Five weeks out from the return of IMEX in Frankfurt, Germany, IMEX Group CEO Carina Bauer is excited that after cancelling two years in a row, the program is returning strong with an emphasis on connection and sustainability. She is expecting 2,500 meeting planners and more than 2,500 exhibitors from 150 countries as the program rolls out May 31-June 2, a similar size crowd to the one at IMEX America last November.

A Robust Agenda

Inspired by lessons learned from the successful American show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, look for a nature-inspired decor with education areas embedded in the trade show floor, a More than Experience theatre by DRPG and Maritz and a new look for the Hosted Buyer Lounge, Media Zone and food court.

Read more about IMEX America 2021.

The event is preceded by Association Focus, a full day of networking and education at Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and Frankfurt Marriott Hotel where International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) will be returning to in-person gathering.

She Means Business will share conversations with industry leaders on everything from breaking the glass ceiling to leveraging diversity to create the workplace of the future.

Policy Forum presented in partnership with Destinations International, AIPC, ECM, Events Industry Council, ICCA, JMIC, UNWTO and The Iceberg bring together government ministers and industry leaders to talk about the future of events. “Post-pandemic, it is the perfect time to show policy makers how the industry can help regenerate their economy,” Bauer said.

Future Leaders Forum will bring together young people in the final year of study to inspire them to dedicate their careers to the industry. Bauer pitched it this way in the promotional materials: “Over the two-day programme, you’ll make valuable industry contacts, benefit from high-quality education and visit the heard of the meetings industry, IMEX.”

The agenda includes 72 educational events in the Inspiration Hub over three days, a total of 150 sessions and attendees can pick and choose what programming they want to drop in on. “It is still robust, but less than it was in 2019 in recognition that people don’t want to schedule back-to-back sessions,” Bauer said.

The Be Well Lounge will feature yoga and meditation and spaces on the show floor and outdoors in courtyard will be open for attendees to catch their breath.

Additionally, Bauer is replicating the practice from IMEX America 2021 of opening the hall earlier to give more networking time and disburse crowds.

“There will be lots of new and familiar with a bit of a different twist,” she added. “You can learn and have fun as well.”

A Focus on Nature

A 3D render of an astronaut laying in a field of grass surrounded by blue butterflies.

Nature is still the headline theme. That green vibe will be seen in the education and the design around the show, Bauer said. People, Planet, Village area from IMEX America will make its visible debut in Frankfurt with cultural and CSR activities.

Behind the scenes, the emphasis is on measuring. MeetGreen sustainability consultants are calculating the environmental impact in Frankfurt for first time. Previously, IMEX relied on the venue to measure, but now Bauer wants to accurately benchmark the shows against each other. “We are trying to get a grip on where our impact comes from and then we can look at how we can decrease,” she said. “We have to measure first to set the bar.”

A pilot program will also stage education and a coffee lounge in media and association booths to build on the idea of delivering a different kind of experience, rather than a basic booth. “It enhances the attendee experience and allows associations to have a more meaningful presence,” she said.

On Feeling Normal

Bauer was overjoyed that after being forced to pull the plug at the last minute twice, the host destination is fully open. “We were in the build-up for 2020 when coronavirus emerged and had to cancel the show 10 weeks prior,” she recalled.

Today, visitors must be vaccinated, tested or recovered to get in the country and masks are required on public transport, but otherwise Germany is open. “It is a relief to have normal conditions, so exhibitors can entertain in the normal way,” she said.

Bauer is expecting a robust contingent from Southeast Asia where the countries are largely open, along with exhibitors from Latin and North America. The number of buyers from North America who had registered more than a month out is similar to 2019. “It is feeling quite normal, actually,” she said. “That is special.”

“People are ready to come out and say, ‘this is what we have done, we are open and ready.’ Now is the time,” she said.