Live from IMEX America: Our Top 3 Takeaways from the Show

It’s the Attendify crew’s sixth year exhibiting at IMEX America, and the show — known as the “heartbeat of the global business events community” — once again has not disappointed. And we’re not even talking about the fact that Hilton is showcasing an 18-foot-high digital waterfall installation, or that Visit Baltimore was generously serving premium Sagamore Spirit shots by noon. Beyond the gorgeous booths and warm hospitality on tap, the show is also rich with insights for event organizers and suppliers alike.

The Hilton Waterfall at IMEX America 2019
Hilton’s digital waterfall installation

By Wednesday’s end we were stuffed with ideas to bring home to our customers, colleagues and friends. And while we can’t list them all here (the show has enough content to require its own daily paper), we did want to share our top three takeaways. Read on to learn more, and sound off about your own IMEX experiences on our Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook feeds.

What event marketers want and need

When we heard that our partners at American Express Meetings & Events were going to be offering an in-depth look at what marketing owners want and need from the event experience, we high-tailed it over to learn more about the results of their qualitative research study. Here are some highlights from Linda McNairy, the organization’s Vice President of Global Operations and Shared Services.

  • Doing more with less. A lightning-fast business cycle paired with fierce competition means that event marketing pros are creatively using all tools available to them to acquire new leads, engage existing customers and inspire sales reps. Here’s the challenge: Event marketing activity continues to outpace budgetary increases, so event marketing pros are constantly looking for unique ways to get the most bang for their buck.
  • Juggling programmatic and ad hoc events. While event marketers are maintaining a solid schedule of recurring foundational events (known as their “programmatic” event stream), tight timelines and changing business initiatives mean that they’re also carrying an “ad hoc” event load. These events tend to be planned on demand, are usually smaller and offer more room for experimentation.
  • Smaller events are opportunities for innovation. In addition to allowing event marketers to do more with less and pull off ad-hoc events, smaller functions are often the perfect vehicles for them to experiment with new ideas and technology.
  • Attendance worries gives event marketers heartburn. “The best-planned event can be sabotaged by attendance that is significantly lower, or higher, than anticipated,” the report explains. Some marketers are working to solve the equation by conducting highly-individualized attendee outreach prior to events. What’s more, “Venues and vendors that are agile, creative, and understanding are highly valued and will be viewed as preferred partners for future events,” Amex says. During the session, one planner in the audience had a novel idea: Charge a nominal fee for an event that was originally going to be free, then donate the proceeds to charity.
  • Measuring event data is critical. Whether an event has a sales, engagement or insights focus, the ability for marketers to reliably collect and analyze event data is crucial to judging overall return on investment. While different event formats have vastly different measurement criteria, “every event, large and small, should include planned and purposeful measurement points based on objectives set before planning begins,” the study advises.

For the full report, visit the American Express Global Business Travel Research and Insights page.

Promising news about events sustainability

The Events Industry Council rolled out preliminary results from their latest State of Sustainability in the Events Industry report. While they’re still gathering responses, the EIC’s Mariela McIlwraith, along with her co-presenters Courtney Lohmann of the PRA and Nicolas Tiziou of Radisson Hotel Group, shared the following headlines:

  • Suppliers are increasingly focused on sustainability efforts. EIC’s research showed an advancement in efforts by suppliers to be proactive and include information about their sustainability efforts during the RFP process. While McIlwraith and Lohmann stressed that planners and suppliers must work together as a team to push sustainability efforts, Radisson Hotel Group’s Tiziou encouraged event organizers to “challenge us.” Radisson recently launched “Radisson Meetings,” its global initiative to ensure that events at the properties are 100 percent carbon neutral by offsetting efforts.
IMEX America 2019 Sustainability Efforts
Sustainability efforts at IMEX America 2019
  • The cost of sustainability efforts still stings. While 17 percent of those surveyed said that they were okay with event cost increases due to sustainability efforts, 51 percent of respondents said that only sustainability efforts that resulted in cost savings or were cost-neutral were acceptable to them. Finally, the report found that 19 percent of event organizers would agree to sustainability efforts if they resulted in cost savings.
  • Getting the word out about event sustainability efforts is key. When asked if their attendees valued sustainability practices at their events, 47 percent of those surveyed responded yes, moderately or extremely, while 42 percent said somewhat and 11 percent said no. The PRA’s Lohmann encouraged planners to tell their “sustainability stories” and educate attendees about initiatives taken at their events. In its “The Year of Imagination” report, EventMB (which announced during the show that it had been acquired by Skift) noted that only 10 percent of the events it reviewed for the report “published information about their internal sustainability practices on their websites.”

Event tech a barometer of attendee journey 

On the hunt for news about event tech innovations, industry influencer Corbin Ball stopped by the Attendify booth to hear what we had up our collective sleeves. “Technology has finally allowed the measurement of the entire attendee journey,” he said with a grin.

While we’re thrilled to have released our Group Chat and Session Recommendations features earlier this year, we’re even more excited about the launch of our seamless Session Registration tool that’s right around the corner. What’s more, we’re offering sneak-peeks of Attendify Pixel at the show. Now in beta testing, Pixel —  when paired with our Audiences event data platform — enables event marketers to increase attendance and build ticket revenue by capturing anonymous event website activity and leveraging it to execute retargeting and cart-abandonment campaigns.

The Attendify booth at IMEX America 2019
All hands on deck at the Attendify booth during IMEX America 2019

When it comes to our peers in the IMEX Tech Zone, there were plenty of other players making a real impact on the attendee experience. Our friends at Slido showcased their real-time Q&A and polling platform during IMEX Inspiration Hub seminars, and empowered attendees to drive conversations and inspire content.  Boomset continues to wow with their suite of intuitive solutions designed to make frustrating event check-in a thing of the past.

All this and more in less than 20 hours on the show floor? What can we say? We got IMEXed.

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