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by Padraic Gilligan, Vice President, Ovation Global DMC and Vice President, Industry Relations, MCI

After 4 intense days of full-on immersion in meetings industry matters, IMEX13 has finally drawn to a conclusion. Reporting a 27% increase on IMEX12, the exhibition has certainly come of age taking an undisputed primary position in the global meetings and events industry in only its fourth year of operation. The long flight home to Dublin from Las Vegas is a perfect opportunity to reflect on IMEX13 and to speculate around why, precisely, it’s such a good show. I think there are 5 reasons:

1.    The Vision

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 14.44.19IMEX is powered by an unwavering dual belief in the socio-economic value of meetings and in the need to bring together the widest possible cast of characters who play a role on the meetings and events stage. This year the inaugural policymakers forum, presented by Roger Dow of the US Travel Association, launched significant new research into the economic impact of meetings in the public sector and attracted the participation of the Mayors of 3 major US cities. The research, conducted by Rockport Analytics, demonstrates unequivocally that by cutting spend on meetings local and national governments are effectively taking millions of dollars out of the economy and cutting their nose to spite their face.

Likewise IMEX reaches the widest possible demographic of meetings industry professionals by creating alliances and partnerships with the plethora of niche associations to which they all belong. This means the whole meetings industry convenes around IMEX, and this fact alone is crucial as we learn to speak with one voice.

Thus IMEX is pursuing a worthy vision that validates our industry as an economic power house and creates a pan industry choreography where we all dance in step.

2.    The Education

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 14.46.02The Smart Monday initiative, powered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is an extraordinary, added value element for both visitors and exhibitors to IMEX. Combining motivational keynotes and subject specific breakouts, Smart Monday could easily stand-alone as an educational conference of great intrinsic value and relevance. While MPI is the overall curator of the programme, the track aimed at association executives involves input from ASAE, ICCA and PCMA thus offering a truly global viewpoint on current trends and issues in the government and not-for-profit sector. Exciting and relevant content around Incentives and Motivational Experiences is contributed by Site while MPI and IMEX join forces to provide a “deep dive” for 15+ year veteran owners of meetings agencies.

The education programme continues each day, pre-show, with plenary sessions on matters of more general business interest while targeted training around technology, sustainability and creativity is provided on the show floor in the areas dedicated to these important new emerging topics.

Education is a great value added component integrated nicely around the business appointments which constitute the core of the event.

3. The Networking

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 14.49.29Sebastien Tondeur, CEO of global meetings and communications agency, MCI, is fond of saying “When people come together, magic happens”. There’s certainly a surfeit of magic in evidence in Las Vegas during IMEX and it has nothing to do with David Copperfield’s superb show at the MGM Grand. It’s the energising, creative spark that occurs when people meet in a face-to-face environment. The MPI Rendezvous event at Pure Nite Club in Caesar’s Palace was such an occasion. Another was the joint Ovation / DMC Network “talent search” at 1-OAK at The Mirage. Over 700 revellers turned up for the meetings industry’s own version of American Idol and witnessed 7 meetings professionals showcasing their tunes. A genius panel of industry celebrities comprising Mary McGregor Vice President of Event Solutions at BI Worldwide, David Peckinpaugh, President of Maritz Travel Company and Christie Hicks of Starwood Global Sales provided hilarious caustic commentary.

The grand prize, donated generously by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, was won by Melissa Edwards of MEvents Global for her awesome performance of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”

4. The People

More than 6,500 people make up the IMEX global community, representing a broad spectrum of meetings industry sectors on both the buyer and supplier side. I’d like to give a special shout out to a one of them as this person’s action and attitude reminds us that ultimately success in business is all about how we treat one another and how we build, nurture and sustain the relationships facilitated by face-to-face events.

Kimberly MillerKimberly Miller works for Development Counsellors International (DCI)  based in New York City and was at IMEX on behalf of her client, Ecuador. She happened to hear two fellow exhibitors who were passing her stand discuss how hungry they were and, without hesitation, invited them onto her stand where she shared her excellent on-stand catering with them. It was an act of simple generosity offered unconditionally without reference to badge colour or to the relative notoriety of her two guests – she had no idea that they work for MCI, one of the biggest agencies in the meetings industry.

Thanks Kimberley – Patrick and I thoroughly enjoyed the sandwiches and your kindness is now firmly linked in our minds with an exciting emerging South American destination that’s no longer an anonymous dot on the map but a place where we feel we have a connection.

5. The Destination

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 14.54.23Trade Exhibitions select host destinations based on a host of objective, empirical criteria such as air and transportation access, quality and range of accommodations, overall infrastructure, financial model including affordability etc. Ultimately, however, there’s always an intangible factor in play around whether it’ll all work or not – will the overall destination experience  be sticky, offering exhibitors and visitors alike a return on their investment and business objectives while, at the same time, engaging them at a personal level, connecting with them and giving them a reason to want to come back?

Las Vegas scores highly across all measures. The easy proximity of everything – the airport, the accommodations, the superlative convention space at the Sands Convention Centre combine beautifully with a wider infrastructure that provides matchless opportunities for world class shopping, entertainment and dining.

Padraic Gilligan works for MCI and, with Patrick Delaney, leads MCI’s destination services division, Ovation Global DMC

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