On todays podcast Jon Trask sits down with Suzanne Medcalf the Regional Manager, Hosted Buyer Program, IMEX America. They talk about how planners get qualified to be a hosted buyer and how the 2014 program is shaping up.
Jon: Welcome back to the podcast, and we are here today with Suzanne Medcalf of IMEX and IMEX America, welcome Suzanne!
Suzanne: Thank you so much.
Jon: It is good to see you again, it has been a year.
Suzanne: It has been a year I know; it is really nice to be back chatting.
Jon: Yeah, we talked last year in Las Vegas and this year we are in Minneapolis and looking forward to hopefully seeing you in October at IMEX America.
Suzanne: Yeah, we can’t wait we are really looking forward; I can’t believe it is only two months away at this point.
Jon: I know, it is crazy how the time has flown.
Suzanne: It is.
Jon: Now, you deal a lot with hosted buyer program and getting people there and qualified and all that. So, let’s talk again about that this year and I know we talked some last year but what has changed anything new this year?
Suzanne: Yeah, I mean I think in general the Hosted Buyers Program at IMEX America is pretty much the same, we keep with the same qualifications, the same criteria, we work with amazing intermediaries who are exhibitors at the show, hotels and destinations and DMCs to bring their top clients. We have a lot of new groups this year coming in which is exciting and you know it is amazing for us to have such support from our partners and friends, this industry where the exhibitors see what the Hosted Buyer Program can do and how important it is for them to bring in these clients. I am actually seeing a lot of buyers this year who have never attended the show before, so we are really excited to see how they like it, what they think of it and kind of what we can do to grow the program even more moving forward.
Jon: Well, I know something that has really struck me about IMEX and that I appreciate personally and professionally is that it does really do pay attention to its feedback, you are monitoring a lot of things.
Suzanne: Yeah, you know that is we get that a lot and we take it very seriously; I always think that if somebody is going to take the time to reach out and say what worked or what didn’t work, it makes sense for us to have the conversation and it doesn’t always mean we can make a change but a lot of times we are able to make a tweak or an update that really can change the program and change what people are able to get out of it.
Jon: Right, well and I have watched some of those adjustments and subtleties because I am sort of proud that I have been to each one of the IMEX America so far and that is really helped sort of the relationship with the podcast and IMEX started was through some of the comments and feedback that we had given and it is just I think a really good organization in that respect and I noticed too you have brought in new partners, you were mentioning and those partnerships are great!
Suzanne: Yeah, we are so lucky to have them I mean especially being here at MPI is one of our big ones, I have been really lucky actually to be, I am involved in the Greater New York Chapter, I am VP of Marketing and Communications I am going to my 2nd year with that but I was laughing that I only joined the industry 4 years ago, it will be 4 years in September and I walk around here and I see so many people who I have connected with because of the strategic partnership we have with MPI. But you know I also feel that way when I go to other industry events and to see how people respond to us and how wonderfully welcoming they always are and how there is always room for a conversation to see how we can grow these partnerships even more is really incredible, you know I think sometimes you can get stagnant and I don’t think that our company or IMEX America is really doing that, I think we are just consistently trying to find new ways to grow and to see how else we can engage this community.
Jon: Right, I had a great conversation with Dale about the education and the new tracks that have been added and to me, and I mentioned this when I talked with Dale as well, it is so striking that through these partnerships and everything that you have built you are able to do this at no cost to people.
Suzanne: I know, that education is really absolutely incredible and it is a testament to Dale and her team that you know they are able to really work and with those partners to get some fantastic tracks going, my only regret is that we are too busy that day, the Monday to attend much of the education but to see how it grows and how they are able to integrate it into the show even as well with the inspiration center and the camp fires and it is just incredible opportunity. I was speaking to a planner yesterday and she kind of said, well, what can you get out of IMEX? And I said well, the thing is that it is an incredible way to have education, to have those sessions, to have those connections, but then also to actually be able to meet with your suppliers, meet with your clients, and meet with your friends. It is summer camp; it is coming back together with people you don’t get to see very often, whether it is a client or it is a friend or it is somebody who is going to be your new friends though, it is great.
Jon: And again being able to sort of do that as a hosted buyer and what a great benefit to be able to take back to your boss and say look, I can go to this event, I can be hosted and I can get education, I can network and meet with the relevant suppliers.
Suzanne: Yeah I think that is such a key part of it is that it isn’t just about the appointments; it really is about everything else that is going on around IMEX. You know you are able to get an incredible amount of business done obviously on the show floor through your appointments but it is everything that comes in addition to that. So it is exciting, we are really looking forward to seeing everybody in, we have been working with a lot of fantastic intermediaries this year, and again we are just really lucky to have people who are willing to spend time because it is for them a second job to work to bring their clients. So we really appreciate it and it is exciting.
Jon: So now if someone wants to become a hosted buyer, they just go to the website?
Suzanne: They can get information on our website; the way that IMEX works is we work with intermediaries to invite their clients. If a buyer at this point hasn’t yet been invited by an intermediary, they can go onto our website and send us an email and usually we can see about facilitating something. There is also an awesome opportunity to come as a buyer attendee which is sometimes for people who may not think or don’t qualify for the hosted buyer program or sometimes if the hosted buyer just isn’t the right fit for them right now, they can register online, IMEX is free to attend, and they are able to attend the show in that capacity which is great.
Jon: Yeah, because I know there are some organizations that have restrictions and things like that.
Suzanne: Exactly and you know everybody has got their reasoning for wanting to do the show in a specific way and we understand that and we just really want people to get to experience IMEX.
Jon: Right, well looking forward to like you said just a couple of months away from now so this will be playing after that so definitely rapidly approaching.
Suzanne: Yeah, very rapidly approaching but we just can’t wait, it is my favorite time of the year, to get on site and be with my team and get to connect and engage with everyone, so we can’t wait.
Jon: We are looking forward to it. So thank you for taking time out today.
Suzanne: Thank you, this has been really nice.
Jon: And we will see you on October.
Suzanne: Excellent, thank you.