Celebrating its fourth year, IMEX America officially kicked off last week at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas. The conference was high-energy and insightful, providing valued perspective on the current state and future direction of the meetings and events industry.
At this year’s exposition, I detected a renewed confidence in meetings and events. Meetings are rising in importance and visibility for companies worldwide, partly as a result of an overall return to business fundamentals. For the first time since the recession, there’s a profound sense of long-term confidence throughout the industry.
I am particularly excited that more corporate decision-makers have chosen to attend and participate in this year’s conference. This year’s show featured more than 2,900 companies from 150 countries—an increase from previous years. Among old friends, partners and industry colleagues, there were a significant number of new faces, which points to this growth I am referring to across the entire meetings and events industry.
Connecting face-to-face with peers, both old and new, allows meeting executives like myself to get a finger on the pulse of the latest industry developments and emerging trends. So, what was everyone buzzing about at this year’s show?
First, it’s clear that technology is in the driver’s seat, propelling the meetings and events industry forward. As I walked around the exhibition floor, I was struck by how many interesting technological innovations are being incorporated into companies’ meetings programs, in addition to the greater focus on fostering digital connections, gaining deeper insight into attendees’ perspectives and the desire to streamline how companies are measuring their ROI. Specifically, mobile technology continues to mature, offering more relevant business applications. For example, I am excited by the potential for iBeacon technology, which helps meeting managers collect more precise data on the onsite behavior of individual attendees.
As technology and the role of mobile apps rapidly evolve, virtual/hybrid meeting tools will play an increasingly critical role in the success of meetings and events production, and agencies can serve as a guide to integration in the overarching event experience. However, despite the discernible excitement surrounding meeting and event technology, planners should be sure to determine if the technologies they are using serve a real purpose for their event experience, in order to prevent these tools from becoming too much of a distraction.
Globalization is another hot topic that swept the room at IMEX. Although globalization is not novel within this industry, it certainly is having a significant effect on the meetings and events industry evolution over the next three to five years. By 2025, 46 percent of the Fortune 500 will be headquartered in emerging economies. As a result, the meeting business in emerging economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) has grown significantly in recent years. While businesses expand on a global scale, employees continue to travel to and from all parts of the world to attend meetings and events. As a result, organizers should have on their global lens during the planning process, while also focusing on security, technology, transportation, food and beverage, and payments throughout the process.
With technological advances and global considerations at play, planners are adopting a more disciplined, managed approach to meetings, which includes approval processes, increased scrutiny on spend and a larger focus on accountability and expected outcomes. Meeting executives need to maintain the balance of delivering on their business objectives while ensuring their meetings continue to drive the desired returns.
On Tuesday, my colleague Yma Sherry, vice president, sales and account management, American Express Meetings & Events, expanded on these trends in an educational session entitled “2015 Meeting Trends,” which discussed American Express Meetings & Events’ recently released 2015 Global Meetings Forecast. During the session, Yma highlighted that global meeting activity in 2015 is predicted to grow slightly, with meeting planners placing a stronger emphasis on their abilities to meet higher expectations and achieve more measurable results. The engaged, attentive audience was eager to get their hands on the full 2015 Forecast.
As IMEX continues to grow in scale every year and provides the ability to develop new and strengthen existing relationships with peers across the meetings and events ecosystem, this year’s conference is strikingly inspirational for what is to come. Companies are constantly looking for new ways to set themselves apart from their competition, while at the same time, deliver the highest value and best solutions for their customers. Success stems from a focus on innovating, experimenting, and piloting new concepts, partnerships and solutions, and this year’s IMEX event has undoubtedly laid the groundwork for companies to do just that.
IMEX America was held at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, October 13-15.
Issa Jouaneh is the vice president and general manager, American Express Meetings & Events. “American Express Meetings & Events” is a service provided by American Express Global Business Travel (“GBT”). GBT is a joint venture that is not wholly-owned by American Express Company or any of its subsidiaries (“American Express”). “American Express Global Business Travel”, “American Express” and the American Express logo are trademarks of American Express, and are used under limited license.