by Michael J. Shapiro | March 10, 2016
IBTM America 2016, which takes place June 15-17 in Nashville, will feature an agenda that focuses more heavily on networking than in the past. In its second year since eliminating the trade show and debuting a more streamlined, one-to-one buyer-supplier format, show organizers have opted to move the event to the Gaylord Opryland, where lodging and meetings will be consolidated into the same venue. "All of our attendees will be staying at the Gaylord," noted event director Jaime McAuley. "This is really designed to create a community. We can work together, network together, sit at the bar together - so there are more informal opportunities to network, not just on the show floor."
This is the first year IBTM America will not have multiple-property hotel blocks. In 2015, the event took place at Chicago's McCormick Place. "We were contained in a section of McCormick West, so we weren't spread out there," noted McAuley, "but the challenge was having all of the exhibitors and buyers at various hotels and busing them in. It didn't give them a lot of time outside of the show to network. Whereas this year, they can network morning, noon and night, all at the same hotel."

Surveyed planners voted overwhelmingly to rotate the IBTM America event rather than find a permanent home, added McAuley, and there was a great deal of enthusiasm to hold the event in Nashville. The host city will play a greater part in the program as well, as organizers are expanding Discovery Day to expose attendees to a greater range of city sites, as well as incorporating the Music City theme into networking activities. The appointments this year will be condensed into the second and third day of the conference, leaving the first open for Nashville experiences. After the kickoff networking luncheon, all attendees will be brought downtown to see the city and learn about developments of interest to planners. 

For the appointments themselves, the show is debuting a new 100-percent mutual-match platform. Meetings will be scheduled only between parties who have indicated they wanted to meet with the other, or who have approved a direct invitation. "There's not going to be one appointment that wasn't mutually agreed upon," noted McAuley. "This is a big change, to make sure every appointment is completely relevant to both parties."

Lastly, this year's event will debut the Central Hub, a redesign of last year's Connect Zone. "Buyers have told us they really want to learn about technology," said McAuley. "So we wanted to create an area on the show floor where they could experience and demo new technologies." Exhibitors will get individual pods for the show for holding their appointments; in that same hall there will be a stage for tech demonstrations, as well as a startup area called the Tech Collective, for which show organizers are collaborating with event-technology consultant Dahlia El Gazzar and her company, Dahlia+. Planners will be able to visit the kiosks during their appointment breaks, and a top innovation will be selected from among all the startups before the show closes.

Show details are available here.