Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly series  on the planning process for producing IMEX America Nov. 9-11 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

While plans begin in earnest on the physical structure that will comprise IMEX America in Las Vegas in November, Carina Bauer, CEO of IMEX Group, today launched IMEX BuzzHub, a series of industry conversations starting with the power of community.

The free portal to monthly conversations, speakers, networking and some fun surprises is powered by Swapcard. It was the outcome of lessons from PlanetIMEX and feedback from users and partners.

“We want to extend the content, conversation and the connections that happen at a physical show through the digital experience,” said Bauer. She was quick to point out that the platform won’t replicate a trade show in a digital space. “People still want to have the connections and business that is done on the trade show floor, but the conversations can be extended,” she said.

In the next few months, her goal is to help people reconnect with each other and have deep conversations on topics of mutual interest, including the recently released Nature of Space report. The white paper, developed in partnership with Marriott International, looks at how meeting professionals can shift from delivering knowledge to helping people connect in a more meaningful way with content and each other. It is filled with practical tips about lighting, use of space and even F&B.

“That leads into IMEX America, where we can have the pinnacle experience and homecoming party,” said Bauer.

Excitement Building

Back in the physical world, plans have progressed rapidly over the past month, Bauer reported in our monthly call. “The change in mood in the U.S., UK and Europe due to the reduction in Covid case numbers and increase in vaccination rates has led to an increase in inquiries for exhibitors,” she said.

For many, IMEX America will be the first time their teams have come together and the first time they have attended at a large event in over a year. “It will be a moment of coming together,” she said.

Bauer’s team is now diving into details of the design of the show and the experience. “It was a shift from planning mode to doing—for us, exhibitors, stand constructors and general service contractors,” she said.

A major focus: the arrival experience, including flow and spacing of the show to give people comfort and space as they enter. The floorplan now includes perimeter aisles, wider walkways, experience areas and themed seating for relaxation breaks. “We are really looking at entrances and traffic crunch points,” she said.

To eliminate lines and smooth the entrance, registration will be via at-home badge printing. “Traffic management may not sound difficult, but it has to be thought of carefully when you have that many people,” Bauer said.

Because Mandalay Bay already has an advanced ventilation system that replaces all air many times an hour throughout the resort, Bauer feels confident in the ability to offer a safe environment. “Science has shown that surface transmission is rare, and ventilation is the most important thing to keep people safe. That gives me comfort,” she said.

Additionally, MGM Resorts is vaccinating staff and their families and offering creative outdoor spaces. “We are looking for ways to get people out into nature and fresh air with walking, talking education,” Bauer explained.