Over the past several years, IMEX has become the world’s largest hosted-buyer meetings industry trade show, attracting over 8,900 attendees each year to its annual event in Frankfurt Germany, to be held this year from May 25-27, 2010. ConventionPlanit.com has been active for several years in bringing hosted buyers to this show.
The really exciting news this year is the upcoming launch of IMEX America, which will be held in Las Vegas,Nevada at the Sands Expo Convention Center at the Venetian/Palazzo October 11-13, 2011.
Ray Bloom, the Chairman of IMEX, is the driving force behind this new venture, which he expects will rival the success of the longstanding Frankfurt show. ConventionPlanit.com asked Bloom to talk about IMEX America in this exclusive interview.
Ray Bloom, the Chairman of IMEX, is the driving force behind IMEX America.
What inspired you to launch IMEX America?
As the industry well knows and understands, we have a strong track record of launching and developing successful trade fairs with widespread industry support. The idea for IMEX America developed over the past couple of years. It was clear there was pent-up demand in the market, and that American exhibitors and suppliers were keener than ever to develop stronger trade links with buyers from other parts of the world; as well as international suppliers wanting to access the U.S. outbound market.
The IMEX brand benefits from excellent goodwill across the world and there was a strong business case to launch in 2011. We know that the U.S. market fully supports and wants such a show – one with a strong and proven business pedigree.
Other than the new location, in what ways will IMEX America be different from IMEX Frankfurt?
There will be slight differences but, in essence, we have an “IMEX model” that is proven, successful, and enduring. For that reason, IMEX America will follow exactly the same mold, allowing for some cultural and business preferences.
For example, the IMEX model is to leverage multiple, high-level partnerships and to pursue an uncompromising focus on business with our hosted buyer program at the core of the show. Additional elements such as our comprehensive seminar and education program – and what we call our New Vision initiatives – provide added value, but IMEX is always, always about maximizing business opportunities between buyers and exhibitors.
We are forecasting 2,000 hosted buyers, making this the largest ever hosted buyer program to be seen at a U.S. trade show and unique in the market. Of these, 80 percent will come from North America, with the balance attending from around the world. Qualification for places on the program will follow the strict guidelines that have been used to build the authority and credibility of IMEX in Frankfurt. The program will bring top-quality association, corporate, and agency buyers from every corner of the meetings and events industry onto the show floor to do business with exhibitors. We work with all the big names already familiar to the U.S. meetings and events industry to ensure their strong and visible presence at the show. In addition, the IMEX model has proven that these hosted buyers will spend longer periods of time on the show floor meeting exhibitors compared to non-hosted trade show attendees.
How do you envision the profile of exhibitors changing by holding IMEX in America? For example, do you envision a greater number of U.S.-based exhibitors?
We definitely expect to see more U.S.-based exhibitors at IMEX America who want to reach an international market as well as raise their profile among topU.S. buyers. We will guarantee that buyers who come to IMEX America from outside the United States will have a special interest in U.S. suppliers and will also spend three full days on the show floor meeting exhibitors. In addition, both the U.S.-hosted buyers, as well as other U.S.-based trade show attendees, will be placing business domestically.
Our confidence in delivering exceptional levels of new business to all our exhibitors in Las Vegas is based on a sound pedigree and a proven formula. For example, IMEX views every single exhibitor as a business partner, not simply a company that takes a booth at our show. The support we offer exhibitors in terms of tailored and detailed pre-show marketing guidance, online buyer appointments, the virtual exhibition, online diary management, online training, and our “Contact the Buyers” facility is genuinely unique, and extends all year round. What’s more, it is all included in the exhibit fee. In short, our aim is to help all our exhibitors achieve an unfair advantage over their competition.
You are planning to work with both the American Society of Association Executives & The Center for Association Leadership (ASAE & The Center) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI) to offer education programs in connection with the show. How will these programs be different and how will they complement each other?
MPI, ASAE & The Center, the Society of Incentive and Travel Executives, and the Professional Convention Management Association are just some of the most important organizations we will work with in the United States to develop educational platforms. They know and understand our unique model and are highly committed to it. Already we have over 40 educational events and forums planned around IMEX America.
ASAE & The Center will organize dedicated association-led education on the day before the show as a part of the IMEX America Association Day program. MPI, as part of our strategic partnership, will no longer hold its MeetDifferent Conference, nor its tradeshow at the World Education Conference, but will put the collective buying power of MPI members behind IMEX America. As part of this, MPI will also deliver dedicated high-level education for corporate buyers on the day before the show, as well as on each morning of the show.
Partnerships like these create very exciting possibilities for IMEX America and ensure a strong foundation for mutual cooperation, education, and marketing in the future.
One thing is clear: It is the “IMEX way” that educational events must not take buyers away from the show floor during business hours. We are uncompromising about this, so you will find that all our education programs will take place on either side of the show’s opening days or at the start or end of each day so as not to interfere with business. As in Frankfurt, we will have an Education Pavilion called the LearningCurve Zone offering short workshops and seminars at the center of the show floor, but these sessions will be short drop-ins.
What is the greatest value that buyers will take away from IMEX America?
More business! In practice that means more appointments with more motivated exhibitors and all business conducted in the fastest and most efficient way possible. We appreciate that hosted buyers and other trade show attendess generally have to justify time out of the office for meeting suppliers face-to-face. However, we also know that despite all the attractions and advantages of the internet, doing business at a live event is more valuable than ever – especially in a communications and experience-based industry such as the international meetings and events market.
In addition, the enormous range of educational activities means that at the same time buyers can learn, develop professionally, and discover new trends and innovations.
What will success look like for IMEX America?
We have a clear vision of what success will look like for our exhibitors, trade show attendees, and buyers and we have a clear plan for bringing that vision to life.
In brief, it will be a trade show floor brimming with exhibitors, the loud buzz of conversation and business being done and fast feedback that both buyers and exhibitors have exceeded their business expectations. We always delight in stories, and there have been many, where exhibitors tell us they have signed as much business in the first few hours as they expected to sign over the full three days. That will definitely be a key measure of success.
How do you think the Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club will do this year? (Ray Bloom is a dedicated fan who attends nearly every game of this soccer team based in his hometown.)
If only I knew…