Carina Bauer IMEX Group CEO sits down with Jon Trask to discuss what’s new and exciting at the IMEX America this October in Las Vegas. Carina Bauer, More hosted buyers, Smart Monday – day of education. If you are planning to attend the show please stop by the AVforPlanners booth and say hello.
Transcripts to come.
Jon: Welcome back to the podcast, we are here today talking with Carina Bauer from IMEX and IMEX America, welcome.
Carina: Hi, thank you, it is very nice to be back.
Jon: Oh, it is so great to see you and all of your team here; we are in Minneapolis where we are recording this right now at WBC which I know is one of your very good partners, MPI.
Carina: Absolutely, yeah very much so I mean we have been a strategic partner with MPI since we launched IMEX America, so they have been very instrumental in building the show with us and our teams work very closely together and of course they are our premier education provider as well.
Jon: Absolutely, the Smart Monday that Dale and I talked about it already.
Carina: Absolutely, yeah that is right, so Smart Monday and also their keynotes every morning of the show, both of those really bring such a lot to the show they bring new elements that we don’t have in our other show in Frankfurt and they are really valuable not only for us but of course for the person that supplies or attending them and they do a great job on that.
Jon: And you know the value of it is something that we have touched on, on a number of different podcasts talking to different people of your team and the fact that this education is free.
Carina: Yeah, absolutely, it is entirely free and of course the vast majority of it people can earn their CMPs and COOs and I think what we are very proud of as well and I think MPI are as well is that although they are the premier education provider and they really pull together and provide the majority of the education for Smart Monday, they work with all the other industry trade associations who also support Smart Monday and the education throughout the show. So ICCA providing sessions, SITE providing session, PCMA this year doing their business school for the first time, I believe it is the first time they have done business school away from one of their own events that is on smart Monday, we have ASAE, ICCA, ECM which is European Cities Marketing, so they are doing a session on how to take your events into Europe, GBTA are doing their session, so it is a real industry collaboration and I think we are very proud of that and it means that whatever part of the industry you are from there is something for you and it also means and this is important to us that the whole industry is coming together and genuinely working together around the show and you know that benefits all of us.
Jon: Absolutely, I think in this age where associations in general have had struggles retaining membership and making sure they are relevant to their members and I have seen this and I believe I have mentioned at the podcast, I certainly said it to people that it is a place where you have found a way to kind of bring the whole as you said, the whole industry together and that cross pollination, that chance to work and experience with other people is a huge, huge thing for the entire meetings industry.
Carina: Yeah, I believe so as well I guess the thing is with IMEX we are neutral ground, it isn’t like MPI going to ASAE’s event or ASAE going to GBTA’s event, we are a neutral party and so that allows them all to have their platform to invite their members and to contribute in a way that is relevant to them and their members which is always different for each organization. But I think it is nice because all those different memberships are coming together with a show, I think they find value in that as well, you know you take a membership like ASAE’s or SITE it is very different to the MPI and PCMA membership and they are looking for different things where they can learn from each other. So it is great that they can come together and meet.
Jon: And GBTA.
Carina: And GBTA as well yeah and it is great to have them do a session, it is the first time they will be doing a session at the show and that has come about through MPI’s relationship with GBTA. So you know you start to see those synergies. But this year you know we even have CEIO they are doing their golf M tournament it is a fundraising so that money all goes towards exhibition industry research, so that is fantastic, we are really pleased to add that to everything that is coming on at the show.
Jon: Right, the CSC is there doing hall of leaders.
Carina: Hall of leaders is taking place and beside also they have added on the weekend before the show the sight young leaders’ conference so that is for 35 years and under, all people with less than 5 years in the industry and so that is a great event as well to be adding to the show. So yeah there is a whole list of new and expanding events which people can take part in, it is quite busy week but hopefully it is efficient for people because they can take part in those events, they can do their networking, they can support their organization’s fundraising efforts.
Jon: Right I know there is a one day Voo.
Carina: There is a one day Voo and that is all shared at a fantastic new venue called Cortes it is supposed to be the hottest new club in Vegas, I went to visit it last week just to do my research obviously and it is absolutely stunning venue, lots of outdoor space which I think people will really appreciate and I think the MPI foundation is going to do a phenomenal job with that and we have signed on North America as well that achieves about 1,000 people and that is also in a new venue in Mandali. So it is great that people can take part in these things, support their organizations, get educated, but then ultimately you know what they come for to the tradeshow is the business and that is the reason we exist, and that is what people are spending their time and money on. So it is great that they can do all of that in one space very effectively.
Jon: And I know you have published statistics and things about just the amount of business being done on the show floor there.
Carina: Absolutely, and yeah it is astounding amount of business and what we found in Frankfurt as well this year was that there is a real optimism in the air despite you know things aren’t rosy everywhere, we can’t pretend that they are but I think the whole industry is in a better place than it was a few years ago, people can see more events being planned further out, in depth, we definitely felt that at the show in Frankfurt this year in terms of the buyer’s intentions and the business being conducted and so I am very hopeful that there will be that same optimism or even greater here in America in October.
Jon: People arriving with RFP’s that they want to fulfill.
Carina: Yeah, absolutely we added as well something to our online appointment system this year in Frankfurt which will be new for this year in America which was extremely popular. And that was the ability for buyers to create five appointment profiles so essentially they could recreate a profile, it was like an event profile really, they can upload RFP’s, put in information about the event they are organizing, they are looking for numbers, all of that and then as they make appointments they could just share that as they made the appointment kind of attach it to the appointment. So the exhibitor they aren’t just getting an appointment, the name of the bar and that basic profile, but they are getting real event detail like what they are coming to talk about.
