Survival Tips for Success at IBC in Amsterdam

AMS-Greco_P1070294-smEvery year, thousands of people in digital media and entertainment technology make their way through Schipol airport to the annual IBC conference and exhibition at the RAI Exhibition Center in Amsterdam. For some, it´s a new experience in wheeling and dealing, with the promise of Amsterdam´s unequalled nightlife at the end of a long day on the show floor. For others, it´s an annual sojourn that can be fraught with obstacles, such as stand exhaustion or the rush that comes from never stopping to miss an opportunity to impress a potential client or industry colleague. It´s obvious that networking at IBC can bring many rewards to those who are persistent and smart. That includes knowing your way around the show.

Pass out if you need to, and, you may need to!

Are you traveling to IBC in Amsterdam? The conference dates for 2014 are 10-14 September and the exhibition starts, as usual, on a Friday and goes over the weekend, from 11-16 September. We like IBC for its wide international attendance and overall more friendly and accessible atmosphere, compared to some of the other larger, more frenzied shows. At IBC, you can sit down, have a chat, wiggle your toes in the sand as you have a nice cold Dutch beer, and pass out, if need be, on the loungers outside. All of these things contribute favourably to the task at hand: getting down to business at IBC!

Here are Broadcast Projects´ top five tips for doing IBC sensibly and for getting the most out of the show.

1) Find a place to stay

Oops! You didn´t book already? Most seasoned IBC-goers know to book a whole year in advance. Rooms are outrageously priced in general, and even more so in some of the better hotels. But there is hope for you. The closer it gets to the show the more there are cancellations. The main tip here is to make use of the IBC Hotel Reservation Service. These people really are your friends.

You can troll around on the internet for hours or days searching for a place to stay. Or, you can just call them and they will do their utmost to sort you out. But be ready to make a decision on the spot. As they talk with you, they are dealing with live, incoming cancellations and scanning for everything that´s available. They will also give you good advice regarding the choice of one hotel over another. So make sure you have your credit card ready, otherwise you´ll just lose more time.

Just one word of caution, ask them if the hotel you are staying at has WiFi included. We once booked a rather expensive room nearby the RAI, (we won´t mention it was the Holiday Inn) which had the nerve to charge 24E per DAY for WiFi. We had thought that the convenience of being so close to the RAI would off-set the room price. But we didn´t factor that in. For international travelers and those of us working in this industry it´s definitely an issue. Not to mention greedy.

If you do manage to find an easy, trouble-free and reasonably priced place to stay, don´t tell anyone! We once found a great small hotel in the Jordaan, only to find that the following year the entire hotel was booked out by a single company. We once rented a houseboat, that was really fun. But on both counts: we were never to return.

Another veteran´s secret to surviving IBC with your sanity intact is to stay out near the airport. Yes, that´s right, we say Hoofddorp´s OK! But this really only works if you have ¨been there, done that ¨ regarding the famous Amsterdam nightlife and value your sleep so you can be fresh for your next business day. For some this may be far too sensible an approach! There are moments in all our lives when we need to do the doggie dance at Paradiso or the Melkweg. If clubs are your thing, there´s a list of them here.

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Trams are free for IBC attendees. Get your pass at any information desk. Looks pretty good when there are no queues!

The Hoofddorp trick will enable you to avoid those long tram line queues, which can sap any remaining energy you might have left in you from the work day. Instead, take the train from the IBC station out to Schipol (about 10 mins), and then hop on your hotel´s shuttle bus. This should work fine in tandem if you check out the schedules before. You´ll probably have a midnight curfew, though, with your hotel´s shuttle. A word of warning: a taxi ride from the city centre back out to the airport will put a severe dent in your expenses. Ditto from the airport if you miss the last hotel shuttle, but it won´t be quite so bad.

2) Make your appointments in advance

Want to know how to do IBC like a pro? Once you´ve gotten your travel and accommodation sorted out, it´s time to move on to making your appointments. Six weeks in advance is an ideal time to get started. If you want to be really clever, fix your entire appointment schedule in advance. Oops, you didn´t do that yet? So do it now, before you get to the show. Leave lunchtimes clear, and fix only the dinner appointments that are absolutely mandatory. For daytime at the show: make all your appointments near or around the same location, preferably somewhere where you can sit your ass down!

Walk the floor only when necessary or to have a meeting on a stand. The show is too big, you´re not going to see it all even if you try. So book your appointments with a minimum padding of 45 mins, one hour is better. Always get the other person´s mobile number, and note down the precise location. It´s also a really good idea to reconfirm the appointment by text 15 minutes before. That way if there are changes, you have some wiggle room to set up an appointment with that VIP you just bumped into. The IBC has a host of applications including maps to help you plan. Only newbies to the show make appointments one moment in Hall 8 and the next in Hall 2. The map looks pretty on paper. The reality is something quite different. Make use of the IBC apps (for Android and for iOS) , they are very handy.

