A Beginners’ Guide to surviving the IBC Exhibition
IBC is the world’s second largest broadcast trade exhibition, and it happens in Amsterdam each September.
The event features a huge trade fair alongside a conference.
I’ve been going to the trade show part for the last few years. It’s a lot of fun, but there are some things it’s useful to know before you go. Here’s a few tips I have picked up – if you have more to add, please add a comment below.
Wear comfortable shoes
I’m putting this first, because it’s the most important piece of advice. The IBC site is huge. You will be walking miles each day. If you are on a trade stand, you will walk a long way and then be standing up a lot. Bring more than one pair of shoes. Alternate them between days. Your feet will thank me!
The trade show is free; the conference costs
I’ve never been to the conference part, but you can get a free pass to the exhibition (trade fair) so long as you register in advance (the deadline is usually late August). If you are coming at the last minute, there is a small fee BUT many of the exhibitors have guest passes, so it’s worth getting in touch with a few friendly suppliers to see if they have got any exhibition passes left.
You can get a free tram pass
I didn’t know this the first year, and ended up buying a pass of my own.
You can get ‘GVB’ pass, which allows travel on the trams, metro and buses, from the IBC information stands at the venue. There is also an IBC information stand at the airport, which is worth seeking out in case they have any passes left. The pass doesn’t cover the train between the airport and the exhibition centre, and is only valid for the days when IBC is on. It will still save you a few pennies, however!
There is a free shuttle bus to the venue
IBC lays on free shuttle buses between the airport and the RAI exhibition centre, as well as to some hotels. However, the lines are really long. It’s worth spending a few Euros and jumping on the train from the airport when you arrive. Ditto for getting to the airport on your way home – far less stressful and quicker to pay for the train than wait for the shuttle.
It’s pronounced ‘Rye’
The RAI exhibition centre is pronounced ‘Rye’, not ‘Ray’ or ‘R-A-I’. Useful to know when navigating the public transport system.
The nearest stop is Europaplein
If you are coming on the train from the airport, you definitely want the ‘Amsterdam RAI’ station. However, if you are using the tram, the nearest stop is the penultimate one on the line – Europaplein. If you get off at Station RAI, it’s not a big deal – just a slightly longer walk.
Book appointments in advance
If there is a product or exhibitor you really want to see, you can book a timed slot to have a demo. The most efficient way is to get in touch with the company before the event, but you can also rock up to the stand on your first day and then book appointments for later in the show. It’s worth it if there is something you need to review in-depth, as the booked appointments will always take priority over the people who just turn up. (It’s perfectly possible to just wander round if you prefer – it depends how much time you have).
You don’t need to go for the whole thing
Some people go for the whole of IBC and have meetings tagged onto the beginning and end. If you are going to the conference, you will need more time, but if you are seeing the exhibition only, you can do it in one-three days depending on how much you need to see.
The wifi is terrible
The public wifi is only available in certain areas and does not extend across the whole site. You will need to use data roaming in places (and the coverage can be patchy even then). It’s worth a strategic check of e-mails once every couple of hours or so when you have signal, but you might as well have your phone in flight mode the rest of the time..
Carry your passport or ID
When you arrive, you will find a long line that you need to join in order to be issued with your entry pass. You will need your IBC confirmation e-mail and ID documents. As the wifi is bad (see above), it’s worth taking a screenshot of the QR code at the airport so that you don’t get stuck in the line (they can look you up on the system if needed; it just takes longer). Once you have your pass, you can ignore the line the next morning and just go straight in.
Download the IBC app to help plan your journey
The IBC app is pretty useful as you can mark off the exhibitors you would like to see and it will show you where they all are on the map. That way, you can plan a route round the event that doesn’t involve zig-zagging across the site. It’s worth doing this in advance so that you can plan in your appointments in a sensible order.
Hall 8 is a bit hard to find
Most – but not all – of the radio stuff is in Hall 8. This is obviously the best hall for that reason, but it is a bit tucked away and not well signposted. If you can’t see any signs for Hall 8 when you arrive, then go to Hall 10 and wiggle through the Launch Pad in Hall 9. Alternatively, ask for the Future Zone, as it’s right next door.
You can watch some of the conference sessions for free on the screens in the common areas
Good to know if there’s a talk you wanted to see but your company couldn’t stump up the conference ticket price.
