International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition and Conference organizers have revealed details for IBEX Online: A Virtual Event, which is scheduled to commence Sept. 29.
“It was a new opportunity that was forced on us, and we’re going to take advantage and run with it,” says show director Anne Dunbar. “We do really feel a big sense of responsibility to the industry to continue to have the show. … It was never an option to not do this.”
IBEX Online will be built on three pillars: connection, new products and innovation, and education. “The value of IBEX is [these] specific pillars that matter,” Dunbar says. “Number one would be connection — connecting buyers and sellers, connecting new products with exhibitors, connecting new technology to the right boatbuilder — with new products and innovation at number two. They kind of feed into one another, and then really, our education … program is like no other.”
The education pillar will continue with the IBEX Seminar Series via livestreams — with interactive Q&A sessions — and by way of prerecorded interviews and conversations. “People are so comfortable learning online, we are confident that the education platform will go well,” Dunbar adds. “It’s going to be a robust experience for everybody.”
The first of the event’s tentpoles will be initiated during registration. While signing up and building their digital profiles, visitors will be offered AI-based recommendations of people to meet, exhibitors to visit and sessions to attend, organizers say. For instance, a boatbuilder interested in composite materials won’t have to toggle one by one through more than 600 exhibitors to find companies with that specialty.
“We are going to develop a line of questions during registration so that we are able to use registrants’ contextual data to match people and make suggestions,” says IBEX marketing and communication director Kate Holden. “This kind of matchmaking was really important in making those connections.”
In addition, attendees and exhibitors will be able to view a virtual attendance list and schedule conversations in public or private “lounges.”
And as in years past, ingenuity will again take center stage, with a variety of new products competing for Innovation Awards. Since they’re considered an integral and prestigious part of the event, show organizers decided to deliver the awards on the opening day.
The judges for the awards are members of Boating Writers International, including chair Zuzana Prochazka, BWI executive director; co-chair and editor of Panbo.com Ben Stein; Brady Kay, executive editor of Pontoon & Deck Boat magazine; Ed Sherman, former vice president of the American Boat and Yacht Council; and Capt. Greg Thornton, an ABYC-certified technician. The 16 award categories span the industry, from boat care, maintenance and lighting to inboard and outboard engines, OEM electronics, mechanical systems and more.
Daily keynote sessions — included in all attendees’ virtual registration — will take place throughout the show. Topics will include sustainability via the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association on Sept. 30, the state of the industry and more. Soundings Trade Only will moderate a leadership summit Oct. 1.
“At its core, IBEX is the place the industry comes to network, discover the latest offerings from our exhibitors, learn from respected leaders and innovators, and grow their businesses,” Dunbar says. “IBEX Online: A Virtual Experience will be no different, prioritizing these categories while leveraging the latest in virtual trade-show technology.”
This article was originally published in the September 2020 issue.