IMEX America may look different for a lot of reasons and Planet IMEX probably won’t be returning. A week after IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer and her father, Chairman Ray Bloom, announced that they would be cancelling the May live gathering of IMEX Frankfurt, Bauer explained the thought process behind the decision, why the online presence for the rest of the year might look a lot different than the Planet IMEX experience launched after Frankfurt was cancelled last year, and what is in store in Las Vegas in November.
The debate about if and when to cancel the annual European gathering of up to 14,000 event industry players hinged on the response to one question. “Can we create value for buyers and suppliers?” If you can’t deliver on your core purpose, then you are putting the future of the event in jeopardy, Bauer said. In the case of IMEX Frankfurt, even a slimmed down version would have brought 10,000 people from 150 different countries. Many of those suppliers start planning and investing months in advance so she didn’t have the luxury to wait and see. “As much as we want to deliver events to show they can be done safely, we have to look at the heart, what is your event for and whether you can deliver on that.”
The same question about how to deliver value in a changing environment is driving the decision about what to build online. Bauer needs her team to focus on IMEX America in Las Vegas in November and can’t afford the time required to build another Planet IMEX-scale online endeavor. “It will probably be completely different, smaller with a curated audience, not a scaled down version of last year,” she said.
The team is currently hosting focus groups and sending out RFPs to determine what shape the online version of a hybrid presence might take. “We also have to consider what the online needs will be once people can start meeting in person again,” Bauer said. “Those needs may be changing quickly in light of all the online fatigue.”
She is focused on how to create value for buyers and suppliers in the online world when people can’t be together in person. “We want to instigate business and peer to peer connections,” she said.
The other goal is to experiment on behalf of the industry. “If we can’t experiment now, when can we?” she asked rhetorically.
Bauer is even questioning the meaning of the word hybrid. “It just means ‘mixed’, right?” she asked with a chuckle. Yes, it can mean sharing content from a live event, she allowed, but also it can mean connecting between live events to keep the community and the connections going.
She is looking for something IMEX can do in a digital environment that might have value in the longer term when live events return. “Planet IMEX would not fit well with a live event,” she said.
A Natural Focus
Whatever the delivery platform looks like, some things will stay the same. “We will probably take the bigger content issues and dive deep into those,” she said. The theme for this year is “Nature Positive” and the goal is to advance the issues raised in The Regenerative Revolution Report. The focus on the next generation of sustainability, not just reducing impact, but looking at the life cycle of everything and leaving a better place after an event will be key.
Using our 2020 NATURE Talking Point, the Regenerative Revolution is rich in case studies, practical advice and recommendations, plus a framework to guide event professionals towards regenerative event management. Sponsored by Marriott International: https://t.co/nIhe9MvdqQ pic.twitter.com/15Dy8WFuoq
— IMEX (@IMEX_Group) January 8, 2021
Another familiar note? Bauer plans to continue leveraging partnerships with associations that help everyone shine while sharing content.
Las Vegas Pivots
“We want to focus on getting the live show fantastic and there is a lot that needs to happen to do that,” said Bauer.
IMEX America will be different because it will make the long-planned shift to Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, where there is a lot of space to spread out exhibits and education and keep everyone comfortable. “We are focusing on the flow,” she said.
Bauer expects the largest industry gathering of the year to be smaller than IMEX America 2019, which brought 14,000 people to Sands Expo. “But we don’t expect it to be very much smaller,” Bauer said. Despite budget considerations, she reported that suppliers are saying they want to be there, they want to see everyone and promote themselves. “People want to come back.”