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IMEX Frankfurt to Offer New Rising Talent Program for Young Professionals

IMEX Frankfurt 2023

The IMEX Group is no stranger to providing career-related educational opportunities for the meetings and events industry, especially at its two major annual tradeshows, IMEX Frankfurt (May) and IMEX America (October).  

The global meetings and events industry powerhouse offers education to tradeshow attendees in tracks including technology and innovation, trends and research, experience design, event marketing, business practices and more, as well as additional educational opportunities through events like MPI’s Smart Monday at IMEX America and the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum, specifically designed with students and young professionals in mind.  

Opportunities to learn and grow in any career within the meetings and events industry are already undeniably abundant at both tradeshows, but for this year’s IMEX Frankfurt, taking place May 14-16 at Messe Frankfurt in Germany, the IMEX team decided to take its educational offerings up another level.  

IMEX is encouraging event agencies to bring young professionals to IMEX Frankfurt to help them expand their networks and boost their professional development through a new dedicated program of sessions designed for those who are new to the industry. Called Rising Talent, the sessions will cover topics such as career development, creating connections and well-being.  

[Related: The Z: How Gen Z Was Included and Where They Belonged at IMEX America 2023]

Rising Talent Q&A with Hannah Lee, Knowledge and Events Senior Executive, IMEX

Hannah Lee
Hannah Lee

Why has IMEX made it a priority to encourage event agencies and other stakeholders to bring their young professionals and new talent to IMEX Frankfurt?

There’s no better place to understand an entire industry than through the complete supply chain immersion of a bustling tradeshow. A large show also offers exposure to the trends and issues the industry’s currently facing and provides important context for a newbie’s professional growth and understanding.

It’s a chance to meet clients and colleagues in person, tap into the learning programs (these are often free) and get involved in facilitated networking on and off the show floor—this can be an experience many younger professionals feel intimidated by, partly because they don’t get much in real-life practice in a largely online world.

The next generation of event profs, Gen Z, have had tough starts to their careers with many entering the workforce just before the pandemic. Without many years' experience under their belt, coupled with the increase in remote working, they need to make the most of opportunities to meet in person and develop their careers and their networks.

How do experiences and programs like IMEX Frankfurt’s Rising Talent sessions help new professionals improve their networking and professional development skills?

As many of us know, your event prof network is a powerful source of support and inspiration throughout your career. Take this example: at IMEX Frankfurt this May, a group of event professionals who met over a decade ago is reuniting to deliver an education session together. They’ll share how the challenge of climbing the highest peak in Africa had a life-changing impact on both their personal and professional lives, and they’ll talk about the unexpected bonds—and business benefits—of going through that experience together.

Ensuring that networking and learning opportunities are dedicated to professionals in the younger age group—those with one- to three-years’ experience—also aligns with our vision: a thriving global events industry focused on positive change. We strongly believe that without concerted, collaborative efforts across the industry to attract and keep the next generation engaged and feeling valued, it won’t flourish.  

We also know the needs and issues of young professionals are bound to evolve over time—that’s why we’re inviting them to shape our Rising Talent program, by sharing feedback and suggestions to help us grow and tailor the content as we go.

It’s exciting to see the Rising Talent program will not only feature sessions led by industry experts, but also sessions led by students. Why is it important for new professionals to see people like them on stage and succeeding in their career path?

Younger people need to see and hear from each other, to view the industry through their eyes and learn from their experiences.  

The START Summit, which is explored in our Rising Talent program at IMEX Frankfurt, definitely fits the bill here. It’s a start-up conference that's entirely student-run. Over 80 students are part of the organizing group, working voluntarily in positions across marketing, PR, legal, finance and administration. One of our Rising Talent sessions at IMEX Frankfurt will put the spotlight on the most recent edition of this conference, held this March in Switzerland.

IMEX Frankfurt 2023
IMEX Frankfurt 2023

How do experiences and educational opportunities like the Rising Talent program at IMEX Frankfurt help to boost young professionals’ confidence as they build their careers?

Looking specifically at the START Summit, this represents a first taste of the industry for many of the students. There’s a steep learning curve and a packed to-do list, but this brings with it many opportunities to make a more positive impact, too. Resource limitations mean they learn how to handle all tasks in-house, including website and app development, IT, ticket administration and app content integration—acquiring new skills and confidence along the way.

When opportunities such as this run year after year, they build an impressive roster of alumni. This means that students can look back on those who've come before them and be inspired by their journey.

Take the IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum, for example. For students in the final year of a hospitality, event or tourism management course, this acts as a free opportunity to gain expert insight into the meetings industry, learning from and connecting with inspirational industry experts and fellow students.

We’ve now reached the point where we can look around the global events industry and see former Future Leaders who’ve really excelled. These include Kryzsztof Celuch, event experiences professor at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Warsaw, and Miguel Neves, editor-in-chief of Skift Meetings—just two examples among hundreds.

