At the seventh annual IMEX America, 3,300 companies from 150 countries exhibited to more than 12,000 meeting and event professionals. Topics of technology, food and beverage, and venue choice led the way as usual, but innovative event trends clearly emerged, and we wanted to highlight them for our readers.
The Main IMEX Theme
Modern attendees want to be involved in event activities. They are no longer content to be passive observers.
Vendors expressed the theme in four different functional areas.
1. Purposeful Meetings
• Simply means thinking of attendees as humans first, which requires studying how they learn, think, connect, and perform. Then, plan accordingly. Janet Sperstad, program director at Madison College in Wisconsin, presented on “Purposeful Meetings: How to Plan with Deeper Meaning, Innovation, and Insight in Mind.” The discussion centered around how to create better, more creative, more comfortable meetings.
2. Hands-on Learning
• A “Lunchtime Live Zone” showcased artists, musicians, and games with the purpose of inspiring planners to bring creative ideas to their own meetings. Planners could play with a giant Etch-a-Sketch or take a virtual-reality roller coaster ride, then have their faces depicted in sand and receive a custom song from a team of writers at Song Division. There was, also, a giant graffiti wall located near registration where customers could take selfies then decorate them with a digital spray can and share on social media.
3. Creative Meeting Spaces
• In the “Inspiration Hub” education area, meetings and seminars took place inside intimate inflatable domes designed to spark creativity and teamwork.
• The “Play Room” was a hands-on, interactive learning space designed to provide tools to make meetings more engaging. They discussed how to use escape rooms for events and focused on fun ways to engage introverts.
• “Campfires” were circular areas set aside that had comfortable seating designed to promote brainstorming and teamwork.
• Hilton sponsored the “Be Well Lounge” where attendees could get massages during the day or take part in guided meditations from Lee Papa, a mindfulness speaker and trainer.
• The early morning #IMEXRun on Wednesday drew over 450 runners. Attendees could also de-stress between sessions by playing with therapy dogs.
Food for Thought
Our takeaway was that some of the concepts seemed far-fetched or inappropriate for certain types of meetings, but the theme of the convention and many of the innovations were right on. Creative ideas to make meetings more interactive and less passive are the order of the day. We must stay at the leading edge of cultural evolution as each generation morphs into the next if we are to keep face-to-face events meaningful exchanges of information and effective networking environments.