Q&A with Shane Hannam, IBTM portfolio director

Ahead of IBTM World, we sit down with Shane Hannam to find out what attendees can expect from this year’s event.

This year’s edition of IBTM World is around the corner, and as the industry gears up to make the annual pilgrimage to Barcelona (27-29 November) we sit down with IBTM’s newly appointed portfolio director, Shane Hannam, to find out what attendees can expect.

Four months into your new position as IBTM portfolio director, how are you working with Kerry Prince to reshape the role?
Since taking on the role of portfolio director in July, I’ve been working closely alongside Kerry to implement the strategy for the portfolio and working with our talented team to build on the success of last year’s IBTM World event in Barcelona.

I was also focused on recruiting a new exhibition director for our flagship event. I’m delighted that David Thompson has now joined the team and we’re working closely together as we reach the climax of the event cycle and continue to shape our strategy as we move forward.

What can buyers expect at this year’s IBTM World? Any new features?
While the focus remains on building business connections, this year technology is right at the heart of the event. Our new Exploratory Zone will be located at the centre of the show floor and will give delegates the chance to interact with the latest technologies and event solutions that will impact the events industry.

With exhibitors including food printing company 3DFoodlab; projection mapping wizards Skullmapping; flight simulators from Mach 3 Management; robot experts Robots of London; on-site event tech company Fielddrive and pioneering 360/VR company Surround Vision, the Zone will offer new and exciting ideas for enhancing the customer experience.

As part of the new Zone, we have introduced Tech Bar, run by Dahlia+ Agency. Tech Bar is a genius-bar style question and answer area staffed by technology experts who will run tech-focused and expert-led sessions to enhance technology skills; recommend apps designed to help busy professionals; review delegates’ social media and websites and check their LinkedIn profile to ensure they are being used to the best effect. There will also be bite-sized tech showcases dotted around the event floor.

This year we’ve enhanced our Knowledge Programme with an additional keynote speaker. The first keynote, Duncan Wardle, one of the primary creative forces behind The Walt Disney Company, will lead the innovation, technology and creativity streams of the Knowledge Programme with his session titled Think Different, which will explore how leveraging creative thinking can generate far reaching and unexpected business results.

The second, Dex Torricke-Barton, former head of communications at SpaceX, executive communications manager at Facebook and executive at Google, will present on the emergence of macro societal trends and the development of technologies such as virtual reality and live-streaming, to forecast how they could affect the meetings and events industry.

Finally, multi-award-winning millennial tech entrepreneur Charlotte Pearce, will draw on her background as CEO and founder of innovative technology platform, Inkpact, during her session entitled Humans of business; why connection matters, where she will explore methods in which businesses can connect to their customers in more thoughtful and personal ways.

Based on your knowledge of buyers who attend IBTM, what are buyers looking for when they attend industry events? 
Ultimately, Hosted Buyers are looking to connect with key industry suppliers to do great business whilst also having the opportunity to learn about new services and technologies that can help them continue to produce show-stopping events.

Last year, we conducted some deep-rooted customer research and immersed ourselves in Big Data. This allowed us to define our nine most prominent customer personas, along with what they need and want from us. We continue to use these personas to drive the changes we make so that we can satisfy each of their needs.

As a result of the research, we made some profound changes to the Hosted Buyer programme and it has produced excellent results, as evidenced by the record-breaking number and quality of meetings that took place last year. Our aim is to create flexibility and choice, so the Hosted Buyers’ experience of the show is personalised to their needs and so that exhibitors achieve a healthy return from their stand at the show.

How have you seen the meetings and events industry evolve?
By its very nature, our industry is dynamic and ever-evolving. From the emergence of new destinations onto the meetings and events map, to an increased focus on security, to new technologies, including facial recognition and holographic speakers, this is an industry that is constantly adapting to change. However, one thing remains the same – the importance of meeting face-to-face – reflected in the ongoing success of events such as IBTM World.

In the last few years we have seen a real resilience and confidence despite economic and geopolitical instability. There is significant optimism amongst meetings and events professionals as we continue to embrace new technologies and invest in staff, communications, knowledge and relationships.

In your opinion, what does it take to deliver ‘exceptional experiences’?
We’ve spent the last 30 years as the events industry’s trusted right-hand person, helping suppliers and event organisers from around the globe make the right connections, discover new technologies and learn about cutting-edge innovations. I believe they key to delivering ‘exceptional experiences’ is to listen to and understand what your customer wants and deliver this for them in a friendly, interactive and focused format.

IBTM has got every detail covered to ensure we help delegates deliver their own exceptional experiences, and with the addition of our new Exploratory Zone this year, we are confident that attendees will leave inspired to think outside the box when designing their own exceptional events.