IMEX Files: Lifting the lid on learning- Tahira takes us behind the scenes


With over 150 free learning sessions at IMEX Frankfurt and seven education tracks, attendees can pick and mix the ones that best suit their needs, building a learning journey that supports them personally and professionally. We asked our Head of Programming, Tahira Endean, MsC, CITP, CMP, CED, to reveal what goes on behind the scenes in crafting the education program and the highlights to look out for at this year’s show.

How do you source speakers for the IMEX shows?

We’re always on the lookout for trends and shifts and stories. When we attend shows both inside and outside our industry, we keep an eye out for fresh voices and ideas that will resonate. It’s about getting out there, talking to our community and really listening to the undercurrents of what people are looking for in terms of personal and professional development. A great speaker is someone who’s a brilliant storyteller – who has the flexibility and openness to lift the lid on their own experience.

2. What are the new education formats at IMEX Frankfurt and why did you introduce them?

We know that everyone learns in different ways, so we’ve switched up how we offer education at the show.

One of the new formats we’re introducing are Tough Talks – they’re highly focused discussions with speakers who are unafraid to tackle challenging topics. Grief, anxiety and the impact of peri and menopause are all life issues many of us have faced, so we wanted to create safe spaces for open and honest conversations. Wednesday is the day to look out for these.

Also new for this year is the very fittingly-named Wonder Walk. Creative director Robert Dunsmore will shed fresh light on the show with a guided tour themed around biophilia – the positive impacts of spending time in nature. He’s set to approach the show though a sustainability lense, seeking out nature-inspired activations and booth designs that planners can weave into their own events.

3. What are the different ways in which our new Talking Point – Impact – is addressed in the education sessions at IMEX Frankfurt this year?

We’ve launched an education track that’s dedicated to delivering learning sessions around the theme of Impact. The format is very much ‘show and tell’ with people sharing examples and case studies of how they’ve delivered impact in various ways through their events.

There are sessions that cut across climate change, carbon neutrality, designing for and measuring how we take care of our planet through the choices we make. Other sessions hone in on what it means to deliver a positive impact on people and communities: From hands-on workshops and design sprints with Google Xi on belonging; what it means to be accessible today as a venue or a show; to behind-the-curtain views into organizational wellbeing and leadership and the deep integration of humanity and technology – it’s all on the program.

None of this is possible without collaboration. There’s no better space for nurturing connections through dialogue than at IMEX Frankfurt. Whether it’s at informal discussion forums, educational sessions or even a casual conversation in the coffee queue, you’re likely to find someone you can partner with to create something great and often unexpected.

4. What does Impact mean to you?

The opportunity to make a difference in what’s often a complicated world. Through events we bring people together and this means we create dialogue, learning and connections that generate new thinking and ideas. The ripple effect of impact can be far-reaching, with results seen immediately or the seeds sown for the future.

5. Would you agree that learning sessions are as much about who you meet as what you learn?

Yes! Consider this – if everyone looking to make a deeper connection with another person invited them to see a session and then go for coffee, what a different and deeper conversation you’d have!

In the larger context of events, if we take away two to three new ideas then consider that a win. If we take away two to three new connections, then we may find new friends.

Take this lovely example of how connections made at an event blossomed into friendships: eight people from six countries who met as SITE Young Leaders over a decade ago are all now leaders in and of their organizations. At IMEX Frankfurt some of them will reunite to share their story about their connection and their latest – impressive – achievement: climbing Mount Kilimanjaro together!

6. How are the learning sessions at IMEX Frankfurt set up to enable connections?

We encourage all our presenters to build in time for questions, reflections and discussions. People may want to talk about how to apply what they’ve just learnt to their current project, or they may have a specific challenge they’d like to share. We’ve made sure there’s time dedicated to these types of conversations.

On the Monday of the show (13 May) our association and corporate planners can join invite-only sessions that give them the – often rare – opportunity to meet their counterparts from other sectors and make connections with people who could be their next advisor, coach or speaker.

On Thursday, agency planners can jump into our Agency Experience Forum. It’s new for this year and designed to offer huge idea sparks and space for conversation with other agency leaders about what keeps them up at night.

Equally, sometimes we just need to rest our minds, or catch up on work. Between Halls 8 and 9 at our venue, Messe Frankfurt, participants will find work lounges, sensory relaxation spaces and the Be Well lounge for quiet space, classes in breathing, stretching, and yoga.

My advice? It’s tough to make connections unless your brain is optimized – take 15 minutes and give yourself this gift.

7. What will event education look like in five years’ time?

Ask me in four years! Seriously, every education program has distinct parameters depending on the destination, venue, time of year, available space and desired learning outcomes. We learn more every day about humans and our brains. Factor into this the rapid evolution of technology bringing with it new skillset needs, and all we know for sure is that we’ll have to adapt.

Even as technology evolves, it’s clear that we’ll still prefer to gather together in person for conversation and sharing ideas. Being together – to work, learn and play – is a very human need. Education will have to adapt accordingly, becoming more flexible, responsive and human-centered.

Here’s what we can expect to experience in education programs over the next few years: open spaces, natural elements, hydration, seating and space flow that’s malleable, noise levels that allow conversation, learning that provokes thought and challenges assumptions, and space to be curious and – crucially – have fun. It’s all to play for!

Want to find out more about the education program at IMEX Frankfurt? Click here. (The full program launches early April.)

The show takes place at Messe Frankfurt from 14 – 16 May 2024. Register – for free – here.


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