An Interview with Michael Lyons, AIBTM Exhibition Director

Michael Lyons

Why AIBTM Is Coming to Chicago – And You Should Too

Michael Lyons is Exhibition Director for AIBTM (The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition), which takes place 11-13 June 2013 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois, USA. AIBTM is the premier global exhibition for the U.S. meetings, events, incentive and business travel industry and is a part of Reed Travel Exhibitions' Meeting & Events Portfolio, which includes EIBTM, GIBTM, CIBTM, AIME, IBTM and Business Travel Market.

 Site: With nearly four decades of extensive and diverse experience in the travel and hospitality industry, please share some of the highlights of your career in the meetings and incentive travel marketplace.

Michael Lyons: There are too many to mention. I fell into this industry by accident early in my career when my boss asked me to plan a sales meeting in the Bahamas in 1974. I had to figure it out on my own but quickly discovered I enjoyed producing events and meetings, and that laid the foundation for all the jobs that followed. I have been fortunate to have worked in corporate travel, meetings & incentives, destination management, and now trade show management. Throughout my career I have had a number of wonderful mentors (including John Kiley, the founder of EGR International and one of Site’s pioneers), and learned a lot by attending industry trade shows and functions, and collaborating with brilliant and creative professionals. As a result, I have been involved in many extraordinary programs and events that, through incredible teamwork, innovation, and execution, left an indelible positive experience on the attendees. And after all is said and done – that is why we are all in the hospitality business: to serve others and create fabulous memories!

Site: A perception exists among incentive travel buyers and suppliers that AIBTM is primarily focused on corporate travel and meetings. What do you tell incentive industry professionals about the benefits of attending AIBTM?


 Lyons: Unfortunately, that is a misperception. Our name – The Americas Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition – has the word incentives in it. We bring together buyers and sellers who are involved in all segments of the industry, and this year in particular we have seen a surge in the number of companies and attendees from the incentive side of the business that have signed up to come to the show. We have a partnership with Site and some of the educational sessions at AIBTM are being presented through Site. We encourage Site members to take a look at our web site ( to learn more about the show, and to apply as a Hosted Buyer through Site by going to this link

Site: Site is thrilled to have AIBTM held this year in Chicago, our hometown. Why did Reed Travel Exhibitions choose Chicago and why do you think it is an ideal city to host AIBTM?

Lyons: Chicago was an easy choice. As one of the world’s great destinations, it is also a favorite among meeting and event planners, and consistently ranks among the Top 5 cities selected as a meeting destination. Some of the obvious benefits of having the show in Chicago are: Location (accessibility), McCormick Place (one of the best venues in the country), fabulous hotels, exquisite restaurants, extensive list of cultural attractions and museums, and the weather in June is perfect. Also, with ITME now removed from the industry calendar, AIBTM fills that void and gives people a chance to rekindle their affection for this great American city while participating in a leading industry trade show.

Site: Please tell us about some of the changes that have been added to the 2013 AIBTM program schedule and networking platforms to enhance attendee experience.

Lyons: We recognize that in order for AIBTM to be successful, we have to provide a solid ROI to all attendees. Budgets and time availability have been stretched in this post-recession “new normal,” and our show has to deliver true value for all stakeholders. As a part of that effort, we believe it is necessary and important to create as many formal and informal networking/relationship-building opportunities as possible to enhance the attendee experience. So for 2013, in direct response to feedback received after AIBTM 2012, we are implementing and continuing the following:

  • World-class CEU-accredited education program featuring topics on globalization, technology and business management. The opening luncheon keynote will feature J. Walker Smith, principal of The Futures Company. The day concludes with a networking party at Navy Pier, featuring the “Best of Chicago” – a culinary and musical experience showcasing Chicago’s finest eateries and music.
  • One-to-one networking opportunities on the trade show floor at McCormick with other meeting professionals, facilitated through a number of special events and affinity group lounges on the show floor.
  • Market focus sessions that have been expanded to include new regional spotlights on Latin America and Asia as well as the return of the Market Focus on Europe. There will also be “Fast Track,” intense educational sessions to expand learning in a timely and convenient way.
  • A new feature this year is the “Speakers Showcase,” which will take place in the Lecture Theatre. Professional speakers will have an opportunity to present samples of their talks in a 20-25 minute time frame, giving audience members a chance to see multiple speakers over the two days of the show.
  • The return of the “Future Events Experience,” showcasing the latest and most advanced technology, products and services that help meeting professionals plan more efficient meetings.

Site: How can Site members and other incentive industry professionals be qualified to attend AIBTM as a Hosted-Buyer?

Lyons: If you organize, influence or make budgetary decisions for meetings, events, conferences, incentive trips or business travel in the U.S. or abroad, you may be eligible to attend AIBTM as a Hosted Buyer. As a member of the Site Hosted Buyer group, you will be with a community of professionals whose primary interest is designing “best-in-class” incentive travel programs. To apply, click on the following link: Site Hosted-Buyer Group. Hosted buyers should register before 31 May in order to allow enough time for their appointment preferences to be matched with the exhibitors they would like to meet with.

Michael Lyons and Allison Summers
Michael Lyons visits the Site Global offices in Chicago a couple of months early to chat with Site Managing Director Allison Summers about education plans.

Recent Stories
SITE Foundation Partners with Zeal Optics to Clean 500,000 ft ² Of Coastline
SITE Classic, live and in-person at The Del, raises over $235,000 for SITE Foundation’s research and education projects

SITE Germany’s Patrick Patridge publishes brand new book on incentive travel