It’s probably best to give the final word here to one of our former Future Leaders Forum students, Sydney Tatevossian, to share how the experience boosted her confidence: “This program didn't just fill my mind with industry insights but also sharpened my ability to connect and communicate. Now, when I engage with industry professionals, I do it with a newfound confidence using the wisdom I gained from this experience.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the Rising Talent program at IMEX Frankfurt?

We’ve spoken here about what young professionals can learn from the industry—I think it’s important to also recognize that the rest of our events community has much to learn from this group. They’re a generation characterized by growing up in the digital age, they value individual expression and avoid labels. As a result, they have a fresh approach, so let’s watch and learn as they progress in our industry. And let’s not forget, they’re both attendees and planners, and our events need to flex to reflect that.

[Related: IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum Prepares Incoming Professionals for Career Success]

Christina Strohschneider
Christina Strohschneider

Shaping the Future of Our Industry with Christina Strohschneider, Head of Vienna Office at bnetwork

It didn’t take long after starting her first industry-related job for Christina Strohschneider to realize how much she loves the world of meetings and events. And since doing so, Strohschneider, head of the Vienna office for bnetwork (a European-based SaaS accommodation management company), has made it her goal to give back by helping others find their love for the industry, too.  

“I’m so passionate about this industry,” Strohschneider said. “And I am so proud of having found it so early, and I also feel extremely lucky for having found my passion so early. I mean, who scores their first job and is like, ‘Yes, I’m going to do this for the next 60 years’?”

That feeling inspired Strohschneider to share her passion for meetings and events with the next generation, teaching them about the industry early on and encouraging them to become a part of it themselves. She’s spoken at university career days, given students tours of Austria Center Vienna when she worked as sales manager of associations for the convention center, and helped connect young professionals to colleagues in her network.  

Attendees at IMEX Frankfurt 2022
Attendees at IMEX Frankfurt 2022

“I still remember, during the first month of my job, thinking, ‘Did they call the wrong person? Why did they pick me? How did I get so lucky that I got this job?’” Strohschneider said. “Sometimes in this industry, it can be hard if you don’t have any relations, just being fresh out of university. People will usually go for the person with a bit more experience, so I really try to break down that barrier a little bit and help young professionals as much as I can. I really want to make the next generation believe in themselves.”

One way in which Strohschneider is doing just that is through her session for IMEX Frankfurt’s Rising Talent program, “Rising Talent: Shaping the future of our industry, one mentor at a time,” which will teach attendees how to navigate through different mentorship programs, what makes the difference in a mentor-mentee relationship and how to find ways to attract and retain industry talent.  

Strohschneider’s decision to participate in a Rising Talent panel discussion focused on mentorship was an easy one to make. In her position representing Europe in the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Future Leaders Council 2023-2025, she is “always thinking of ideas for how to engage the next generation and help young professionals progress in their careers,” but what really taught Strohschneider about the importance of mentorship was experiencing what it was like to have a mentor herself. 

“Mentorship for me is a topic very close to my heart and a very emotional one as well,” Strohschneider said. “In 2020, I kind of lost my job and I was very upset about it…Then, I joined an association, which was really good, but also, especially in 2020 and 2021, felt quite isolated. There was not a lot of exchange with anyone going on and I was at a really, really, really low point in my career and mentally.

IMEX Frankfurt 2023
IMEX Frankfurt 2023

“That’s when I joined the mentoring program of [City Destinations Alliance (CityDNA)] in marketing,” Strohschneider continued. “I got matched with a mentor—and she’s still my mentor. Whenever I have a question, I always call her. We became really close friends, and I’m not sure I would have stayed in this industry if not for her because she really was the guiding light for me through a very, very dark time for me career-wise.

“And that’s why the topic [of mentorship] is so important to me,” Strohschneider added.  

Determined to help other young professionals like herself, Strohschneider researched dozens of different mentorship programs across the meetings and events industry and actively keeps an updated and detailed list of them all, “which is very difficult because they keep popping up everywhere,” Strohschneider laughed.

In sessions discussing mentorship, like her panel for the Rising Talent program, Strohschneider often provides a unique perspective as a mentee-turned-mentor with extensive experience to share from both sides of a mentor-mentee relationship. One point she never fails to make, she said, is that mentorship is a two-way street with opportunities for both a mentor and a mentee to learn from each other.  

“The biggest role of a mentor is to actually allow yourself to be fully indulged in the conversation with your mentee, and to not assume you know better than them,” Strohschneider said. “Let someone else in and be open to the ideas they bring to the conversation.”  

Christina Strohschneider’s Recommendations for Mentorship Programs and Professional Development Opportunities

Read this next: On the Scene: Experiencing IMEX America as a First-Time Attendee

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About the author
Taylor Smith | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Taylor Smith joined Stamats in May 2022 as a content developer, destinations and features for Meetings Today. Smith has experience covering everything from travel to breaking news and graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor’s degree in news and magazine journalism. Previously, she’s written for St. Louis Magazine and worked as an editorial assistant and apprentice for Aubree Nichols, who has been published in premier publications such as The New York TimesELLE and The Los Angeles Times.