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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

In an early January post on Skift, Greg Oates talks about convergence as a key trend for the meetings industry for 2017 and, in particular, about the “festivalisation” of meetings and events as attendees seek both education and entertainment from the overall experience.  I thought of this as I prepared for IMEX America, celebrating its 7th year in Las Vegas from 10 – 12 of October. If you want proof that meetings, events and exhibitions have become akin to festivals then take a look at the super-clean, newly refreshed IMEX website. 


What you’ll find there is a wide ranging programme featuring keynote addresses, formal and informal education sessions, presentations of new research, exciting networking opportunities, a buzzing marketplace, incredible social experiences (this is Vegas, baby!), a CSR outreach event  – in short, a “festival” for the meetings industry offering all the fun of the fair. I’ve been planning and “curating” my own IMEX immersion and thought it’d be nice to share the Top 5 things I’ll be doing at IMEX next week.

Launch of SITE Index 2017

Smart Monday is reason alone to attend IMEX and, I suspect, there’s already a cohort of MICE cognoscenti out there who have figured this is the single best value knowledge festival in the MICE universe – you cannot get better value than complimentary registration!

Staged in collaboration with MPI, Smart Monday features a much anticipated keynote address on “purposeful meetings”, various association certification programmes, a hands-on CSR programme, sessions on mindfulness and meditation and, of course, access to the “Play Room” where you can test-drive new platforms and technologies, attend camp fires, meet cool tech people.

I’ll be at Smart Monday myself with my great buddy Rhea Stagner of Maritz. We’ll be wearing our SITE Foundation hats and presenting the 2017 edition of the SITE Index, a good news story overall that points to significant increase in incidence of  and spend in incentive travel. Hope to see you at The Venetian in Marco Polo 1 for an hour at 11:15.


Nights at IMEX in Vegas are always action-packed with so many social and networking functions to choose from. On the Monday before the show opens, however, most folks love to get to SITE NITE – net result is that tickets sell out quickly. Staged as a fundraiser for research on the effectiveness of incentive travel, SITE NITE brings together a broad cross-section of the MICE industry who want to support the research and connect with each other. This is true celebration for a cause.


SITE NITE  is always a wonderful event – it comes before the exhausting show days and, for many participants, is the first chance they’ve had to connect with each other. Everyone is in great spirits and the true positive spirit of our industry is front and centre. This year’s SITE NITE is at Brooklyn Bowl at relatively new The Linq, Las Vegas so there’s the added element of friendly competition to fuel the atmosphere as we chase our spares and strikes.

Hall of Leaders, Event Industry Council

Formerly known as the Convention Industry Council, the Event Industry Council has been running the Hall of Leaders for 22 years, recognising and celebrating  the achievements and contributions of industry leaders across the full spectrum of the industry. Last year @Supergreybeard was “inducted” into the Hall of Leaders and that was an immense source of pride to us all.


Amongst the “Class of 2017” are David Peckinpaugh, CMP, CIS of Maritz Global Events, Dan Berger of Social Tables (for the Pacesetter Award) and Patti Roscoe, Founder of Patti Roscoe & Associates  a pioneering enterprise in the DMC sector that went on to become Allied /PRA, one the world’s strongest DMC consortia. For the @Soolnua team whose DNA is locked in that same attitude and ethos pioneered by Patti and her colleagues, this is another proud moment.

We’re also thrilled that our former MCI colleague Guy Bigwood is being recognised for his sterling work in CSR and sustainability. On Tuesday night we’ll be there to drink a toast to all these worthy winners.

EventTech at IMEX

IMEX has always been an early adopter of new trends and practices in the meetings and events industry and has supported  EventTech from the get-go. This has led to the creation of an entire Tech Zone at the show as well as an exciting engagement programme using all the tricks and tips of Social Media. Last year saw the launch of a brilliant initiative by BC Innovation Council whereby show visitors were taken on a tour of the Innovation Hub curated by the amazing Tahira Endean.


I’ll be back again for another tour this year. Eventtech is so prolific it’s bewildering. It needs the expert guidance of  someone like Tahira to take you by the hand and help you navigate through the complexities. This is a one hour session and takes place several times each day.

When you meet Tahira be sure to ask her about her forthcoming book Intentional Event Design. It’s a cracking read for neophyte and senior planners alike and covers everything about our industry with a generous portion of the book devoted to tech.

DMC Network / Ovation Talent Search

@Supergreybeard and I were leading Ovation when this collaborative event started and I was an early competitor – the first and to date only person to actually sing and play live! Since I exposed my own dubious talents before the harsh arbitration of the likes of David Peckinpaugh and Mary McGregor, this post-dinner event has gone from strength to strength and is beginning to assume “must-attend” status amongst the Las Vegas aficionados.


This year will be no different with a host of our industry peers uploading their auditions onto  that magnificent DMC Network website and setting ready to strut their stuff and sing their song for the gathered, always slightly inebriated masses. This year we’re at The Marquee at The Cosmopolitan – be sure to pick up your credentials from the joint DMCNetwork / Ovation booth (C2527) and get there for 9:30 on Tuesday 10th.

It’s all about the Showfloor

So there are 5 things not to miss at IMEX but remember the entire show pivots around one location, one time and one place: that’s the showfloor where IMEX has created a dynamic marketplace that does what agoras or marketplaces have always done – bring people together to trade, swop, barter, deal, negotiate, tell stories, discuss, debate, dialogue, meet, connect, engage, build relationships, grow trust.

Patrick Delaney, Pádraic Gilligan and Aoife McCrum run SoolNua, a specialist agency working with destinations, hotels and venues on strategy, marketing and training for the MICE market. 












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