by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
I got the moves like Jagger
The dance floor was packed like a mosh pit with more moves going on than a nation of nomads. The band was tight and tidy, dishing out tasty versions of 60s Brit pop with Jaggeresque arrogance. As we punched the air to “Satisfaction” and roared out the chorus, Nicky turned and said “I don’t think there’s a single person on this dance floor under 50”. I looked around and, with the obvious exception of MCI’s resplendent Adonais, Jurriaen Sleijster, and the super-endowed, eponymous Guy Bigwood noticed she was right. I also realized there wasn’t a single person on the dance floor who wasn’t in the upper echelons of leadership in their association or corporation. These were powerful people, passionate people, party people. This was the annual IMEX Gala dinner.
There’s nothing wrong with country music
Back again this year at the Frankfurt Airport Sheraton, the IMEX Gala 2014 followed the usual playbill – drinks, awards, dinner, dancing. Why fix it when it just ain’t broken? A bento box of delicious seafood and a three tier plate of delectable desserts bookended a chicken main course and confirmed that good hotel kitchens can indeed produce great banquet food. IMEX Managing Director, Paul Flackett, outdid himself this year with a brand new selection of musical stings to accompany each award. His impeccable, wide ranging catholic taste included T.Rex’s “Ride a White Swan” (it triggered specific memories of a trip to Britain for Anne Wallin ) and John Denver’s “Country Roads” although MPI’s Paul van Deventer felt the need to disassociate himself from the country song.
“… an amazing mentor and a true industry powerhouse. An example to us all.”
Amongst the recipients of this year’s awards was my great friend and mentor Fay Beauchine, formerly of Carlson Marketing and Aimia. Fay’s career in the meeting industry spans decades and includes periods in the airline industry as well as terms as President of Site and the Site Foundation. She’s a Convention Industry Council inductee, an advocate, an ambassador and a passionate supporter of MICE. Mostly, though, she’s a rock chick playing along seamlessly to life’s complex rhythm and a great friend who’s got your back, always ready with the kind word of encouragement or correction. Kudos, Fay, so well deserved!
ROI and Economic Impact
I’d love to know the full extend of the economic impact of IMEX. If we work in very broad numbers and multiply the number of participants (12,000) by the average delegate spend per event in meetings and events (€1500) you get €18m. It’s likely to be more than that, however, because IMEX is an elaborate exhibition with extensive upscale hospitality happening around it. But let’s work with this conservative figure of €18m and determine Return on Investment using the multiple determined by Oxford Economics for calculating real economic benefit. Retained by the Meetings Mean Business initiative in the US, this global agency estimates that for every $ invested in a meeting there’s a return of $9.50 – almost 10 to 1. So, based on these figures, IMEX is generating a spectacular return of in excess of €150m for the economy.
More than a trade show
Since Ray Bloom established IMEX’s precursor, EIBTM, way back in Geneva in the late 80s he has been tinkering with and tweeking the trade show model. The result is a powerful nexus for MICE that renews and reinvigorates its complex web of internal connections while reaching out, more and more, beyond the limits of the industry to the wider geo-political and business environment upon which it depends. This is evidenced by IMEX’s ongoing investment in the Politicians Forum and in the relatively new Exclusively Corporate at IMEX initiative, now in its second year. Both programmes play a crucial advocacy role for the MICE industry, building vital relationships with corporate leaders and policy makers and providing us with an important channel to prove the business value of what we do.
And at the end of the day …
Exhibitors invest heavily in floor space at IMEX – it’s not a cheap marketing activity by any means – but IMEX’s real value to them extends way beyond the successful, tactical delivery of leads from qualified agency, association and corporate buyers. The value is extensive and includes education, professional development, advocacy, lobbying, community building. But finally it all pivots around peerless customer service illustrated most powerfully by the diminutive figure of industry giant Ray Bloom standing at the exit door personally thanking each exhibitor as they leave the show on the last day.
Pádraic Gilligan and his partner Patrick Delaney run SoolNua, a boutique agency offering consultancy, marketing and training for the meetings and events industry