IMEX Frankfurt 2023: Boosting belonging, future-thinking and the elephant in the room

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Event professionals from agencies, associations and corporates gathered for specialist education sessions earlier today before IMEX Frankfurt opens tomorrow.

Planners arrived with the desire to take a fresh look at their meetings and events, and with the new needs of attendees front of mind. Google’s Global Events Strategic Solutions Lead Megan Henshall explains: “There’s been an anti-establishment cultural shift – you have to earn people’s trust and earn their time now.”

Is there a future for events?

Megan was part of a panel discussion at Exclusively Corporate along with Amanda Whitlock EY Global Events Leader and (joining remotely) Ewelina Dunkley, Events Lead of Meta. Moderator Patrick Delaney asked a blunt question: Is there a future for events? (The answer? Yes – more than ever!).

He followed up by probing if the strategic role of events was better understood post-pandemic. Whitlock explained the significance of in-person events has grown for her team since 2019. “We now emphasise networking and the importance of the live, person to person experience… people appreciate being together so much more now.”

Henshall’s view is that strategic understanding ‘still depends on the leader’ and explained that Google events are not only evaluated on revenue, but also community building and cultural continuity. At Meta, where Dunkley’s responsible for internal events for 10,000 people in London and globally, the focus is on community, culture and engagement. “We’ve found a clear causal link between attending an event and a stronger sense of belonging to the company which translates into feeling part of something bigger.”

IMEX – the ‘super playground’

The power of belonging shone through as one of the areas association planners wanted to explore. Valentina Tudosa from the EMEA Power Transmission Distributors Association – one of the attendees at Association Focus – explains: “With 200 member countries, the challenge for me is to find new ways to unite and engage the entire audience. I’m after the ‘wow’ factor – a creative format or topic to bring together the wide range of countries and cultures my association serves. I hope to find it here – IMEX, after all, is like a ‘super playground’ for the meetings and events industry.”

Association planners are looking at their event formats with new eyes post pandemic, as Steven Henry from the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat explains: “For the first time this year we’re trialling smaller regional events alongside our main annual conference – in fact, we’re holding our first ever event for European members next month.”

Other issues association professionals wanted to explore were event design, contracting and sustainability. The latter was the main theme of the plenary session – moderator Genevieve Leclerc, CEO and Co-Founder of #Meet4Impact explains: “There’s an elephant in the room and we’ll be tackling it today – sustainability.” A Slido poll of attendees showed that it’s an issue which planners are already addressing: 37% confirmed that sustainability is a priority; 27% said they’re making changes in the right direction.

Agency planners helped to curate their own programme for Agency Directors Forum. Discussion topics included building and developing talent and new ways to grow a business. Recognising the need to adapt to a changed commercial landscape and expectations underpinned the interactive afternoon programme.

Association Focus was delivered in association with AC Forum, AMC Institute, ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership, ESAE and ICCA.

IMEX Frankfurt begins tomorrow, 23 May, at Messe Frankfurt.

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