate drop-in meetings, which eventually made their overall number and quality unsatisfactory. Still, we do not believe that it is the event’s formula that is to blame. All buyers agreed that the situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic effectively blocks the decision-making process of end clients. It is difficult to discuss production of events in uncertain conditions when we are facing potentially compulsory quarantine and, most of all, when the health of participants might be at risk. On the other hand, we are very satisfied with the high-level concierge services. The organisers precisely monitored the course and punctuality of particular meetings. If needed, they requested participants to hurry up and used text messages and e-mails to remind about upcoming sessions. We are looking forward to updates about successive industry events and their format, wishing for the quickest possible recovery of the global situation”, summed up Marek Skowerski of Warsaw Convention Bureau WOT.
Aimed at supporting the meetings industry in rebuilding the demand for meetings and events hosted by Poland, Polish Tourism Organisation prepared a special offer for exhibitors interested in becoming involved in the online Polish national stand at IBTM World Virtual. Regardless of the formula they will adopt, POT is planning to arrange similar offers for exhibitions planned for 2021.
Recommended reading: Polish industry at IBTM World Virtual