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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 14.16.05If life is a vicissitudinous  roller coaster (that word again, Garry!), then the older you get, the more rapid the journey because by then it’s all downhill! That’s certainly how it seems to me as we face into IMEX15 when IMEX14 was only 2 weeks ago! And while it’s definitely too late now to do many of the things you swore you’d do before the next IMEX, there’s still time to plan a really fruitful show.  With a little research and forward planning you can still walk away from IMEX15 with new business opportunities, a greatly expanded network, a head spinning with new ideas and inspirations and a heart warm in the afterglow of what has become our industry’s annual Hajj.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 09.30.13I think it’s important to state from the outset that meetings industry veterans always look beyond leads and RFPs in their measurement of a successful trade show campaign. Global economic challenges, recession and austerity have focused our attention – rightly so – on proving our economic worth and justifying the marketing investments we make to play in that industry – participation at IMEX being an important one for many of us. However, we now need to teach ourselves to speak confidently about intangible ROI or the unseen, sometimes invisible ways that convening at IMEX, Frankfurt bring benefit and value to ourselves, our clients, our industry and society at large. Attending IMEX should certainly bring real business but, like Hajj, the Camino or other religious pilgrimages the real benefits are more enduring than mere profit and stem from exposing yourself to the full array of experiences available at IMEX, often at no additional charge.

Here’s a short list of things “around” IMEX that you should slot into your schedule to maximise the benefits of this amazing show:

SITE NITE: Monday, 18 May from 7pm – 9pm at The InterContinental Hotel

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 09.33.57The personalities and community around the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE)  have played a key role at IMEX and at its Geneva-based predecessor in the late 80s and 90s, helping to create that special je ne sais quoi that makes this show special, setting it apart from all others. It’s fitting, then, that SITE has claimed this prominent spot on the night before the opening of the IMEX. This event is all about the “I” in MICE (= incentives)  but draws huge numbers from the M (= meetings) and E (= events) side too – (the conference community has its own excellent event which follows Association Day). This year SITE is expecting around 400 guests for a colourful event with India, the location for SITE’s annual conference in 2015, as headline sponsor. This is a classic networking event with buffet and drinks and the friendliest people in the industry. Further details and ticket sales here.

FRESH DINNER: Tuesday, 19 May from 7pm at NH Frankfurt City Centre

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 09.35.23FRESH has grown steadily over the years into an impressive community of meetings and events professionals interested in Meetings 3.0 and in disrupting and challenging the safe, traditional paradigms of our industry. Over 10 years ago when the first FRESH dinner took place its attendees were visionaries,  mavericks and rebels living on the edgy outskirts of the industry – guys without ties and girls in flats at a time when our industry only wore suits and heels! While that original FRESH band of brothers (and sisters) is now quite mainstream – just like 70s punks became 90s business leaders – there’s still a palpable freshness about proceedings at FRESH and it remains a great place to encounter new technologies, innovative methodologies, body piercings and tattoos.  As it says on the FRESH webpage:

Remember that this is not your average party with loud music and free drinks. It’s a FRESH crowd with dynamic and great conversation

Tickets available here.

IMEX GALA: Wednesday, 20 May from 6pm at Alte Oper (Frankfurt Opera House)

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 09.36.49The IMEX Gala Dinner is the most informal “formal” affair you’ll ever attend (outside of various Irish American Chambers of Commerce Dinners in New York which, allegedly, take informal formality to new heights!). It always take an age to move guests from cocktails to dinner table, another age to get everyone to actually sit down and usually, by the middle of the main course, most people are back on their feet again, table hopping. Ray Bloom, Chairman of IMEX, gives the briefest welcome speech you’ll ever hear and Paul Flackett, Managing Director, choreographs the awards ceremony with the speed you leave your office on a Friday afternoon. He also personally selects – without ironic intention he tells me – the highly eclectic musical stings that accompany each award winner as he or she takes to the stage. This dinner is our industry at its warm, chaotic best. And the infectiously energetic live band makes 50 year olds think they’re 16 again.  Be there.

EDUCATION: Tuesday – Thursday from 9am running pre-show and on the show floor

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 09.37.45As previously mentioned IMEX is FAR more than a trade show. It’s actually a full scale educational conference covering all aspects of the meetings industry with huge input from the major industry associations including CIC, MPI, IAPCO, PCMA, SITE and others. If you’re an exhibitor be sure to set time aside before the show opens to attend sessions at 9am. Sessions cover everything from professional development to the use of apps at conferences and are aimed both at you as a person and a professional – there’s even a session on Tibetan Singing Bowl meditation (Thursday, 11:30am). Check out the full educational schedule here.  One recommendation? Check out the networking session with the excellent Jonathan Bradshaw on the Tuesday AM at 9am. Details here.

Padraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney are Managing Partners at SoolNua, a boutique marketing consultancy offering advice to destinations, hotels and venues on their strategy for MICE. Both will be in attendance at IMEX15.



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