Attending IMEX America for the First Time

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The seventh edition of IMEX America ran from Oct. 10 - 12 at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, bringing approximately 12,000 planners, suppliers and destination representatives from across the globe together to do business and education sessions. Although the pre-show week for this trade show for the U.S. and international meetings industry was marked by tragic shootings in the city on Oct. 1, from the moment the doors opened people turned out in force to show support for Las Vegas. 

This was my first IMEX, as all the editors and publishers for Tiger Oak Media’s Meetings + Events group held our own powwow in Las Vegas on Oct. 9, attended the tradeshow and had a booth. Several of my Colorado Meetings + Events editorial advisory board members past and present also were on hand, and Destination Colorado and VISIT DENVER had impressive booths and represented Colorado well. It also was great to see several properties and destinations in the U.S. Mountain West and western Canada represented, as I circulated to gather information and make contacts for Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings.  

With a record 3,300 exhibiting companies the IMEX show floor represented a truly global showcase of suppliers, including hotels, venues, destination management companies, incentive gifts and cities from across North America, Europe, South America, Russia, India, China and Africa. This year’s theme was Purposeful Meetings, meaning meetings that are satisfying, engaging, have lasting positive value and create a common, authentic experience. Here are a few observations from an IMEX newbie on this theme and all the happenings.

1. Standing out at a large trade show is key. Some of my favorites booths belonged to Hawaii, where bracelets were being made out of fresh orchids; Washington, D.C., with an artist/barista who created incredible portraits and landscapes on cups of coffee; and Monaco, with champagne and reflexology at the end of day one. I also liked the setup of Destination Colorado’s booth, complete with a glamping tent featuring a chandelier set up for group presentations, picnic tables for meetings, and unique touches like lanterns, aspen trees and more.

2. Meeting face-to-face and learning together is critically important. It’s why our publishing group took the opportunity to share ideas in person, and there were 250 education sessions presented during IMEX, the majority of which counted toward Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) certification for planners. In addition to Smart Monday on Oct. 9 powered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), there also was the new Association Leadership Forum created by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), the new Event Design Certificate course, Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Business School, and the Executive Meeting Forum for senior corporate planners. This year’s unique Inspiration Hub made use of new inflatable domes for several seminars and workshops. Offering education and doing business all in one place makes a trip to IMEX valuable for planners and suppliers, and I’d like to have more time for the education part of IMEX next time.

3. Taking a moment to pause, relax and experience. Also new this year was White Space, a place for attendees to chill out, take time to purposefully absorb their experience and meet with speakers. To look after the mind, there were meditation sessions led by Lee Papa of Mindful Makeovers at the Be Well Lounge, and to care for the body there was the 5k IMEXrun along the famous Las Vegas Strip on Wednesday at 6 a.m. Petting a pup returned as well with Paws For a Break, bringing smiles and lowering blood pressures. Play was also alive and well with Gary Bordman the chief interactive designer of Amusement, Exhibit and Event Services hosting creative sessions in the new Live Zone. Lego furniture and life-sized PAC-MAN and Etch-a-Sketch were all featured, as well as a class called “Enigma” addressing how to use escape rooms for cocktail hours or team-building. 

4. Supporting the local community and good causes makes good convention sense. IMEX America supported the local Las Vegas community through activities such as Clean the World, the Badge-Back program and Spread the Word Nevada, which gave attendees the opportunity to donate books to this local literacy nonprofit. Perhaps most importantly, the convention made a statement that Las Vegas is moving on and honoring those impacted by the tragic shooting on Oct. 1. A crowd gathered on Oct. 10 for a press conference to hear meetings industry leaders speak about #VegasStrong, including Ray Bloom, IMEX chairman; Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International; Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association; Rossi Ralenkotter, president and CEO of Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority; and David Peckinpaugh, president of Maritz Global Events. Murren told the audience “we are heart-broken but not broken” and attendees were reminded that meetings and conventions are the backbone of Las Vegas, which has nearly 150,000 hotel rooms and more than 11 million square feet of meeting and exhibit space.

Mark your calendar for IMEX America 2018 on Oct. 16 – 18 at Sands Expo in Las Vegas.

It’s amazing what industry collaboration can do when working together for a good cause. One of my favorite examples is 13 meetings industry-related organizations joining forces as the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado to coordinate and host the Serving Up Hope Luncheon every November.

The 24th annual event, held Nov. 7 at Denver Mart, attracted more than 700 industry professionals from around the state and raised an impressive $30,000+ for Food Bank of the Rockies’ Denver’s Table program.