When Dale Hudson, CED, SEPC, accepts her Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council in mid-October, it will be one of the last times she’ll be introduced as knowledge and events director for the IMEX Group. At the end of the month, Hudson is leaving the organization she’s been with for 22 years and launching her own company, Enhance Events.
While Hudson will bring her knowledge of successful show education to the new venture, she also hopes to bring her interest in event design more into play. “How do you help people flow through an event? How do you create that feeling of serendipitous moments and engagement and community?”
While engagement and community are things “you can do beautifully with education,” she says, there are other tactics. “It's more about peer-to-peer interaction, the intention of design. That's where I would love to grow going forward, to really look at that side of things.” Her hope is to work with brand-new events or “ones that are established but want to bring in new experiences and new formats,” she says.
Hudson’s work with the education program at IMEX has been an evolution. “When I first joined IMEX, we had very little education at the event,” she notes. And while education has become important to the experience, at its heart “IMEX is very much a business event; [planners] go there to book their future meetings.”
IMEX Group chairman Ray Bloom always brings a business perspective to his show decisions, says Hudson. “The exhibitors are there to meet buyers, and the buyers are there to be exhibitors, so [Bloom] is very much ‘whatever you implement, just make sure that it doesn't take people away from the show floor.’” That directive is why Hudson says she was “one of the first people in the industry to bring education onto the show floor.”
It was purely for this reason, she says, that sessions moved side-by-side with exhibitor booths, “but I didn't want to bring it to the show floor and then just plunk it there,” she says. The bigger question was, “How do we create moments where people can talk to each other and learn from each other?”
Theater-style education has its place on the show floor, Hudson says, “but then I came up with the concept of campfires with Maarten Vanneste, CMM.” During campfire sessions, attendees gather around a facilitator in small groups without tables or slides for a relaxed, interactive discussion of a topic.
Campfires have become a popular offering in the IMEX education lineup. Other formats have included Meet the Expert clinics, which offer one-on-one appointments with industry specialists; the Research Pod, where academics share information about the latest industry research; and other opportunities for planners to share ideas with peers.
Hudson hopes to keep the ideas flowing in her new one-woman enterprise. “I would love to help exhibition organizers bring creative thinking, experiences, and education onto their show floors. I think that is be something that there is a need for.”