5 International Meetings Event Planners Need to Know About

Many inventive conferences and events take place all over the globe. Here are five worth noting.

By Mitra Sorrells October 13, 2016, 7:00 AM EDT

Leaders and popular figures from around the world convene each January for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Photo: Remy Steinegger

Global business travel spending topped $1.2 trillion in 2015, an increase of 5 percent over 2014, according to a report from the Global Business Travel Association Foundation. Researchers say growth has been driven, in part, by an “increasingly connected world” and the development of electronic payment systems, which make travel planning more efficient. This growth is evident at a number of large international conferences and trade shows, which are seeing an increase in both in-person attendees and engagement through virtual platforms and social media. Here are five innovative events that take place outside North America.

Mobile World Congress
The conference celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016, with more than 100,000 attendees from 204 countries attending the four-day event in Barcelona, Spain, in February. Hosted by G.S.M.A., an organization that represents the interests of mobile communication providers worldwide, the congress has become known as the place to learn about cutting-edge products and technologies.

The event includes an exhibition spanning nine halls and a dozen outdoor spaces, where more than 2,200 companies demonstrate virtual reality, apps, 3-D printing, innovative handsets, and more. This year’s conference included 374 speakers including Facebook C.E.O. Mark Zuckerberg and BuzzFeed C.E.O. Jonah Peretti. Other noteworthy elements of the event included Innovation City, where attendees could see how mobile technology is changing the way people function at home and at work; and 4YFN (Four Years From Now), which convened mobile entrepreneurs with investors, incubators, and corporations. In June, G.S.M.A. announced it is creating an event in the United States in partnership with C.T.I.A., the trade association for the cellular industry. G.S.M.A. Mobile World Congress Americas will debut in September 2017 in San Francisco. Next: February 27-March 2, 2017

Web Summit
The conference began in Dublin, Ireland, in 2010 as a meetup for a few hundred people from the local start-up community. It is now one of the largest tech conferences in the world, attracting about 50,000 people from nearly 150 countries at the November 2015 event. For 2016, Web Summit is moving to Lisbon, Portugal, a city that founder Paddy Cosgrave said “has great transport and hotel infrastructure and a state-of-the-art venue with capacity for more than 80,000 attendees.” As the conference has grown each year, organizers have added new tracks with content targeted to subsets of attendees, such as HealthTech Summit, Fashion Summit, Money Summit, and even Surf Summit. While the conference is respected for its interesting content and eclectic roster of speakers—past presenters have included Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the singer Bono, and Tinder C.E.O. Sean Rad—it may be best known for what takes place after the program ends each day.

“Night Summit” is the name for the nightly parties that take place in bars and venues around the host city. Organizers say these casual settings aren’t just about attendees sharing a pint; they also spur meaningful networking.

In 2015, organizers announced an initiative to involve more women in their events by giving women 10,000 free tickets to attend one of their events around the world: Web Summit as well as Collision in the United States, Surge in India, and Rise in Hong Kong. Next: November 7-10, 2016

Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity
More than 15,000 executives and entrepreneurs from the worlds of advertising, communications, and digital innovation rendezvous on the Mediterranean coast each June for the festival. The eight-day event is a mix of seminars, galas, networking opportunities, and the awarding of “Lions” awards, which are selected from more than 43,000 entries in dozens of categories such as creative effectiveness, film, entertainment, and product design.

Brands know Cannes Lions is the spot to not only see the best in creative marketing, but also to be seen, so many create elaborate activations outside the main event. This year Facebook created “Facebook Beach” at a waterfront hotel, where it offered activities such as tai chi and wine-and-cheese tastings, as well as discussions on topics such as “360 Video and Spatial Storytelling at the Speed of Feed.” YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter created similar beachfront multipurpose venues. Next: June 17-24, 2017

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
The annual invitation-only gathering in the Swiss Alps has become synonymous with its location: Davos, Switzerland. More than 2,500 leaders from the worlds of politics, business, academia, and media convene each January for four days of discussions on key global issues such as poverty, terrorism, and the environment. Past attendees have included Bill and Melinda Gates, former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan, and Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg.

The event includes more than 200 sessions and numerous unofficial meetings and receptions. Organizers track and display the way the world is responding to the event on social media and in traditional news sources. At the 2015 event, organizers debuted a “Transformation Map,” which uses data visualization and an intuitive interface to help attendees see the connections between more than 100 global issues. This year marked the 46th installment of the event, which is hosted by the World Economic Forum, a Swiss nonprofit foundation. Next: January 17-20, 2017

Hannover Messe
The world’s largest industrial fair takes place each spring in Germany, with more than 190,000 attendees and 5,200 exhibitors at the April 2016 event. Every year organizers select a leading industrialized nation to be the “Partner Country” of the event. For the first time, the United States received the designation in 2016, making U.S. representatives and companies the guests of honor at the event and putting them in the spotlight with global media and business entities. President Barack Obama opened the fair with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In addition to more than 1,500 education sessions, the event includes interactive experiences such as the “Integrated Energy Plaza,” a 450,000-square-foot space showcasing future energy systems. Next: April 24-28, 2017

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