Meeting and event planners are foundation of trade show
IMEX America exhibitors are encouraged to bring a date or two to the event, the largest meetings and events trade show in the United States. Borrowing from the same model that has made IMEX in Frankfurt unrivalled in popularity, IMEX America’s hosted buyer program actually relies on exhibitors to refer and help prescreen meeting planners for the annual Las Vegas event.
Sure, IMEX, Las Vegas and exhibitors are responsible for assuring all the decorations and party favors are in place, but the trade show would be virtually meaningless without the guests of honor, the planners.
“We built the show around the hosted buyer program,” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group.
In 2015, IMEX America drew 3,030 hosted buyers from 54 countries for an increase of 4 percent over the previous year. IMEX America reports that 54 percent of the hosted buyers have a meetings budget in excess of $1 million and 16 percent have budgets that surpass $10 million.
Identifying quality buyers is always a goal and challenge for meeting and event trade shows. Between 200 and 250 intermediaries, composed mainly of IMEX exhibitors, help coordinate this component by identifying top buyers they typically already work with. Many times the hosted buyers stay at Las Vegas properties associated with the brand that is hosting them. Suppliers seize the opportunity to wine and dine important clients and introduce them to properties and destinations within their brands that they may not be familiar with.
“How do you define that quality?” Bauer asks. “It’s so difficult. That’s an incredibly important part of the process.”
Once IMEX America further vets the hosted buyers suggested by suppliers, lucky planners who get official invitations are in for a real treat. A ticket to IMEX America is more like a fam trip than a trade show, with hosting suppliers rolling out the red carpet.
Hosted buyers are required to attend eight appointments daily. They also have access to education opportunities, onsite certification programs and keynote speakers.
There’s even a hosted buyer lounge. This year it will feature a new Networking Hub, with the hosted buyer team facilitating sessions.
Also new this year, Zenvoy software will facilitate peer-to-peer matching through data profiling to help like-minded buyers connect. Most trade shows boast technology to connect buyers and sellers, but IMEX America is helping buyers network with each other rather than them relying on happenstance engagement during education sessions. Before IMEX America begins, buyers can answer online questions to initiate matching.
“There could be buyers seeking peer-to-peer experiences,” Bauer says. “We will now be able to match buyers with their relevant peers.”
“The biggest thing about these events is you can make a direct relationship with the people who have access to these cities and these countries. They have information you can find on the internet, but [provide] a deeper dive and a neutral perspective on countries when trying to find destinations for international conferences.”
−Rodney Williams, meeting planner with HelmsBriscoe, New York City
“The whole world is here; face to face is something that can’t be replaced. This is how you do business, how you connect with people, how you learn new things and how you reconnect with people in the industry. In three days, you have a pulse on what’s going on, what’s new, and get new ideas for your business. There is no better place to be in a trade show; in three days, you learn so much, you need some time to digest and figure out how to implement it.”
−Eric Rozenberg, CMM,CMP, president of Swantegy USA, Parkland, Florida