Learning tracks cover challenges that keep meeting professionals up at night

When what is expected to be the largest crowd ever for an events industry trade show arrives at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas in October for IMEX America 2023, the focus will squarely be on connecting people in new, effective ways. Smart Meetings sat down with Tahira Endean, head of programme for IMEX Group, to discuss how the talking point of Human Nature will be woven through the experience during the three days of the conference and during Smart Monday immediately preceding the trade show and hosted buyer experience.

On Track

Tahira Endean looking at camera over shoulder
Tahira Endean

The umbrella tracks for educational content are the same as the categories featured at IMEX Frankfurt in May.

– Technology and innovation
– Trends and research
– People and planet
– Business practices
– Experience design
– Event marketing

“That’s on purpose,” Endean said. “We have the same needs in the industry that keep us up at night.”

Two attendees talking on show floor at IMEX AmericaWhether attendees want to be better at business, learn more about experience design or how to plan events that are kinder to our planet, they will find the personal and professional development they need.

Many will be formatted in quick 30-minute bites with some “supersessions” taking a deep dive and lasting as long as 75 minutes and an Association Power Hour on Wednesday morning to help those planning content for membership groups access all the content so they can be successful back home—information around trust, retention, growing revenues, all of those things.

Speakers include Dr. Eric Solomon talking about how to design events based on how the “human operating system” processes information and connections. Christopher Kai, founder and CEO of The Mathem Group, expanding a look into story-based leadership and influencing groups based on the laws of neuroscience. And Brian Parsely is returning to share new ways to energize cultures with behavioral science and improve communication. Thirty Minute Mentors host Adam Mendler will bring his insights on leadership for students and advanced meeting professionals based on his interviews with more than 500 CEOs.

“We want experienced meeting professionals of all types to come away with three to five takeaways—that’s a success,” Endean said.

Read More: IMEX 2022 Reached Net Zero Carbon Events Goals

Humanity Meets Technology

IMEX America show floorEndean explained that while technology keeps changing, often what is new now was new before. “I planned an event with (computer scientist) Ray Kurzweil to talk about what is now AI in 2016,” she recalled. “We’re not exponentially changing the world. We’re just finding a better way to use it.” Information about AI will be woven throughout Smart Monday, the Inspiration Hub and other sessions. Attendees will learn the use cases and what it means for real people. “Don’t be scared of AI,” she advised. “It is not actually going to fundamentally take our jobs, but boy, it can sure save us some time doing onerous tasks. That will give humans more time to be creative.”

Endean compared employing a machine-learning tool for mundane tasks to running a washing machine. “Time is our most precious resource; why would we wash our clothes against rocks if there was a more efficient way? AI is the next washing machine of our industry.”

A More Focused Inspiration Hub

The Inspiration Hub, the area on the expo floor where expertise is being shared in intimate groups with headsets, will actually be smaller this year and sponsored by Webex. The big theaters will be in semi-circles so attendees can see more people and have more “happy collisions” between sessions. Wordly.ai translation technology will stream presentations to people’s phones in their preferred language. If somebody has a second language or is a little bit hard of hearing, they can also follow along with the text. “It’s about making it so that it’s easy to learn in a way that’s comfortable for you,” Endean explained.

Instead of a Wellness Lounge, healthy elements will be distributed throughout the show. “We arrive as whole people and we can’t just say here’s the one spot where you can go to feel better,” Endean said. Instead, the Wellbeing Wheel will integrate wellness education, morning meditation and end-of-day reflections about everything from nutrition to sleep into the content conversations.

Also in the Inspiration Hub will be event production company Encore, which is presenting a new immersive theater experience this year with an ideation station. “Break Free: Continuing the Journey” will breathe life into the conversation about designing for belonging and inclusion by leveraging a human-centric design approach to challenge meeting professionals to experience their own events through fresh eyes.

“It’s going to feel a little bit easier to navigate that space and to find the sessions that you want,” Endean promised.

No Strings Attached Conversations

Nashville booth at IMEX AmericaNew this year is Event Profs Unplugged, a 90-minute talk show format that will be staged every day from 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Inspiration Hub. Two hosts will chat with distinguished industry guests about what is really happening right now at events. Audiences can come and go and stay as long as they want. That will be interspersed with some deeper dives, fireside chats that happen at the intersections of those shows. “We don’t know what’s going to happen and that’s what I love about it,” Endean said.

EIC People & Planet Theater will host short-form content around sustainability and EDI case studies. “The goal is that people are going to walk away from those with an idea they can use,” Endean said.

More Wellness Opportunities

Daybreaker opening rituals will get the heart pumping. Google is working with Storycraft Lab to bring the Experience Institute (Xi) to an area just outside of the show floor that will offer a liminal transition space where attendees can go for a quiet break. They will also be part of a 75-minute supersession with Marriott International to talk about researched “Truths” for enhancing belonging at events.

For those who want to take a more active approach, IMEX Run will get everyone out of the convention center bright and early on Las Vegas Boulevard. And Maritz Global Events Sustainability Challenge presented by Caesars Entertainment and powered by Heka Health will integrate sustainability, competition and healthy steps in a handy app. “Whether you want active exercise, massages, hydration or tips for meeting well, we’re incorporating wellbeing throughout all of it, including the hosted buyer lounge,” Endean said.

Read More: IMEX 2022 Showcased Mental Wellness

Power of Partnerships

“Partnerships are part of the magic of IMEX,” Endean said. “We are committed to moving the industry forward one person at a time by allowing them to experience something that they can take back to their own events.”

Look for some returning friends such as Jacques Martiquet (The Party Scientist), who studies well-being and belonging experiences to build authentic human connections. He will be helping attendees—particularly first-time attendees—have the most positive experience possible.

“We talk about belonging and connection and that’s what that’s what our industry is all about, but sometimes we fall down on making that happen. That is why if you go to the Inspiration Hub, you might find yourself in a five-minute connection exercise, you never know.”

Partners such as incentive association SITE Global, IACC’s Meeting Room of the Future Trends Report and American Express Global Business Travel will be releasing their annual insights to help update attendees on the latest trends.

Once again, Smart Monday will be a partnership with Meeting Professionals International (MPI). AVoice4All inclusivity content will be integrated in the programming to start a larger discussion for association and other planners that includes neurodiversity, conscious and unconscious bias.

Howard Givner from PCMA’s Event Leadership Institute will share tools for designing, planning and executing event programs.

Liz Hunt, vice president of operations with Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence will bring practical tips for understanding the nuances of working and planning for people.

Mayaan Ziv, CEO of AccessNow, will be recruiting attendees to help update Google Maps to make the world more accessible and aware.

“You could spend a whole day focused on belonging, inclusion, accessibility and different aspects of it,” Endean said.

Endean sees IMEX as a place where fresh approaches can be tested, measured, improved and disseminated. “We all learn differently and have different needs and we’re consuming content in different ways, so we are finding new ways to respond to that,” she said.

Big Screen Action and Page Turners

A daily film festival will connect emerging voices with attendees to share powerful messages from the likes of award-winning speaker Denise Soler Cox who shares a message of belonging through her Project Enye, and Rob Holmes and his work around telling the story of sustainable travel.

“These are all relatable topics to what we do every day in a medium we all know and love, but may need to learn how to use more effectively,” Endean said.

Since so many speakers are also authors, a space will be dedicated to having them interact with people about their work. Phil Mershon, the author of “Unforgettable: The Art and Science of Creating Memorable Experiences,” and Kristin Arnold, the author of Powerful Panels: A Step-By-Step Guide to Moderating Lively and Informative Panel Discussions at Meetings, Conferences and Conventions.”