Fresh from a new edition of IMEX America in Las Vegas, managing director Carina Bauer looks to the company’s future growth.
IMEX America has grown considerably since its first edition. What have been the key landmarks?
When we launched in 2011, it was uncharted territory. Buyers in North America have responded well to the format, particularly the appointment system.
We moved into a larger hall this year. To give an idea of the scale of growth since 2011 – the show floor in 2018 was double the size of that first show and spanned almost 550,000 sq.ft.
Our partnerships with the industry have been the backbone of the show. We have long standing relationships with MPI, the LVCVA, Sands Expo & Convention Center, as well as local charities who we support through various initiatives.
What were the main tasks you set yourselves vis a vis content this year?
We evolve the show each year in response to feedback and we now offer shorter education sessions, providing key learnings in a quick and interactive format.
We simplified our app to offer a handful of really key features. We also increased the number of tech exhibitors and offered Tech Tours and education. We tried to make the tech experience much more hands on and less ‘mysterious’.
In a world that’s dominated by video, selfies and ‘instagrammable everything’, we’ve put more emphasis on visuals and selfie moments, giving attendees plenty of ways to engage with the show and share their experiences.
Finally, we’ve spent years leading from the front with strong environmental practices but we haven’t always told this story well. This year we brought our green track record out from the shadows and attendees were able to see 100% compostable pizza boxes, our waterwise menus, water refill stations, straw-free cups and more.
IMEX is rare in that we now send only 2% of our graphics and signage to landfill.
What are the most impressive show takeaways?
By introducing a different Talking Point each year we’ve been able to facilitate a different kind of conversation about where the industry’s headed and the issues it’s facing.
‘Legacy’ has proved a wonderful way to mobilise partners and speakers and also to bring some really moving personal stories to the fore. In an age of story-telling we understand that our audiences want to experience IMEX in fresh ways every year, and they want a more personal experience.
Also, our team regularly attends events all over the globe, giving us a valuable international perspective on trends and movements in the market. You’d be surprised how much that exposure informs our plans.
What are the plans for 2019 and beyond? Is there a point at which continual growth becomes a problem?
Right now we’re busy planning our campaign for next year’s show to promote a major date change. IMEX America will be one month earlier in 2019 and 2020 so we’re launching ‘Hello September’ to remind everyone to start planning sooner.
North America is such a huge market we’ve barely scratched the surface and by Vegas standards we’re still minnows. For now, we’re happy to develop organically. Equally, our current focus on ‘experiential’ reflects market demand but, if that changes, expect IMEX to change as well.
We’re intent on ensuring that the business opportunities for our exhibitors and buyers are outstanding and it’s always top of mind to make sure that exhibitor growth doesn’t outpace buyer growth. It’s not an issue that we have faced so far, but it’s one that’s crucial to keep in mind for any organiser.
Come 2021, of course, the show moves to Mandalay Bay. The Sands Expo team have been wonderfully supportive partners and we look forward to establishing successful partnerships with the Mandalay Bay and MGM Resorts International teams.