Destinations Come Alive at IMEX America

IMEX America exhibitors found creative ways to bring their properties to life

How often can you say you’ve sipped coffee in Columbia, sampled chocolate from Hershey, Pennsylvania, tasted vodka in Singapore, learned to step dance in Ireland, painted parasols in Thailand and taken a virtual hard-hat tour of a not-yet-built hotel, all without walking more than a few hundred feet? Now imagine enough of these equally immersive experiences to fill up three incredible days.

For the sixth straight year, meeting professionals from around the world flocked to the Las Vegas Strip for IMEX America, arguably the biggest travel industry trade show in North America. The event kicked off with Smart Monday on Oct. 17, with an agenda packed with thoughtful and topical education sessions about everything from health-care meeting compliance to design logistics.

The trade show floor opened on Oct. 18, drawing a record 12,227 meetings and events professionals for a 14 percent increase over 2015, and that wasn’t the only record broken at the show. There were a record 60,000 prescheduled appointments between hosted buyers and suppliers, 3,250 exhibiting companies and 69 new booths on the exhibition floor.

“It takes hard work, not just from the IMEX team, but from everybody in the industry to make this event what it is,” said Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, in an interview with Smart Meetings TV.

Show-Stopping Booths

Attracting attention on the Sands Expo floor when thousands of other exhibitors are attempting to do the same is a challenge, but some had more success than others. Here are a few takeaways on what makes for attention-grabbing booths:

1. Appeal to the senses: For destination booths, what better way to bring authentic experience to Vegas than to find a way to show off the native cuisine or culture? Local wine, beer, coffee, liquor, sweets and other treats had crowds waiting in line to say hello and sample local favorites.

One of the easiest senses to appeal to is, of course, sight, as event professionals tend to be visual people. Adorning booths with photos of city skylines, beaches, plains, mountains and even basic decor—from tables and chairs to floral arrangements— is one of the most effective strategies for attracting the right audience to a booth. Planners approaching a destination plastered with property photos already had an idea of the kind of experience they were looking into before a word was spoken.

Exhibitors that weren’t showing off a property, such as media and technology companies, were met with the same challenge. And the successful ones, at least in terms of booth traffic, employed the same strategy: be visual. Event app companies, for example, were grouped together in one section of the trade show floor, making it exceedingly difficult to stand out from their competitors. So booths that told the story of their app—what functions it performs, what makes it different from other apps, and even offered video demos and screen grabs that illustrated what the in-app experience was like—answered some questions before the conversation began. This made it simple for planners to distinguish which solutions would work best for their needs. For shows like IMEX, where time is valuable and limited, being transparent is critical.

2. Offer Education: Using your booth space to schedule presentations and campfire sessions that educate planners and attendees about the services you offer is a brilliant way to attract attention. Tech companies used this method to premiere demos to many planners at once, and destinations—such as Dubai Events—created a platform where it could showcase all of the city’s updates, deliver impressive travel statistics, and address concerns and misconceptions that tend to divert planners from considering their destination for meetings.

VR is a…Well, Reality

Some exhibitors took bringing their destination to life a step further with interactive display walls and virtual reality experiences. Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority featured a digital wall that allowed spectators to select venues and explore the property with the tap of the screen. Radisson Red and Meet L.A. were just some of the exhibitors that showcased their properties with the help of VR viewers, proving all the talk about VR is coming to fruition.

IMEX America 2016 was a buzzing, resounding success.

“The support in the industry and working together on an overall basis with the suppliers, the buyers, and the trade associations and the media—that’s what makes it work,” said Ray Bloom, chairman and founder of IMEX Group, in an interview with Smart Meetings TV.

EXTRA! EXTRA! IMEX NEWS

Lots of news broke on the show floor this year. In case you missed it, here are some of the most exciting announcements:

Ray Bloom, chairman and founder of IMEX Group, announced that DoubleDutch, the leading provider of event apps, is the official mobile partner for IMEX America and IMEX in Frankfurt.

Hyatt Hotels introduced Meetings on Demand, a simplified booking program that allows planners to see inventory and venue details in real time.

Hilton Worldwide announced WowMakers, the company’s largest B2B marketing initiative, which recognizes outstanding planners through first-person video blogs. Additional tools and resources will premiere in the coming months to inspire meeting professionals and wow attendees.

Delta Air Lines unveiled the new Delta Edge Meetings program, which will feature reporting capabilities that will make it easier for corporations to calculate the impact of Delta travel costs on the value of their meetings.

Maritz Travel introduced the expansion of its health-care solutions, which will significantly help planners of med/pharma meetings understand and navigate the ins and outs of compliance.

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