IMEX America succeeded in bringing together 2,000 hosted buyers, 1,700 attendees and nearly 2,000 exhibitors at the Sands Expo and Conference Center in Las Vegas, Nev., from October 11-13.
This is only the second time a hosted buyer event has taken place on U.S. soil. Until now, the business model has mostly been used overseas in Europe.
In these events, hosted buyers from around the globe are prequalified by show management as decision makers for major meetings, conventions and events. These buyers receive free travel and are invited as guests of the convention in an effort to maximize sales potential for exhibitors.
In 2011, the IMEX America program delivered the largest-ever hosted buyer gathering at a U.S. tradeshow, which included 80 percent participation from the U.S. The other 20 percent arrived with a special interest in buying in the U.S.
According to Ray Bloom, group chairman of IMEX, 53 percent of the buyers had budgets in excess of $1 million.
For this inaugural event, IMEX America teamed up with Meeting Professionals International (MPI) as its strategic partner and premier education provider.
“IMEX America and MPI both agree we’ve found a formula for success, and we now intend to build on it,” said Bloom. “We have successfully delivered a new, collaborative business model, which is not a U.S. tradeshow in Las Vegas, but a truly global marketplace in America plus a tremendous education program. That was always our vision, but over the past four days, thousands of industry professionals have been able to see and experience it for themselves.”
Even before the show floor opened, IMEX America and MPI welcomed hundreds of planners and suppliers to a full day of free learning dubbed Smart Monday, the MeetDifferent Day of Education.
All educational sessions featured a speaker and were available to all attendees. Topics included meeting design, buy/sell relationships and sustainability practices.
The day began with an opening session from speaker Cheryl Cran, CSP, which set the tone for more than 400 professionals in attendance. Networking and collaborative time was interspersed between knowledge sessions, allowing attendees to discuss what they just heard and continue learning.
“Through collaboration and leveraging, our powerful partnership with IMEX America, we are able to connect even more professionals with our content,” said Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI. “Using the MeetDifferent approach of leading-edge thinkers and unique room concepts is just one way we are to provide attendees with professional development on topics that matter to business now.”
Before the exposition began, IMEX also welcomed 200 association meeting planners from 21 countries for a power-packed afternoon and evening program of learning and networking as part of the first-ever IMEX America Association Day.
The day was dedicated exclusively to the everyday management, operational and developmental issues faced by association executives.
Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, said the event complemented IMEX America’s new attendee model for the U.S.
“I’ve been delighted with the feedback we’ve received, which testified to a terrific day and evening, jam-packed with value, learning and networking,” said Bauer. “It clearly left association meeting planners feeling energized and empowered. These hosted buyers also seemed to find great benefit in connecting with peers from different world markets, as well as North America.”
Continuing the theme of education, opening day highlights included global futurist and director of the Convention 2020 Research Study, Rohit Talwar, as he took visitors at the show’s LearningCurve Zone through some of the main trends and innovations happening in today’s events industry.
Talwar pointed toward increasingly short keynotes and breakouts as well as more action-oriented formats such as speed networking and speed meetings as trends in the industry. The study results also show that participants see great value in events that allow the audience to engage in a Q&A session with presenters for the majority rather than the minority of time.
Once the show floor opened, attendees and hosted buyers knew right where they were going as show management reported that more than 30,000 group and individual appointments had been made for the three-day convention.
In his post-show briefing, Bloom also highlighted some of the walk-up business that exhibitors had been receiving. He gave one example of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre, whose team received a booking for a 12,000-delegate event from a buyer who simply arrived at their booth without an appointment looking to place the event outside of the U.S. for the first time.
Other exhibitors were also pleased with the mix of U.S. and international buyers that show organizers attracted.
“We’ve had 52 appointments today, and they’ve all been with new buyers that we’ve not met before and they’ve come to us because they’re looking for new destinations,” said Jorge Franz, VP of international group sales and tourism at the Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We are one of just a few U.S. CVBs to have an international division, so the mix at this first show is ideal for us.”
With the 2011 show in the books, IMEX America has already decided to hold the 2012 show in Las Vegas to build on this year’s success.
“IMEX America has succeeded in producing lasting achievements in three main areas this week: volume and quality of business, professional education and, of course, networking and new global and U.S. business contacts,” said Bloom. “I very much look forward to returning to Las Vegas in 2012 when I expect IMEX America to hit another home run.”