Go into a hall you don’t think is for ‘you’
There is so much to see at IBC that you can easily spend your whole day in one hall. It’s definitely worth taking a detour across the site to see some of the stands that aren’t in your immediate sphere, especially if you are at the event for more than one day. A friend of mine likes to find the largest telly screen at the event each year – that’s a good challenge. And who can resist ‘testing’ the controls of a drone..?
Don’t miss the displays outside
There are some bits of the exhibition too big to fit inside, so don’t miss the rows of sat trucks and OB equipment parked outside along the front entrance (near to Europaplein).
Take some business cards
Many of the stands will have scanner that can take your e-mail address but it’s worth having a stack of business cards, too – some stands run competition draws that need you to put your card into a bowl or hat, for example.
If a stand is not for you, bow out gracefully
It’s not always obvious what certain companies do, and it’s worth asking to find out. However, don’t feel that you need to get into a long conversation if it’s clearly not a fit for your needs – it’ll help both sides if you say, “That sounds really interesting, hope you have a great show!” and then move on if their service isn’t something you need right now.
Ask for tips from other people
A good opening line at a networking event is “What’s the coolest thing you’ve seen so far?”, or “What are you telling everyone to see?” It gives people a chance to share their excitement and can also give you a good hint about interesting demos that might be in soft launch and therefore not likely to be highlighted in the IBC Daily newspaper.
Drinks from 5pm…
Many of the stands will offer beer from 5 o’clock. Some of these will be events you can just join in, and others will be invite-only. It’s relatively easy to get an invite – pay attention to the e-mails from suppliers that you get in advance, and you might also find that you get an invite from a friend or supplier that you’ve met during the course of the day.
It will mainly be beer, though. One stallholder told me, “Our target customer is men, and that’s what they like.” Charming!
Good coffee on the German stalls (the Brits are good at sweets)
Earlier on in the day, it’s worth making friends with exhibitors with good supplies of liquid and snacks. Did I mention the site is huge?
Catering is expensive and a walk away (the juice place opposite is nice)
Don’t forget to eat. Except, you will. It can be a long way to ‘grab a coffee’ (so hone your skills on #20). When you get to the catering, there will be a long line and you need to factor into your budget that it won’t be very cheap.
If you need some vitamins and fresh air, there is a nice juice bar across the road from the front entrance that’s worth popping into – although you might decide it’s too far to walk.
Book your hotel now (or do AirBnB)
Hotels for IBC book up ages in advance. There is a booking site via IBC that offers some discounts on flights and hotels, but it’s better to book earlier than later.
If you find yourself attending at the last minute, you can either stay further out and then commute in on the tram or train, or try using AirBnB (my affiliate link – discount for your first trip). I once booked about a week in advance on AirBnB and managed to get a room within walking distance of the RAI when many others ended up staying miles out.
Staying on the Roosveltlaan / Rivierenbuurt side has more useful things like supermarkets than on the Beatrixpark or South side.
Look at the map and you’ll see what I mean. The trams in this district all whizz straight into the centre of Amsterdam, too.
Book a table for food if you are eating in a group
If you want to have a team dinner somewhere in Amsterdam, then book a table in advance (ie – now). IBC has over 55,000 delegates and they all get hungry at once.
Complain about sexism – it’s against the exhibitor rules
Under 10% of the delegates will be women. The event is mostly a wonderful experience, and I am told things are much better than they used to be in years past. However, if you do spot a company indulging in outmoded practices like having ‘booth babes’ (women in skimpy outfits hired to scan your badge) or anything inappropriate, do flag it up to IBC and highlight in on social media. The exhibitor rules have changed to ban such practices but there are a handful of companies that will never get my business as a result of what I have seen them do or say at exhibitions. You never know who is a budget-holder when you are speaking to guests on a stand 😉
The EBU and Future Zone areas are worth seeking out
There is a Future Zone next to Hall 8 which has lots of experimental and future media / R&D stands that are definitely worth a visit. The EBU (European Broadcasting Union) also has a stand in Hall 10, as well as contributing to some other stands on educational themes around the show. They are both worth seeking out, as is the Launch Pad in Hall 9.
Drink lots of water
You’ll be walking and talking a lot in an air-conditioned hanger with no daylight. You may also have been out for an ‘orange juice’ or two the night before. Water is your friend.
Come to say hi!
I’m usually around for some of the days, either seeing stands or helping on the Broadcast Bionics stall in Hall 8. Do come to say hi – it will be lovely to meet you!
- Full event details can be found on the official IBC website.
Is there anything I have missed? What IBC survival tips and advice do you have? Please let me know in the comments below!