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by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua

80 68 days to IMEX

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 16.12.51In January the IMEX marketing team launched a super-bright campaign inspired by Jules Verne’s famous book Around the World in 80 Days. Starting in Norway, the US, Malaysia and Southern Africa, 4 colour-coded diaries have started to wind their ways  to Frankfurt, Germany with the objective of getting there in time for the IMEX opening ceremony on 19 April. The idea is to pass them on, from hand to hand, during other meetings industry events and have attendees sign their names and company details on the page / date that they receive the diary. The diary that passes through the most hands with the most names signed in it will be deemed the winner.

You can follow proceedings via the hashtag #80daystoIMEX. There you’ll find the different coloured diaries in various parts of the world being signed by smiling, upbeat industry people and you’ll be reminded, once again, that our wonderful industry is all about the magic of real people, in real time, in real places. You’ll also be reminded that IMEX is just around the corner – it’s a lot less than 80 days to IMEX now – so here’s a list of what you need to start doing to get the most out of this extraordinary event that previously I’ve described as:

… both Google and Amazon for the Meetings Industry. It’s a search engine and a showroom for network building, knowledge transfer and business exchange.


Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 16.14.52I might be accused of  exaggeration if I were to say that IMEX, Frankfurt delivers better, more relevant and more cutting edge education than the annual assemblies or conferences of some industry associations but, if so, then I stand accused. Many savvy IMEX participants – exhibitors, visitors and hosted buyers alike – now realise how worthwhile it is to schedule their time around the amazing educational sessions available, for the most part, free of charge at the show. There’s genuinely something relevant for everyone. Corporate Meeting Planners, for example, have their own exclusive, dedicated day, appropriately called “Exclusively Corporate @IMEX”. This year’s edition, back again at the spectacular RoccoForte Villa Kennedy,  focuses on meeting planning as a career and includes an innovative “mock trial” during which a meeting planner is taken to a court of arbitration by a supplier for unethical behaviour. Full details of this programme and the other great educational sessions can be found here, on the IMEX website.

Social and Networking Events

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 16.17.00Frankfurt, Barcelona and Las Vegas, and the industry trade shows associated with them, have now become the hallowed gathering places for the full, truly global, spectrum of our industry, both geographically and sector-wise. If you’re not attending at least one of these shows then you’ve missed a key appointment in the annual calendar of the meetings, incentives, conferences, events and exhibitions business. The social and networking events at IMEX Frankfurt are a cornerstone of the entire experience and happen both on the show floor and around the city after the show closes. Key events to consider are the IMEX Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony, the Association Evening and, of course SITE NITE Europe. Following many hugely successful years at the Intercontinental Hotel, Frankfurt, SITE NITE is re-locating this year to a downtown, period venue, the Kameha Suites. Built originally for the insurance company Allianz in the late 1890s, today the Kameha Suites is the coolest venue in town and one befitting of the fun community of incentive travel professionals that SITE attracts. Don’t miss this truly motivational experience!

Business on the Show Floor

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 16.19.23With each passing year the side show elements grow in scale, impact and  importance  but the core reason why we attend IMEX is still to do business.  And now is the time to start planning in earnest for this most important activity. Buyers should start making  lists of “must-see” destinations, venues, hotels etc Be aware, however, that the traditional exhibitor community has greatly expanded and that technology, in particular, comprises a huge part of the showfloor footprint. IMEX is thus a great time to get up-to-date with the latest eventtech, book a demonstration and maybe even attend #IMEXPitch (in association with #EventMB) where you can discover the latest, greatest technology for meetings and events.

For exhibitors it’s a question of finding your way around the excellent appointment system and making sure you have open diaries for each colleague in attendance at the show. If you do so next week you’ll probably be reasonably successful reaching out to buyers whose contact details you have. However, once you get closer to the show, don’t even try.  By then buyers’ inboxes will be crammed with so many “Hi, it’s Debbie from Hilton here” that your e mail will be but another insignificant grain of sand on a vast beach of useless communication! Instead, use the IMEX devised appointment system which is fully explained here. When used properly – my former Ovation colleague Hugo Slimbrouck was, for me, the super-user – it’ll give you a full dance card of extremely attractive prospects!

Other Appointments

IMEX Frankfurt is also a great time to catch up with industry buddies but make sure to schedule these important catch-ups at down times (not that there are many) so as to maximise your time doing business.  It’s often worth coming in to Frankfurt on the Sunday or the Monday and using these pre-show days for these other appointments – committee meetings of industry associations you serve on, catch-ups with opinion leaders like industry media and so on. So now is the time to think about setting these meetings up, otherwise they’ll eat into your show time and, if you’re an exhibitor, this can be super-expensive.

Other advice

I’ve posted quite a bit on IMEX over the years. I believe it’s a meetings industry exhibition of immense merit but, more than that, I believe it captures something of the spirit of our industry better than anything else I can think of. Without wanting to be precious, the meetings industry is unique and special because the nature of what we do and how we do it means our interactions and connections with each other are more intimate and  intense than any other industry sector I can think of. IMEX understands this fundamental difference and embodies it in its culture and ethos and that’s why it’s compelling and essential to be part of it.

Here’s a selection of previous posts on IMEX:

6 Networking Tips for IMEX Success

IMEX Frankfurt – What Happens before the Doors Open

IMEX14 – the Economic Impact of Events

Pádraic Gilligan is Managing Partner with Patrick Delaney at SoolNua, a boutique consultancy helping destinations, hotels and venues get more MICE business. 



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