Insights

We are Back! Experiencing IMEX America 2021

After a postponement in 2020, IMEX America returned in November 2021 for it's 10th year with 3,300 buyers and over 2,200 exhibiting companies in attendance at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. This signature event is all about connecting people within the business events community and this year, the face to face experience was not taken for granted.

To learn more about the return of IMEX, re-connecting in person, and the safety precautions to make it all possible, we talked with Caitlin Harris, BCD M&E's Supplier Relations Manager about her experience attending this year's event. 

IMEX America 2021 welcome banner | Global agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Q&A with Caitlin Harris:
The return of in-person industry events

Caitlin Harris head shot | Global agency, BCD Meetings & EventsBefore 2020, what was your experience with IMEX? 

For me, IMEX has always felt a bit like a “homecoming.” It's one of the very few times a year where we can connect (in person!) with all of our supplier partners that travel in from across the globe. Plus, it’s extra special to have some additional moments to finally meet a number of BCD M&E colleagues we’ve been collaborating with over emails. 

How did you feel about attending in-person in 2021? 

In a sense, IMEX 2021 felt no different than previous years, and that is mostly in part to the seamless precautions IMEX put in place to make everyone feel comfortable. Proof of vaccinations were required, however, masks were optional within the convention space. IMEX utilized various third-party providers for vaccination tracking and as well as onsite COVID-19 testing. Despite all the safety measurements introduced, there were plenty of handshakes and hugs going around!

Group participating in "Smash Room" at IMEX America 2021 | Global agency, BCD Meetings & Events

Team building at a 'Smash Room" hosted by Hello! DMC

Walk us through your first day of the event.

Day 1 started over a cup of coffee and review of the day’s schedule in IMEX’s Hosted Buyer Lounge—I always kick myself for not allowing more breaks throughout the day, but there’s only so little time and so many partners to meet with! Walking into the IMEX convention space, we showed our proof of vaccination that was uploaded to an app prior to arriving in Vegas. In turn, we each received a green wrist band indicating we were vaccinated and can allow for in/out access to the convention space throughout the IMEX show. Upon entering the convention center, I have a quirk I do every IMEX show… a few minutes prior to the meetings beginning, I take a lap around the show floor to understand my bearings and get an idea of where each of the exhibitor booths are located. Along the way, there’s always big embraces with familiar supplier partners and the awe of how elaborate the exhibitor booths are uniquely designed. Each of the 30-minute meetings start off as if no time was lost to the pandemic – plenty of pleasantries, but then it’s straight to business!

Visit MeetingsNet to view a photo gallery from the event

What are some of the benefits of meetings suppliers and partners face to face?

The authenticity. You can quickly learn a lot about how a person is feeling, their reaction to a comment, and the ability to build personal connections through a handshake, eye contact, or smile. You create a sense of camaraderie in meeting face to face—whether it’s bonding over a new piece of business or discussing how much your feet are hurting from walking a Vegas mile, the connection is irreplaceable.

The U.S. borders opened one day before IMEX commencing. Seeing some of the international supplier partners literally walk off the plane to their booths shows the dedication and value of human connection we all have in being together.

Coming out of IMEX, what are your feelings on the future of the industry and how suppliers and agencies will continue to work together?

Simply said, we are BACK! A common theme I noticed throughout my meetings was that we didn’t spend too much time discussing the past. The focus was on the future. What’s next? How do we continue to grow upon our successes together? There’s no doubt we’ll all see some growing pains as we continue to emerge, but we now all have a sense of solidarity. Two years’ worth of battle stripes. It will take a little more patience and empathy from both parties to get business done than it has in the past, but we’re in this together and in order to create future triumphs, we need to rely on our partnerships, our knowledge, and resources.

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