Jon: So they can be prepared to talk about those things.
Carina: Exactly, and of course we all send the service, you know, did you find the exhibitors well more prepared, and obviously very, very high percentages said how useful it has been. And you know being a first outing if you like for that functionality, only about 15%-20% of the buyers used it but we feel that that is the type of thing that we like to focus our energy on in terms of our development with our website and appointment system. We are always looking for anything that is really going to drive and assist the business being done on the show floor, make it more efficient, more effective for people.
Jon: Which is the heart of your business?
Carina: Which is the heart of what we do and you know interestingly something like that came out of a suggestion that we had been given I think in 2012 by one of the hosted buyers and we were like that is a fantastic suggestion and so it takes you a bit of time to implement but we wanted to do that. And so you know I would just encourage it, we were really listening, we really like to have their suggestions even if they are seemingly very small we do look at all of them and we try to implement those that we can and that we think are going to really benefit people’s business.
Jon: And that is something I talked to Suzanne about and really is it the beginnings of our relationship of working with IMEX here on the podcast was that you guys are so interested and responsive to any feedback that you get.
Carina: Absolutely, you know we want the feedback and it is no point people giving us platitudes, we like it when people say they are happy that is lovely but you know we want people to give us constructive feedback as well is the way I would put it and when people come with these little ideas that is how you get your nugget, it is called a nugget because no one team can come up with everything themselves, we are constantly working hard and trying to innovate but a lot of that innovation comes from listening to people within the industry and to people who they want us to do well because it benefits them. So we take it always with the best of intentions.
Jon: Besides the new partners that we have talked quite a bit about any other new things that people might keep an eye for in October?
Carina: I know that you have spoken to Dale and we have a lot of new education on the show floor, she is expanding the inspiration center so there will be new formats and education there things like hot topic tables where people can sit and chat, meet the experts so that you can after seminar actually have a one to one with some of the speakers, we have got the tech app again. We are also updating the IMEX live which is really for people who can’t make it or for people at the show that want to catch up when they have a seminar or in evenings. And then another thing we are doing, we haven’t really announced it yet but we are going to be doing live shows from the show floor with our partner CNTV so they do our daily news headlines and they are here at WBC but they are going to do a half an hour show every day from the show floor and that is going to broadcast out live and obviously will incorporate interviews and snippets from the show. So that is going to be a lot of fun and that is something very new for us we haven’t done that before. And then also be recording some of the content from Smart Monday and the keynotes as well and we will be sharing that out not necessarily live but we will be sharing that after the show.
Jon: It is just staggering, the amount of things going on!
Carina: Absolutely, yeah, the other thing just to say is we are working closely with the MMBC [The Meetings Mean Business Coalition] so people will see a lot of promotion for that at the show and education for that as well because we really are trying to use the show as a way for them to get to the grassroots and explain what MMBC is about and why it is important and just explain the key pillars behind it so people will see that as well.
Jon: Well that occurred to me when we were talking about all these different organizations coming into one place, is that there is such understanding in our industry now that we need to advocate better for what we do. And this is a very powerful statement, to have the number of people that you have all involved in this industry in one place.
Carina: Yeah, very much so and we do find that more and more Ministers and Mayors are coming to the show not necessarily from the local area but actually Ministers of Tourism, Economics, some of the emerging destinations in particular are bringing them to either our show here or our show in Frankfurt. Frankfurt it is a bit different because we have a large politicians’ forum that they take part in, but that is very interesting especially in these emerging destinations they really understand how hard they have to fight in the political closets to get the investment and the support that they need. And so very valuable for them to bring their Ministers or mayors or policy makers to the show so that they can learn about the industry and meet the clients and also see the competition quite frankly and see what the industry is about and it is an eye opener for them. Sometimes just coming onto the show floor is enough because they don’t know it exists. So obviously MMBC is linked to that but separate and we are very passionate, it is one of the things, we are very passionate about sustainability and CSR, we are very passionate about political advocacy and so one of the things we spoke to MMBC back in January and said what can we do to help support and what they want is the grassroots of this industry to know what the campaign is and be able to go back into their corporations or back into their local communities and talk about it. So that is what we are focusing on for this year.
Jon: That is awesome, and I know the CSR elements and we have done shows about that, giving back to the community in Las Vegas.
Carina: And of course that is new this year and that is something that we are really looking forward to which is our support and the industry support of the Shade Tree through the IMEX challenge and we really want people to sign up for that because I think they will find it very rewarding and every that all the time that they give and all the money that they give all goes to the Shade Tree and it is a pretty low entry, we have made it like that on purpose because we want more people to take part.
Jon: You want participation.
Carina: Exactly we want participation and you know Deepak talked about community wellbeing as one of the pillars of wellbeing and so we believe in that and we do that in Frankfurt as well.
Jon: I know Frankfurt and again Frankfurt is a very different show.
Carina: It is yeah it is a different show.
Jon: What I have been told and one of these days I am going to make it to the show.
Carina: Yes, please do, I would Frankfurt is still the same but it is a very different show and the atmosphere is different because you have greater participation from all over the world and the location is very different as well but it is also a great show and I hope you will be able to make over one day.
Jon: Well, will do a podcast from there.
Carina: Exactly that will be great.
Jon: And just, I really appreciate I know how busy your schedule is while you are here taking the time to chat with us about this and October it is coming up.
Carina: It is, it will be here soon.
Jon: Really soon, and so we look forward to seeing everyone there and seeing you there again.
Carina: Great, thank you very much.
Jon: Thank you.