In MICE, Trade Shows

Several of us recently returned from our seventh annual trip to see Dana’s client, IMEX America. There, we reunited with their Brighton, England-based team and once again immersed ourselves in this global phenomenon.

For the past 14 years, IMEX has been a successful meetings, events and incentive travel trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. In 2011, we helped them launch its Las Vegas extension, as a showcase for the biggest industry market in the world.

Since then, IMEX America has grown each year to become the biggest industry trade show in the US. This 2017 edition was no exception—it was the largest and busiest ever!

Whether you were also fortunate to participate, or you can’t wait to jump in next October, enjoy our round-up of our top takeaways from IMEX America 2017.

It’s so much more than a traditional trade show.

As you might imagine, some real magic happens. Buyers do actual business with exhibitors—many of them smiling folks representing a colorful array of exciting domestic and international destinations—to book deals right on the floor.

But that’s not all! IMEX America provides opportunities to network (and party!) with experts and peers, plus learn about the hottest topics from the best in their field.

Believe in the power of live experience.

This theme was woven into the entire show. Meetings and events bring people together in an unrivaled, meaningful way. We witnessed this firsthand, on every inch of IMEX America’s massive show floor, and beyond at co-located events throughout the city.

Exhibitors and organizations welcomed buyers and attendees, face-to-face, with exuberant handshakes and hugs, distinctive local gifts and fabulous hospitality. They threw festivities that were fun, motivational and/or glitzy. Every interaction seemed to engender new and closer relationships.

We even observed this notion in the innovative Lunchtime Live Zone, where we dined while mingling with other professionals and being serenaded by a mellow musician performing feel-good tunes. A simple yet powerful idea—and a lovely way to unwind from the show’s hustle and bustle.

“Creativity—often delivered through games and entertainment—is the real sizzle of an event.”

So said Brent Bushnell, Thursday’s closing MPI Keynote Speaker and CEO of Two Bit Circus. Currently, “there’s an increasing appetite for creative events that are interactive and experiential.”

He noted that planners should actively involve attendees, because “hands-on projects require decision-making and engage more of a person’s brain, leading to embedded learning.” Doing so also “blasts away the barriers and delivers a fresh perspective, leaving attendees open to new ideas.”

In IMEX America’s Inspiration Hub, this concept was especially apparent in groundbreaking games and entertainment. Alongside curious planners, we tried out memorable activities like a human-sized pin press, a huge Etch A Sketch, Lego furniture and a virtual reality rollercoaster.

We watched America’s Got Talent finalist Joe Castillo draw selfies in sand. SongDivision created instant, personalized melodies. Play with a Purpose led a class on incorporating escape rooms into events. In the Play Room, everyone explored happy-making techniques.

Love conquers all. 

The recent tragedy in Las Vegas, as well as the natural disasters affecting destinations represented by exhibitors and buyers, were felt deeply and did not go unobserved. A touching press conference gathered more than 500 people in tribute and discussed how to heal those communities.

What we learned from a panel of leaders was that the meetings, events and hospitality industry are more significant than ever in that healing process. The economy, jobs and spirit of those locales depend on it.

Rossi Ralenkotter, President and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, referred to the city’s yearly visitors as “43 million friends,” due to the remarkable outpouring of support.

IMEX America’s own 12,000+ arrival of business-focused professionals was proof of that solidarity with the host city and a heartwarming testament to the industry community’s intrinsic camaraderie.

Safety and security, as in previous years, was an important show topic, examined in education sessions on travel bans and boycotts, cyber safety, conflict resolution strategies and more.

To echo words from the #VegasStrong campaign, “Strength is our promise for tomorrow.”

The list of what we learned goes on and on.

#IMEX17 wowed and inspired us, as well as people we met from Earth-encompassing countries, languages and cultures. And we cannot wait to return for #IMEX18.

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