The Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings, and Events (IMEX) is the largest trade show and hosted buyer program in the country. IMEX America just concluded its 7th year in Las Vegas this October and it was how I began my career in Incentive Travel. With over 3,200 exhibitors, 130 countries represented, and 180 education sessions available IMEX was the perfect platform for me to dive into this new world.
Arriving a day before the exhibitions begin to attend Smart Monday is the best way to set yourself up for success. The day is filled with free educational sessions that can help with your business development and goals. It is also a great way to beat the crowds and get acclimated with the spaces and places you will need to navigate during the week. Coming from an events background but a novice in this realm Smart Monday was the perfect crash course that I needed. IMEX offers a wide range of classes and allows you to tailor the day to your needs, my focus was on Incentive Travel. I found the class on contracts and specifically the Force Majeure clause the most beneficial. The instructor was extremely knowledgeable and taught us the many variations of this clause. Plus we were able to hear first hand experiences from our peers on different ways to tackle these common situations. Education doesn't end on Smart Monday but with the bulk of your time and attention turning to your one on one meetings, the best way to still attend classes is first thing in the morning before you head to the exhibition floor.
Once the exhibition floor opens is when the convention really begins. One on one and group meetings are usually scheduled every half hour back to back all day. Think of it as business speed dating. IMEX allows you to seamlessly meet people from around the world all in one room. These one on one meetings give you valuable face time with vendors you have potentials RFP’s for or vendors you are already working with to go over the details of your events or future opportunities. You should also use this time to network and prospect new destinations, venues, and products for future events. Strategy is key, make sure you look at a map when you are scheduling your meetings try to book your appointments as close to one another as you can. This will save you time (and peace of mind) essentially allowing you to meet with more contacts in one day.
One on one meetings are great for introductions and putting a face to name. However, the best relationship building comes from Networking Events, I suggest attending at least one a night.
From dinners to nightclub events this is the best way to get to know your peers and cast a wider net than you can in your meetings. This more relaxed setting is perfect for building a stronger bond with those you want to work with creating a lasting memory that will help you stand out from the crowd and is essential to building future business. Beyond networking being present at these events allows you to experience new ideas first hand and helps you develop concepts to present to your clients. Attending these events was the highlight of my week, I especially loved the Silent Disco party. All guests filled the dance floor wearing headphone playing music of their choice and dancing. The party was not only unique and fun it brought the group together without disturbing other guests at the hotel and is a great way to have a party outside when noise restrictions are in place.
It’s easy to get caught up with everything IMEX has to offer and they have found a great way to establish work life balance by providing a meditation room, puppy playtime, hosted buyers lounge and even great live music during lunch. While it’s important to make the most out of your time allowing yourself to take small breaks and reset will ensure that you are on top of your game and don’t burn yourself out. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a beginner in the industry attending a convention such as IMEX is invaluable to your business. The days in Las Vegas flew by but the education I learned and the connections I made will stay with me for the entirety of my career and I am looking forward to building on this experience next October. I hope to see you there!