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Meeting Professionals Across the Globe Show Unity at ibtm world

ibtm world

Photo courtesy of ibtm world

Six weeks ago, meeting and event industry leaders mostly from throughout the U.S. gathered at IMEX America in Las Vegas to show support for the importance of face-to-face meetings in the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

This week at ibtm world in Barcelona, meeting and event industry leaders from around the world, including Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, the world’s largest association for event and conference planners and suppliers, will come together to again emphasize the power of face to face in a city that has been beleaguered by terrorist attacks and political upheaval.

Safety and security, the top industry issue and concern, will be showcased this week when nearly 15,000 attendees gather for the 30th anniversary ibtm world at the Fira Gran Via Barcelona, one of the largest and most modern conference centers in Europe.

More than 40 speakers are scheduled, including Dame Stella Rimington, author and the first female director general of MI5, the United Kingdom Security Service, and Yancey Strickler, co-founder and CEO of crowdfunding website Kickstarter.

Rimington, who spent 27 years in the security service, will focus her presentation on her work in counter-subversion, counter-espionage and counter-terrorism, as well as the industry’s outlook on safety and security.

“Given the current climate, safety and security is a topic being discussed often, and we know from our customer research that it is a subject about which there is huge appetite from our attendees to learn more,” said Kerry Prince, portfolio director at ibtm. “We’re delighted to be fulfilling that appetite by having someone of Dame Stella’s caliber providing what will be some truly invaluable insights and learnings that our customers can take away and apply in their own businesses.

“I used to work on Reed’s Information Security portfolio, and Dame Stella spoke at one of these events earlier in the year. The feedback was incredible. It was great to get a perspective [on safety and security issues] over time, how threats have changed and how to respond. She gives a holistic viewpoint.”

Rimington’s presentation will be timely given recent events in Barcelona. The city, along with Madrid, consistently ranks among the top destinations for meetings and events in the world.

Nearly 50 million tourists visit Spain each year. The country’s renowned conference facilities, more than 16,000 hotels, relatively easy access through 30 international airports, Europe’s largest high-speed rail network and the ability to incorporate history, culture and exquisite food and beverage help attract a range of corporate, association and incentive meeting and event business.

But in August, a terrorist drove a van into pedestrians on the famed La Rambla in the heart of the Barcelona, killing 13 people and injuring at least 130, one of whom later died. Then in October, protests erupted in Barcelona in the biggest political upheaval in Spain since its return to democracy in the 1970s. At issue was the Catalan parliament’s approval of a unilateral declaration of independence from Spain. This week during ibtm world, taxi drivers go on strike in Barcelona over the emergence of Uber and Cabify.

Meeting and event professionals were concerned about the potential negative impact to the industry in Spain.

Angeles Moreno, president of the MPI Spain Chapter, issued a statement saying that “after the latest happenings occurred in Catalonia, the Board of Directors of MPI Spain want to communicate that we are in constant contact with our members and it is very important for us to transmit that all the professionals that belong to our community (over 125 members) are working with total normality and executing their activity as usual. We are enjoying a very pleasant and active season in Spain where all our members are in continuous success and in general, they haven’t been professionally affected. Life in our sector goes on with complete calm.”

Van Deventer also issued a statement in support of the Spain chapter.

“Recognizing the current political environment in Spain, we are pleased to report via the MPI Spain Chapter that the country’s meeting and event industry has not been negatively impacted and is open for business. In fact, several members of the MPI Global Team and I will travel to Barcelona at the end of the month for ibtm world, and we look forward to connecting with our members and partners in the region.”

The ibtm world gathering this week begins Monday night with the Meetings Leadership Summit at Gran Teatre del Liceu, which is on Las Ramblas.

“We think it is important to keep the mindset of ‘business as usual.’ Part of our job is to display the destination in its best light,” Prince said. “We’ve run ibtm world for the last 13 years and have very strong relationships with the convention bureau, venue and emergency services in Barcelona. We update each other regularly. We have risk assessment plans that are constantly updated. The safety and security of participants is the most important thing.”

MPI’s chapter leaders in Europe will meet Monday for a chapter leader forum and MPI will be conducting education sessions each day at ibtm world (Stand K89) on such topics as Meetings Outlook, A Deep Dive into the Latest Industry Trends; #Event Canvas: Your Map to Extraordinary Events; How Meeting Planners Can Change the World; Measuring the ROI of Learning; and a Supplier Meet-up with Ciara Feeley. There will be a networking event at the MPI stand on Tuesday and the MPI Foundation will host Rendezvous on Wednesday, with all proceeds to support Europe’s meeting and event industry through scholarships, grants and research. Go to for a complete listing of all MPI events.

The ibtm world event will bring the industry together again at yet another important moment, this time in another city striving to show that face-to face-meetings must continue.

More than 40 speakers are scheduled at ibtm world to address such topics as doing business in China, the art of storytelling through events, the use of psychology in creating engaging events and how to develop a global sustainability strategy. Key speakers include Donald Hyslop, chair of the board of trustees, Borough Market; Robert Loeschke and Dominic Marder, global business development, American Express Meetings & Events; Nadine Vienne, corporate events section manager at Nissan; Lenny Talarico, executive director of events, MGM Resorts Event Production; and Roger Haskett, artistic director, Engagement Unlimited.

“We are thrilled to have a roster of such high-caliber speakers lined up to talk at this year’s ibtm world,” Prince said. “We’ve designed this year’s Knowledge Programme very carefully, to cover a broad range of topics that we know will be of real interest to our attendees, and always with the aim of delivering added value and to enrich their experience of attending ibtm world.”

About the Author

Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.