Q&A with Ray Bloom, Chairman and Founder of IMEX Group

Ray Bloom and Carina Bauer

Hometown: Brighton and Hove, England
Career: Built European Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (EIBTM) and Incentive World before selling both to Reed Exhibitions in 1997 and 2000, respectively; served on Meeting Professionals International (MPI) board 1996−2002 and Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE) board 1993−99; received Presidents Award from International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA); founded IMEX in Frankfurt in 2002 and IMEX America in 2011; member of Destination Marketing Association International Hall of Fame and Convention Industry Council Hall of Leaders


Why is Las Vegas a good match for IMEX America?

Las Vegas is a premier meetings destination with all that it takes to host some of the world’s leading conferences, exhibitions and meetings. We are in the very industry that Las Vegas excels in, so when we wanted to create a top-class show for this industry, it was logical to choose a city known as a top meetings and exhibitions destination. Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and all of our local partners, like Sands Expo, The Venetian and The Palazzo, have also been excellent in helping us as we grow the show and work to create new experiences for our attendees in Las Vegas each year.

How is IMEX America different than IMEX in Frankfurt?

Both IMEX in Frankfurt and IMEX America are strong in business, education and networking, but they also have their own unique elements and vibe. At IMEX America, of course, significantly more, and in fact most of the large U.S. destinations, hotels and services exhibit, as well as most countries around the world. Also, more U.S.-based hosted buyer groups take part. Smart Monday, powered by Meeting Professionals International, is a free education experience exclusively available at IMEX America the day before the show opens, as are the MPI daily keynotes (which include a Smart Monday keynote).

Has the popularity of IMEX in Frankfurt helped elevate the status of IMEX America and vice versa?

IMEX in Frankfurt built a worldwide reputation within the industry as a place where major buyers and suppliers came together from all over the world to do business, increase their knowledge and network. We did this for 10 years, by which time many North American buyers who heard about or visited IMEX in Frankfurt had high expectations when they visited Las Vegas for the first IMEX America. The hosted buyer format was new to those attending IMEX America, but they knew to trust in the new show and format, based on our track record in Frankfurt.

There are many synergies between the shows, with the opportunity to build on relationships and expand on knowledge-sharing topics from Frankfurt to America, and the reverse. Some attendees have described the shows as the bookends of their business year, with a coming together in the spring and fall to take care of business and learn. The two IMEX shows have proven to be cross-pollinators for each other. The number and quality of highly qualified buyers is also a hallmark of both.

What did you learn from building European Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (EIBTM) and Incentive World that you have been able to apply to both IMEX trade shows?

I learned early in my career in business, before I entered the exhibitions and meeting industry, that bringing together the right people—the right buyers and suppliers—is the key to successful business for the buyers, the suppliers and those who bring them together. I have applied that principle through the hosted buyer model from the start at both EIBTM and IMEX, and it has worked well. I also learned early on that doing business at face-to-face meetings and networking to build relationships also play a vital part in creating business success.

Your daughter, Carina Bauer, is CEO of IMEX Group. Describe your working relationship and what makes her a premier executive?

Our working relationship is based on mutual respect. Carina is a great listener and a superb innovator. As a premier executive, she’s highly competent and efficient. She has a great personality and is a joy to work with!

What excites you most about the upcoming 2016 IMEX America?

Each year the range of business, education and networking opportunities at IMEX America grows further, with innovation playing a key role in the expansion and development. This year, again, there will be many new exhibitors, new and larger stands from across the United States and around the world, and new hosted buyer groups, while the range and depth of the education on Smart Monday and on the show floor during the event is greater than ever. We’re also seeing more technology at the show this year and using it as well, introducing Zenvoy, a new tool to enhance the hosted-buyer networking experience. So across the board there is plenty to excite me and everyone at IMEX America this year.

How do you decide which IMEX America parties to attend? Is there one event that stands out for you personally?

IMEX America brings the meetings and incentive travel industry together in the United States each fall, in conjunction with our many industry association partners, who arrange a wide range of meetings and superb social evenings colocated in Las Vegas at the time. I enjoy attending as many of these events as I can because it is great to meet up with as many industry colleagues as possible during the week while everyone is together.


For more on IMEX America 2016, click here.
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