3) Eat, drink and be merry

IBC, like most other trade shows, is not like it used to be, where you could eat and drink your way through an entire event without ever setting foot in a restaurant, unless it was on someone else´s expense account. We lament that those glory days, when the likes of Microsoft would throw a party in an old church in the red-light district. Anyone remember, what year that was? Anyway, those days are truly over. Accordingly, our Annual IBC Party and Events List is a shadow of its former self.

IBC 2011

We say: the only good herring sandwich is a free herring sandwich! Frankly, we prefer their beer.

Nevertheless, no excuses and no sympathy for those who report ¨I haven´t eaten a thing all day¨.  You need stamina for this show. You will find that the bigger companies offer drinks and snacks on their stands throughout the day to keep their guests going. The IBC concession prices are generally outrageous, as you would expect. We like to take with us a small arsenal of high-energy snack packets (nuts, energy bars, fruit or whatever floats your boat) and water. That will reduce costs considerably, as well as keep you going.

Be aware that all of Amsterdam turns into a tourist trap during IBC and so getting a good meal at a decent price may turn out to be quite a challenge. We recommend Robert Briel´s excellent annually updated list of restaurants, as well as our own Annual IBC Party and Events List. Some private events are excluded from this list, such as the annual Saturday night party sponsored by a company that used to start with the letter ¨N¨ but now begins with a ¨C¨. It´s probably the only great party left.  If you don´t already have the invite in your hand, you´re pretty much out of luck. And seriously, have some self-respect. It´s really not good form to go grovelling on their stand on the day for an invitation. They´re sent in advance during August. Get in touch well in advance for a good business reason and maybe you´ll be invited next year.

4) Be Smart Getting Around

From the airport, a taxi is definitely the easiest choice for getting to your hotel or into the city centre or to the RAI, but it´s also obviously the most expensive option. Schipol is located 20 kms away from the city centre, so you are going to pay for that trip. Though the correct rate is meant to be about 40 Euros, don´t be surprised if you are charged more. Much more. The show is expensive enough, so why would you want to write off 60 or 70 Euros straight out the starting gate? If money´s no issue, we´re happy for you!

The city also has some dodgy taxi operators. And though while you are not likely to encounter them at the airport, be wary nevertheless when getting into a taxi. It´s wise to ask the price of the trip before you get in. IBC is bonanza time for the taxi drivers of the city. That´s not to say there are not many perfectly respectable (licensed) drivers out there, it´s just a mixed bag. So watch out.

The Arrivals Hall connects you to a shopping centre and then the interior transit area where you will find connections to trains, buses, taxis and car rental companies.

Schipol is one of those airports that´s really well integrated and designed, even if it a bit of a monster. When you exit the arrivals hall, you find yourself in a shopping centre of sorts. On the other side is an enormous transit area. The train platforms are below. If you want to save time, go directly to the ticket desks and buy your train ticket. There are machines, but you have to know what you need, and it can be confusing. So head straight over to the ticket desks and decide now: do you need a return ticket from the airport to the Centraal Station or to the RAI? Discuss your options with the folks at the ticket desks.

If you can make some smart decisions about transport early, you´ll be ahead of the game. It will take a lot of the guess work out of figuring out how you will navigate both the city and the show, as well as get back to the airport. For example, on your way home you can save time by checking out of your hotel, going to IBC, making use of the convenient cloakrooms at the RAI, then depart directly back to Schipol from the RAI by train.

The IBC also operates a free shuttle service between Schipol and the RAI, as well as free shuttles from the RAI to a number of hotels. Don’t forget too that all exhibition visitors are entitled to a free tram pass that covers the entire city of Amsterdam. So if you have the free travel options, why not make use of them? More information including prices can be found here.

5) Internet Access at the Show

You would think that there is wifi everywhere covering the whole of the IBC show floor, but there´s not. Additionally, the entire 3G network has been known to crash, with so many visitors to the show. So make sure you are prepared. For your phone, we recommend a cheapie local pay-as-you-go SIM card, or, if your carrier provides it, make sure you have an international roaming plan in place. If you want to be assured of a connection, provided that all the competing wifi set-ups on practically every stand at the show don´t interfere, the IBC provides free WiFi access points in the following areas. These are usually pretty reliable.

These are located at Gold Pass Lounge, Ruby Lounge, Forum Lounge, Forum Conference Room, the Catering Area in Europa Foyers 1 and 2, Diamond Lounge, the Grand Café, Café Amsterdam, Holland and Europa Complexes (on the 1st floor of each), The Brasserie, the Leadership Summit Lounge (Topaz Lounge) and the Business Lounge.

The IBC is so huge, check these links for a visual guide to some of these lounges, which can be found here and here plus the Holland and Europa Complexes. There are generally WiFi signs around the show that signpost these locations. There´s also free WiFi at the Press Lounge, downstairs in Hall 8. The RAI also offers free access to computers in the Elicium building, which you can access via Entrance D. This is the smart and shiny new building outside.

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We wish you a successful IBC!