Carina Bauer has been involved in the meetings industry since 2002, first as marketing and operations director of IMEX Group and now as CEO. Besides overseeing IMEX Group operations, she is responsible for the group’s marketing and communications mix, specifically concentrating on strategic partnerships, sponsorships and press relations. Bauer has served on the board of the MPI United Kingdom Chapter board and MPI international multicultural committee, and as marketing chair for the MPI European Meetings and Events Conference in London. She previously served as managing director of GoodBean Coffee, then a family-owned chain of coffee shops located throughout the south of England. She received a degree from Oxford University in politics, philosophy and economics.

Q. IMEX America has been a very successful event and the numbers seem to be growing every year. What accounts for its success?

We are, of course, very pleased IMEX America has resonated so well with the industry and believe there are a couple of reasons for this. First, the U.S. market was ready for this type of event and given our IMEX in Frankfurt hosted-buyer track record, people had an initial trust in the level of quality they could expect. Secondly, we’ve worked harder and harder each year to keep and extend that trust—bringing more value, more learning power, more business, more networking power. Also, pushing the boundaries of meetings innovation and creating a living case history, of sorts, for the industry on sustainability, play in business, wellness and technology helps keep things fresh and value-add.

Third, IMEX America is a truly global platform that gets people from across the Americas and around the world, and from all major walks of the industry together in one place. This facilitates a level of business, networking and knowledge-sharing that would take months or even a year to do without the show. Fourth, it’s a free event that delivers high-quality, vetted Hosted Buyers that are ready to do real business, and free education that builds minds and clock hours. Last but not least, partnerships with industry leaders—like MPI, PCMA, CIC and so many others—continue to raise the bar on world-class education, valuable co-located events, and memorable networking. All these facets work together, we think, and make up the IMEX America experience.

Q. IMEX America has been breaking attendance and participation records every year. Do you expect that the numbers will continue to grow this year?

We never like to count our chickens before they’re hatched, but we always work toward making the show better. We can say, however, that there are (as of mid-July) around 68 expanded and new exhibitors from North America and across the world in various parts of the meetings industry. There are also 10 new hosted-buyer groups joining us, which is exciting.

Q. What are the main ways that IMEX has changed since it began?

It’s really been an evolution over the years, based on changing trends in the industry and beyond, and the feedback we continually seek from exhibitors, buyers and all who participate. We’ve always tried to offer more education, more business opportunities and more networking year-to-year, but never want to get bigger just for the sake of being bigger. Quality, value and experience power have always been at the heart of what we add or change. In terms of specific areas that have seen dramatic growth, I think technology—at the show and as a facet of the meetings industry—has grown immensely. Wellness is a newer topic and has been very well-received and sustainability, which started in IMEX in Frankfurt as a core show element, has also been extended to IMEX America increasingly over the years.

Q. How will IMEX America 2017 differ from previous gatherings?

People can expect the same elements they love about IMEX America this year—business, learning and networking in a dynamic and productive environment—but they can also expect to interact with new thought leaders through our education program, get more chances to bone-up on and experience technology, connect with more and different exhibitors, participate in new sustainability and CSR programs and, of course, get new ideas to chill out with wellness or build work, play and creativity into meetings. Association executives can also expect higher level opportunities to interact and exchange knowledge in the new Association Leadership Forum.

Q. Will artificial intelligence and virtual reality be featured at IMEX America 2017? What other tech will be featured?

Technology exhibitors will certainly be talking about and showing AI and VR technologies, and we see more and more VR in action in destination booths, as well. In terms of exhibitor growth for 2017, tech players with event management and content management software like Evenium will be taking on a bigger booth and presence, and EventsCase and Cadmium CD will also be joining the Tech Pavillion.