If all goes well, IMEX America at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, Nev., will be one of the first large-scale meetings industry events to return after the pandemic shutdown. Staff at the United Kingdom-based IMEX Group are working remotely to prepare for the event, which is scheduled to run from September 15 to 17. CEO Carina Bauer spoke to MeetingsNet for our series on post-pandemic meetings and events.
What changes do you see for face-to-face events due to the pandemic?
Carina Bauer: I believe there will be a huge pent up demand for events after the pandemic, but organizers will have to be cognizant of a change in people’s outlook. Attendees won’t want to be rammed into small spaces or eat from buffets. Safety and security have been top of the agenda for years but these are very different issues.
Collectively, we have not done a great job of embracing virtual and hybrid events, but we’ll soon see a renewed effort to use virtual offerings to connect attendees in between live events. We will also learn a lot about engagement through virtual events and take that to improve face to face.
IMEX did a short survey about what is most wanted, and we are looking at what our show provides and examining ways to bring part of that into the virtual world. We don’t want to compete with what our partners are doing, for instance with webinars, it will be something unique.
What is your biggest concern for after the pandemic?
Bauer: The continued uncertainty. The authorities need to understand the impact on the industry and they need to issue guidelines on travel and meetings. When they close borders at a moment’s notice, it undermines how we live our lives and governments need to give confidence back to the general public. Face-to-face events are always going to be the most productive, it’s the best way for scientists to collaborate, for example, and those fundamentals have not gone away. But we will need to restore confidence in health and safety for travel and events.
What opportunities do you think this pause may present to the industry?
Bauer: We can all spend some time upskilling!
At IMEX Group we are helping our team understand what each internal department works on and what each section of the industry does. It is easy to stay in one little niche when everyone is busy, but we are using GoToMeeting to do virtual Q&As on different topics. This week I talked about associations and what is important to those clients; we will cover destination management companies, hotel bookings, incentive travel, and more. I’m lucky that I can call on different friends from companies like HelmsBriscoe and Maritz to talk for 20 minutes and then answer questions. We also do team building events. For example, we had a best pet competition with categories for best tail, best trick, best dog, and best cat, and we had a virtual happy hour last week!
Personally, I was inspired by a keynoter at a SITE conference in Vancouver who talked about the 100 things to do before you die. So now I’m learning the piano and exercising more.