©2017 Corbin Ball, Chair of the IBTM Technology & Innovation Watch Judging Committee

Established in 2000, The IBTM World Technology & Innovation Watch is the longest running and regarded by many as the most significant technology award for the meetings industry. The goals are to recognize technology innovation and to highlight significant trends impacting meeting planners, attendees and exhibitors at events.

Nine finalists in three categories (Audience Engagement, Logistics/Production and Management/Marketing) have just been selected.  The winner of each category and overall winner will be announced during IBTM in Barcelona on Wednesday 29 November 2017. Seven judges* with experience in the meetings industry and technology but not currently selling technology products scored the entries based on innovation, completeness of concept, and the value to the meetings industry.

Listed by technology category and then in alphabetical order, the companies selected highlight several paths of technology innovation.  Here are the finalists:

Audience Engagement Category:


This attendee management and matchmaking product offers some cutting-edge features such as facial recognition (via Zenus) and strong links to CRM and marketing automation systems. Data is collected from multiple sources (registration, mobile app integration, profiles, and other attendee actions) to provide attendees with matches, making it easy to discover and schedule onsite appointments.  The combination of these features was felt to be worthy of inclusion as a finalist.


This artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot allows attendees to text questions and

get answers wherever, whenever and on whatever device they choose, without the need to download an app or learn a new system.

This entry combines two hot event technology trends: chatbots and AI. Chatbots provide immediate answer to attendee questions in a familiar format: text – the most widely used feature on smartphones. AI helps to organize the system in an easier and less expensive manner.

SwarmWorks Ltd.

SwarmBox offers a wide range of applications for audience interactivity (surveys, problem-solving, feedback gathering, brainstorming, team quizzes). All results are available in real-time for projection and further processing. To ensure an always reliable connection, the SwarmBox uses its own built-in high-power Wi-Fi.

Logistics and Production Category:

Bizly, Inc.

Of the 1.8 million meetings held annually in the U.S. each year, small meetings (50 people or under) make a large percentage. These are often simple, 1-day events in a single room with basic AV and catering. However, hotels have often managed these meetings in the same way as with larger events – assigning a sales person and negotiating a contract. This costs time, labor and money for the hotel and the event planner.

Bizly seeks to change this. Bizly is an enterprise platform focused on helping employees source, book, and manage small meetings. It offers the combination of both hotel and restaurant event spaces in a format that looks very similar to AirBNB. Direct booking eliminates the need for RFPs with instant booking and chat-based ordering for custom events (i.e. sleeping rooms).  Automated contracting and compliance enables employees to book their own small events while staying within policy, driving critical data back to the company.

About 2,000 meeting venues are listed in about 50 U.S. metropolitan areas. There is a free package any planner can use as well as pricing for corporate and enterprise clients with additional capabilities.

Direct meeting space booking sites, often with alternative venues, is a significant emerging events tech trend.


This attendee management/travel/communication system allows for extensive audience segmentation. It includes a flight import tool (attendees can forward flight confirmation emails to the system and it will autopopulate and crosscheck with FlightStats for accuracy); a bulk hotel confirmation upload tool; venue and ground transportation crosscheck and more. When travel information is changed, a dynamic itinerary automatically adjusts adjacent info.

SharedXP Limited

This crowd sourcing and crowd voting platform for event professionals facilitates idea creation and connections between planners and attendees in the content planning stages of events. It also can be used on the day of an event for formats such as unconferences. Planners can crowd source a multitude of content types. An event page can be public or password protected enabling planners verify all contributions before publication.

Crowdsourcing is a significant general technology trend. The application to sourcing event content, although implemented on a proprietary basis in conferences such as SXSW, could add substantial benefit to the events community. 

Management and Marketing Category:


ConferencePulse, a sponsorship recruitment product, helps conference professionals secure sponsors, speakers, venues and conferences by providing sales and marketing intelligence. They have aggregated data on 20,000+ conferences, 1,000+ venues, 2,000+ sponsors, and 40,000+ speakers to provide a conference intelligence platform to assist in this process.

This product was felt by the judging committee to be unique in its offering using analytics and business intelligence to help guide planners in finding sponsors and speakers.


Kapow provides a direct booking tool in twenty-one U.S. cities focusing on the group activity. These include team building, in-store retail events, entertainment tickets, interactive F&B, cocktail receptions and dining experiences are among the thousands of unique experiences curated by event experts.

Although a number of direct event space booking tools have recently emerged, the differentiating feature is the focus on group experience and activities. Hosts can also use Kapow’s tools and reporting to understand the full economic impact that their show brings to a host city.  


This event influencer marketing product gives event planners a tool that allows them to amplify event reach through tapping into event influencers. Snöball generates unique, branded landing pages for each speaker, sponsor, exhibitor, and attendee, populated with their custom information to promote their participation at the event. This gives event professionals access to untapped potential participants and helps increase event brand awareness at scale.

This product tapping into social influencers is considered to be a unique take on event marketing.

Technology trends highlighted:

Technology categories were more evenly dispersed this year compared to past years. This was likely due to the creation of three overall submission categories (Audience Engagement, Logistics/Production and Management/Marketing). Mobile technology has typically lead the number of entries in past years, but this has been matched this year by event booking and polling/engagement tools. Here are the percentage breakdowns:


*The Judging Committee:
Corbin Ball, CEO, Corbin Ball and Co. (chair) 

Dahlia El Gazzar, Dahlia+

Julius Solaris, Event Managers Blog

Michelle Bruno, President, Bruno Group Signature Events

Padraic Gilligan, Managing Partner at SoolNua

Paul Hussey, Director, The Conference Doctor

Ruud Janssen, CMM, CEO, TNOC | The New Objective Collective 

About IBTM World  

ibtm world (formerly known as EIBTM) is the flagship event of the ibtm events portfolio with eight events across the globe and owned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, part of the Reed Elsevier Group. ibtm world is a leading global event for the meetings and events industry, held in the vibrant business and tourism destination of Barcelona. The three-day event delivers a focused business environment, thought provoking professional education and networking for Exhibitors, Hosted Buyers and Trade Visitors.

The unique Hosted Buyer Program sets ibtm world apart from other exhibitions, hosting over 4,000 top level decision makers who place international business, and facilitating over 78,000 one to one appointments between exhibitors and buyers.

This year’s show dates are 28-30 November 2017 in Barcelona. The Technology Watch Award winners will be announced on Wednesday 29 November.

Corbin Ball, CMP, CSP, DES is a speaker and independent third-party consultant focusing on meetings technology. With 20 years of experience running international citywide technology meetings, he now helps clients worldwide use technology to save time and improve productivity He can be contacted at his extensive web site Corbin Ball Associates - Meetings Technology Headquarters (www.corbinball.com) and followed at www.twitter.com/corbinball

Pin It

What The Audience Is Saying

  • Corbin, ALWAYS a homerun presentation of great info!
    Peter O’Brien Marriott Global Sales
  • Excellent session!! Best one I have attended at PCMA. Needed to be 2 hours! Bring it back in 2014.
    Marguerite Leishman Meetings Manager
  • "I've seen Corbin three times. No one works harder to keep his material fresh and relevant to events."
    Scott Stubbs President
    HB Stubbs Company
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3