IMEX America 2019: Diving Into Education and Tech

Education program to encourage innovation and creativity

Deep dives, one-to-one sessions and hot topic tables will be among the education offerings for meetings and events professionals—both buyers and exhibitors—at all levels at IMEX America 2019. The highly varied program will include 180 education events that encourage participants to think afresh about how to make meetings more engaging by embracing new ways of thinking, considering the big issues, and exploring innovation and creativity.

“We recommend that attendees step away from their comfort zone and attend an education session that’s different from what they’re used to,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. “All learning opportunities are free of charge and take place on the show floor, so there’s no excuse not to experiment a little.”

The education offerings will blend with the show’s Talking Point—Imagination.

“Overall, we’ll be focusing on three key areas under the overall theme of Imagination—Diversity, Sustainability and Collaboration. Throughout the show and through the educational program, you’ll see a number of sessions that invite the industry to think about these issues more broadly and imaginatively,” Bauer says.

Smart Monday

The education offerings take center-stage on Smart Monday on Sept. 9, the day before the trade-show begins. It provides an opportunity for attendees to immerse themselves in a full day of education and networking. Most of the education sessions are aligned to the CMP International Standards and are eligible for clock hours.
“We know it’s hard for event professionals to find time for professional development, so we wanted to create a dedicated day for education and a strong start to the show,” Bauer says. “Smart Monday, powered by MPI, gives us the opportunity to offer tailored and more in-depth content for industry professionals before the trade show has started. We’re able to use different spaces, immersive educational experiences, as well as certification and deep-dive sessions.”

Artist and TED Talk speaker Phil Hansen will speak on “Embrace the Shake: Transforming Limitations into Opportunities,” the first of three keynotes during IMEX America 2019.

Another highlight of Smart Monday will be the presentation, “Unleash Your Imagination—How to Ask, ‘What If’” by EventMB, an online resource for event professionals. The session will detail how to apply creativity without a limitless budget and provide planners with questions they need to ask to trigger inspiration.
The EventMB team will also deliver its popular Event Innovation Lab—an immersive training workshop on event planning that uses practical examples from the most successful conferences, trade shows and activations to show planners how to inject innovation into their events.

Also, diversity expert and stand-up comedian Jessica Pettitt will deliver an MPI session, “Inclusion: Beyond the Law for Meeting Professionals,” which will hone in on the importance of inclusivity, emphasizing how planners can make attendees feel safe and welcome at meetings and events. Pettitt will outline the tools, resources and spaces needed to encourage collaboration and foster the all-important sense of belonging.

Top Offerings for Senior Professionals

Two Smart Monday programs designed for the most senior association and corporate planners will provide them with a valuable—and often rare—chance to share best practices and experiences.

Association Leadership Forum, created by ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, is a program for association CEOs and directors to engage thought leaders through strategic conversations and collaborative peer learning. The connections will continue at Association Evening, when they will enjoy cocktails and canapes with other association leaders and key exhibitors to celebrate the start of IMEX America.

Corporate meeting planners will discuss best-in-class meetings and events practices as well as innovations at Executive Meeting Forum. Senior planners can suggest their preferred topics for discussion—including procurement, stakeholder management and meeting design.

While the Smart Monday offerings have been very successful, Bauer says that participants are confused about one thing, in particular.

“They can’t understand why—or how—we offer our education program for free,” she says. “It’s virtually unheard of in North America. This comes down to our IMEX company values. We’re here to serve, support and advocate for the industry we love, and we benefit from having many partners, suppliers and individuals who feel the same way.

“Being a private company also means we’re free to try new things, do things our own way and not be driven only by shareholder value. So, yes, we want everyone to understand that IMEX is free for visitors to attend and our education is also free to all.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 10, the education program moves to the show floor, with shorter sessions that attendees can fit in between appointments.

Addressing the Industry’s Needs

Bauer emphasizes that there is an underlying unity among the IMEX America education components.

“What is consistent throughout all the educational offerings is that we ensure that there is best-in-class content for all levels of professional, as well as for all sectors of the industry—from association to corporate planners and from agencies to incentive travel professionals,” she says. “This allows attendees and exhibitors to tailor their education sessions to suit their professional and personal needs.

“Attendees can search our education program online and refine by topic—we offer 10 tracks, including business skills, creative learning, research and trends, sustainability, and health and well-being.”

She says that over the years, the content of education has changed to address the needs of the meetings industry.

“Our education program evolves year-on-year in line with changes and developments in the industry,” Bauer says. “Our team is in regular contact with event professionals from around the world, which helps us to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s affecting their professional lives. We know it’s hard for planners to step away from the office, so we work hard to ensure the learning opportunities at the show are relevant, timely and impactful.”

New Discovery Zone Adds Zip

The always-enticing technology offerings at IMEX America will get a big boost this year with the introduction of the lively Discovery Zone.

“It will be one space to watch in terms of our tech features,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group. “Planners can get hands-on with interactive, experiential technology, such as VR and AR. This new area of the show floor will deliver concepts, acts and ideas that can pump more imagination, connectivity and memorability into any event. It aims to create a space to both discover and play with some of the newest tech products available.”

Bauer says that although the Discovery Zone offerings at IMEX America 2019 can’t be disclosed yet, those featured at Discovery Zone at IMEX in Frankfurt May 21–23 offer some hints.

“Our new Discovery Zone in Frankfurt included experiential and immersive activities such as Hyatt’s extremely popular meditation pod and Painting Partys’ painting sessions, which are great for team bonding—plus they’re fun—as well as technology, including NOX’s dancing robots, holographic presentations and 360ties’ mind-bending photography, which provides depth and texture to photos that really pop,” she says.

Bauer emphasizes that rather than simply display these products in the Discovery Zone, IMEX America also helps meeting planners understand how they could fit into their events. This is also true of the Tech Pavilion, which will again include event management software company Cvent, event apps EventMobi and EvenTri, as well as Sciensio, offering artificial intelligence chatbot technology. Plenty of other companies will participate, including The Meeting Pool, which will again provide planners with opportunities to troubleshoot tech challenges and discover new solutions.

New exhibitors will include wearable technology platform Klik, networking software company Brella and remote interpretive service provider InterpreNet.

Also, Six Star Experiences—which brought Sophie, the world’s most advanced robot—to Smart Monday at IMEX America 2018, will back be this year. The group has developed the Six Star Innovation & Experience Lab, which attendees can pop into anytime throughout the day.

Shout-Outs for IMEX America 2018’s Tech Offerings

Several participants at IMEX America 2018 lauded the opportunities it provided to feature and explore tech offerings.

“Being at IMEX not only allows us to demonstrate our products and services face to face, but also helps to build long-term relationships and trust,” said David Bradfield, vice president of client success of tech exhibitor Expo Logic. “The interest in face recognition will only continue to grow as people become more and more comfortable with it.”

Sandy Hammer, co-founder of event-planning platform AllSeated, showed planners how virtual reality can boost sales and deliver a marketing edge in her presentation, “Virtual reality: An Accessible Game-Changer in the Event Industry.”

“VR will have an effect across the whole of our industry,” she said. “This innovative technology helps planners to tell the story of their venue or destination, showing the scale and space. VR really brings your offering to life and will help you win business—no question about it!”

Serena Wedlake, national account manager at Access Destination Services, enjoyed one of the daily event-tech tours, designed to give planners an overview of many innovations.

“It’s important for me to keep up to date with the latest tech so I can offer something new and relevant to my clients,” she said.