Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, says evolution is inevitable, but bright shows have a bright future.
Do large exhibitions offer the knowledge and networking opportunities that meetings and events industry professionals are looking for?
Charlotte Gentry posed this very fair question in the April edition of EN. It’s a question the 65-strong IMEX team ask ourselves frequently, a challenge to respond imaginatively to market demands.
The hunger for knowledge, for more meaningful connections, plus more transferable skills to fuel a career, is undeniable. Although creating a dynamic business marketplace is the core of what we do at IMEX, no organiser can afford to ignore the demand for networking and knowledge.
Let’s look at an IMEX knowledge programme. We offer over 300 sessions on subjects as diverse as business skills, sustainability and personal development. To keep it fresh, our staff attend over 30 events each year, within the MICE industry and outside of it. Why? Because to deliver a great show it’s vital to experience other great shows and learn from them.
Shows must consistently watch and respond to what the market wants, leading not following. That’s why we at IMEX cherish the phrase: “you spoke, we listened.” This led us to make sure that education and networking can be managed alongside business appointments so both take place close to, or on, the main exhibition floor.
We’ve increased the flexibility of our hosted programme, offering people the opportunity to extend their time at the show to take greater advantage of the many free educational and networking events.
Our 300-plus sessions at IMEX in Frankfurt this May included a full afternoon of knowledge sharing and networking on the day prior to the show – EduMonday – where we ran special events for groups including corporate event directors and planners, agency directors plus association executives. They are specifically designed to offer both top quality learning and invaluable networking. These fully researched events are produced by a conference professional, with speakers from companies including Barclays, Microsoft and KPMG.
EduMonday also included She Means Business – dedicated to women in leadership; a new Event Innovation Lab (for those looking to inject innovative concepts into events); #IamRemarkable (a PCMA workshop powered by Google); and the new Red Lab (focusing on future trends and their impact on the industry).
The word of the moment is ‘experience’.Knowing this is what our attendees want, we created a Discovery Zone, with features including holograms, robots, magic, art and technology.
We want participants to go home inspired, brimming with contacts and a sense of new possibilities. Yes, of course venues and destinations can be researched online; but surely the purpose of face to face events is something quite different. Author and marketer Seth Godin calls it, “that feeling you’ve just got to be in the room.” There’s something distinctly more satisfying – and possibly more important – about being in the same place, at the same time to share information, knowledge and contacts.
Having said all this, the industry certainly must do more. The needs of buyers – from agencies in particular– are changing and we’re keen to collaborate to meet those needs. Destinations are keen to service agencies better and agencies want more options, creativity, unique venues and event assets. Everyone wants new ideas, fresh content, more momentum, more connections and more memorable experiences.
In the middle is IMEX – ready to play our part and serve a global industry we love wholeheartedly.