TTW – The 2nd edition of IMEX America closed successfully last month. Brief us on your success story.
Carina Bauer : This year’s IMEX America was 28% larger than our debut show with 77 new booths and a total of 2,413 exhibiting companies. On all three fronts – business results and numbers, networking events and education – we received some excellent feedback and were delighted with the results.
For us it’s always the business dimension of the show that is most important because that’s why our exhibitors and buyers take part. For example, our exit survey shows that total orders placed onsite by hosted buyers amounted to $310 million with post-show orders expected to amount to around $2.3 billion. In turn the average order per hosted buyer onsite was $487,000. Post-show, that figure rises to an average of $1 million. Buyer attendees (who attend independently) placed total orders onsite worth $118 million, rising to $551 million in the 10 months after the show. All of these figures were up on last year.
Also, the work we put into refining our online appointment system to make it faster and simpler paid off (it took just three clicks for a buyer to make appointment with an exhibitor this year as opposed to seven last year), and the introduction of the single email inbox for hosted buyers was also a big improvement. The high number of business appointments made before and during the show –nearly 40,000 in total, which represented a 60% increase on our launch show – was testament to these improvements. Appointments mean targeted business which is why we devote so much time to getting this part of the show right.
On the sustainability front, I’ve just learned that we succeeded in breaking our target ofdiverting well over 70% of our waste from the show compared to 65% last year. As our long-term aim is to achieve level one of the new APEX standards, this step up is extremely satisfying.
TTW – How effective was the Smart Monday and Association Focus this year?
Carina Bauer : It was great to see Smart Monday – powered by MPI – really capturing the market’s imagination this year. We worked hard with MPI and other partners to get people to understand just what a great value, education-packed day it is, as well as the fact that it was completely free. Feedback from last year showed that some people were a little overwhelmed and confused at the variety of the education on offer, so with MPI and other association partners, we worked hard to make the entire programme much more cohesive. Again, our exit survey data shows that it – and education in general – was a key decision-making factor for a lot of buyers who attended, especially buyer attendees, in addition to “having the world at his fingertips” as one buyer described the whole exhibition.
We also reshaped our association day into “Association Focus”. It was sponsored by the Sands Meetings and provided a day-long program of free education which brought together 200+ association executives plus experts and leaders from PCMA, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership and ICCA. We had an excellent keynote speaker in Mark Sanborn, one of the top 30 leadership speakers in the world, and we also divided the day’s education into three tracks – meetings, executive and global. This approach was very well received and allowed the association executives to tailor their education according to their personal business challenges and goals.
TTW: What were the hottest trends and issues which were discussed this year at the show?
Carina Bauer : Education-wise, technology and hybrid events were a hot topic as was personal development, especially leadership and the sessions we ran on body language. We had great feedback on our campfire formats too. Campfires are small group informal learning sessions on the show floor (generally 8-10 people). They last just 45 minutes and are facilitated by an expert. Industry professionals seemed to enjoy the chance to get a quick fix on a hot topic in between business meetings so we’ll definitely be running more of these next year.
Another big hit, which made a big difference to our exhibitors, was the fact that we worked with a team from howtobesocial.com. They were on the show floor every day to help participants improve their use of social media and achieve more business, more connections and even more value from the show. These added-value extras worked extremely well and we’ll be developing those further next year. The IMEX App was extremely popular too. We had 60% more downloads this year and it also provided a live link to everyone’s appointment schedules so it was a very business-friendly tool.
Looking ahead to 2013 and picking up some of the other trends seen at the show, with the continued explosion of smart phones and tablets, gamification looks set to explode in 2013. Facebook social gaming, in-browser gaming, FourSquare and SCVNGR (social location-based gaming platforms for mobile phones) are all driving this trend towards games as ‘engagement’ tools. Equally, look out for more visual storytelling – the use of short video, pinterest, clever graphics – to communicate, taking the pressure off words alone (and especially emails) to do the job. Tied into this is a trend towards brand personification – giving business brands a human or even animal face – in order to create more memorability and impact ‘through the line’. The ‘Meet Mr Holland’ campaign is an obvious example in the global meetings market.
TTW: First IMEX America U.S Travel Political Advocacy Forum Stressed on the Need to Think Globally, Act Locally – how beneficial and significant was it at the show for the participants and traders as well?
Carina Bauer : It is vitally important that the industry works together to fully communicate its true economic value, globally as well as at a national and regional level. It is equally important that IMEX continues its efforts to encourage all sectors of the industry to act. We must act as one in order to ensure that restrictive or reactive legislation or compliance doesn’t suffocate the industry or limit its future growth.Proper understanding of the industry at the right levels of government also facilitates and opens up investment.
Events such as the U.S. Travel Forumprovide a high level opportunity for everyone to meet and hear the same message at the same time.We were especially pleased to welcome the Major of Las Vegas, Carolyn Goodman, to the Forum as that kind of highly visible support is key to success and to keeping up momentum. Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, also spoke in a very impassioned way. Geoff Freeman, COO and Executive VP of U.S Travel moderated a discussion with Elliot Ferguson, President and CEO of Destination DC; Steve Moore, President and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and Rossi Ralenkotter of the LVCVA (Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority) which also meant that everyone in the room could learn from each other’s successes and compare their different challenges and issues.
On this same note, we have just agreed to work closely with PCMA on their newly launched Business Forum for Local Leaders, which is an initiative designed to educateand encourage more destinations towardspolitical advocacy in their local business communities.
TTW: IMEX America 2013 has been announced to be held in the bigger halls at the Sands Expo from 2013 to allow it to grow further. Have you already started preparing yourself for the bigger presentation next year?
Carina Bauer : Because the show was 20% bigger this year we weren’t able to accommodate some of the last minute demand from exhibitors that we received so it is great that we can now move into bigger halls to allow the show to expand. Our focus is continually on the future and the continued development of both of our shows. We are now deep in the final planning and implementation phase for IMEX in Frankfurt 2013 and the new programmes and plans we have there. At the same time, we have already started to develop and expand the hosted buyer programme for IMEX America 2013, bringing new partners and intermediaries on board and we are already in close contact with our exhibitors about their needs for next year.
TTW: IMEX America 2012 had a great networking and idea sharing opportunity along with business goals- how helpful was it for the meetings industry to raise the bar on standards and provide leading-edge personal and professional skills development opportunity?
Carina Bauer : It’s not just helpful, it’s essential nowadays. All IMEX participants now expect our shows to deliver great business opportunities as well as the chance to network and improve their skills. We provide these ‘added value extras’ free of charge because we are in a position to work with excellent partners whose members or client bases overlap with ours, and who share the same values and desire to see the industry flourish and grow. We place great importance on the quality and scope of our education programmes which is one reason why we have a large team dedicated to devising fresh ideas, sourcing excellent speakers and then, finally, delivering the programme. Our education programmes are a major, year-round undertaking but the feedback we receive is great and theall-round value to the show speaks for itself.