IMEX 2022 concluded its 11th American run Thursday following a thunderous return with over 12,000 people in attendance at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, a 45% increase over last year’s event due to pandemic travel restrictions.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) powered Smart Monday and morning keynotes as part of a 20-year partnership that was formally extended through 2025. More than 1,600 people participated in MPI education over the course of the event. Additionally, MPI Foundation raised $400,000 through Caesars Entertainment-sponsored Rendezvous and a silent auction.

Download “Pathways to Clarity” a joint IMEX, Smart Meetings White Paper outlining the state of the meetings industry.

The “Pathways to Clarity” theme carried throughout with numerous exhibitors, suppliers and presenters focusing on sustainable practices while many emphasized the importance of inclusion and mental wellness through design within the events, tourism and hospitality industries.

“We were doing sustainability before anyone thought it was remotely interesting because we thought it was the right thing to do,” said IMEX CEO Carina Bauer. “From our A Voice for All program on Smart Monday, to Google Experience Institute’s NEU Project, we’re all invited to understand that events, and event designs, have excluded too many people for too long. Not only does the data show that belonging is good for business, but as designers we also need to do a better job of not asking people to leave their lived experience at the doors when they come to our events.”

Immersive Experiences Illustrate Importance of Breaking Free from Conventional

Presented by Encore, the immersive “Break Free” experience guided participants through an interactive exhibit allowing people to question current sustainability practices, both within their own organizations and across the industry, while connecting with other participants on the topics of waste reduction, alternative energy and supply chain management.

Read highlights from Day 1 and 2 of IMEX America 2022.

“When we first engaged with IMEX, we didn’t want to show up like every other company,” said Event Experience Strategy Director Anthony Vade, CED. Vade added that Encore’s goal of hosting an exhibit at this year’s event was to create something unique to highlight the theme of sustainability using the company’s event canvas methodology, one of Encore’s primary tools in designing events for their clients.

Each participant was provided with a tablet, which was used to scan QR codes on human-sized projected images. The links pushed discussion questions to the screen for crowdsourced conversation on the self-selected topic. “We started doing a lot of stakeholder discovery to find what the industry needs and whom do we need to interface with and how can we bring the sustainability conversation to this community in a more impactful, more emotional way,” Vade said.

The next step on the journey was a multisensory room that surrounded participants in fog, transformed the space into a forest before their eyes and injected a woody smell into the air as a demonstration of the power of thoughtful audiovisual (AV) activation.

Encore President and CEO Ben Erwin explained that as the AV provider of choice at the majority of U.S. venues, Encore has expertise in all types of activations and can scale even the most elaborate productions to meet the budget and goals of a specific group. “Even though we are usually behind the scenes working the lights and sound, we put people front and center and want to be embedded in the customer team so wherever you go, the onsite crew has the benefit of every interaction you have had over the years,” he said.

Best Practices in Mental Wellness and Mindfulness Put into Motion Through Design

As the three-day event buzzed with bustling crowds of attendees excited to experience the full-force return of IMEX, some organizations made it their priority to provide people with a place to decompress, re-center or simply sit to enjoy a moment of relative quiet in a comfortable setting.

Holly Duckworth, CEO of Leadership Solutions, curated the “Be Well Lounge” with principles based on secular neuroscience quartered at an adjacent meeting space near the event’s main exhibition hall. Prior to the start of the IMEX tradeshow, Duckworth hosted the “Travel Stress Reduction Wellness Experience” focused on providing attendees with elements to support mental wellness during Smart Monday, presented by MPI.

The Be Well Lounge hosted 45 meditation sessions over the course of the trade show within a dimly lit setting, ensconced within cloud-like, inflated domes with comfortable seating providing “mindfulness through action,” according to Duckworth. “Mindfulness matters because it creates calm, it creates more positive thought processes and allows us to feel refreshed,” Duckworth said, adding, “it brings us the greater ability to experience focus and it also allows us to improve our concentration in a world of 24/7 where we’re being pulled in a thousand directions.”

A Welcoming Setting with Comfy Seats Provide an Oasis in a Desert

CORT Events partnered with IMEX Group to provide the necessary elements of a relaxing setting throughout the event with a distinctive nature theme, including a massive lounge area, centrally located on the trade show floor, featuring couches and other furniture that can be branded with custom covers.

“We really wanted to bring a nature theme and create a comfortable sanctuary on the tradeshow floor for anyone, it doesn’t matter if you’re a buyer or press member or even the CEO of a meetings industry business, we just wanted to provide a comfortable space where you can catch up, network, take a zoom call,” said Stephanie Byrd, marketing manager at CORT Events. She  added that attendees naturally gathered in the lounge during cocktail hour on Tuesday and Wednesday, facilitating a sense of community at the event.

The lounge featured faux plants and hedgerows, creating a relaxing aesthetic with a nature theme throughout. The furnishings also allowed CORT Events to showcase the wide variety of options included in their inventory and the versatility meeting producers have when crafting a unique event, “incorporating some really fun elements that help put people at ease,” she said.