Experiencing IMEX America 2015

This Fall we were thrilled that Destination South‘s President and Managing Director, Cynthia Alford, DMCP and Sales Director, Andy Williams, CMP, TMP had the opportunity to attend IMEX America in one of the world’s most energetic and entertaining cities, Las Vegas. With a record attendance of 10,935, this 3-day event for hospitality, DMC and event professionals has become ‘the’ conference and trade show for doing serious business globally. Enjoy guest blogger and Destination South team member Andy Williams’ first-hand and first-time attendee account of three days ‘on-the-go’ at IMEX!


Cynthia Alford, DMCP and Andy Williams, CMP, TMP showing some love for the DMC Network and Ovation Bear.

In October, Destination South Meetings + Events managing director Cynthia Alford, DMCP and I had the pleasure of attending IMEX America in Las Vegas. IMEX America calls itself “America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings & events, and the pulse of the meetings industry.” With over 12,000 attendees and exhibitors from around the world, it was just that. But before I get into all that IMEX had to offer, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention what a great time I had at the DMC Network and Ovation annual ‘OpporUNITY’ sales conference.

In its fifth year, the DMC Network sales conference brought together a multitude of our network partners under one roof for the purpose of education, networking, and brainstorming best practices. For those who aren’t familiar, Destination South is a part of The DMC Network, “a consortium of the leading independently-owned destination management companies across North America.” Our partnership with Ovation Global allows us to expand our network of partners beyond the border of the United States, allowing us the resources and connections to conduct international business with proven, trusted destination management companies. Up to this point in my career with Destination South, I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet any of our partners, so I was thrilled that I got to put faces to names.

We spent the first half of the day with conversation and presentations led by Judi Holler of Holla! Productions. Aside from having arguably the best last name I’ve ever heard, Judi is jam-packed with energy and knows how to work a crowd. We spent the majority of our time with her focusing on personal branding—utilizing the tools Judi had picked up during her time in improv school. Designed to move people out of their comfort zones, the program required our members to think on their feet and improvise. From a sales perspective, it was an excellent activity that could be applied directly to the various situations we find ourselves in everyday – whether on sales calls, in meetings, or during presentations.

Andy Roundtable

Andy Williams, CMP, TMP leading a DMC Network roundtable at the OpportUNITY sales conference.

The latter half of the day was spent in facilitated roundtable discussions. I was tasked with serving as a facilitator, which provided me with even more of an opportunity to get to know our partners. Roundtable discussions are always a win-win, in my opinion. They allow professionals to come together to discuss what works well and what doesn’t, share successes and struggles, and provide new ideas that may have never been considered—all in a laid-back environment. We discussed around eight topics, including pricing structure, apps that make our jobs easier, trends in marketing and collateral, and our DMC Network model, among others. It’s always interesting to hear the ideas others bring to the table (no pun intended.) At the conclusion of a successful sales conference that was packed with great information and networking, IMEX America festivities officially kicked off.

IMEX Show Floor DS

The IMEX America trade show floor bustling with supplier/planner meetings and exhibitor booths.

For those of you who haven’t attended IMEX, let me go ahead and say that it can be a bit overwhelming. The trade show floor was expansive. We walked in and essentially stared down a sea of booths – most of which had been assembled in an elaborate fashion. People from around the world were taking appointments with one another in a loud, fast-paced environment. I imagined it to be like the meetings industry version of the NY Stock Exchange floor. The trade show floor was open for three days. You need just about all of those to see the majority of the exhibitors. I attended the trade show twice for several hours at a time, and I’m still positive there were booths I never saw. With that said, there are benefits to scheduling appointments ahead of time and buying into a co-op so that your days are as structured as possible.

Outside of the trade show floor, opportunities still abounded with an endless array of educational sessions, fireside chats, and technology hubs. Seriously, if you’re looking for continuing education, the sky is the limit at IMEX. Education topics covered just about everything under the sun – from revenue management, selling to the incentive market, and leveraging technology, to industry certifications, leadership development, and attendee engagement. I could write for days about the variety of educational topics that were offered, as they were provided nonstop throughout each day. And here’s the great thing: All of those topics are relevant to what we deal with on a daily basis in our often-chaotic, never dull industry.

IMEX Collage DS

Cynthia Alford, DMCP & Andy Williams, CMP, TMP attending an IMEX social event in the heart of Las Vegas.

So, if you’re already exhausted from reading this, I can’t blame you. After all, you’re given just a few days to cram in some of the best education and networking the meetings industry has to offer. But if the trade show floor and education weren’t enough, there was another component of IMEX America that took it to the next level: the sponsor events. Each night we participated in sponsored networking events, hosted by some of best leaders in the industry. The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), hosted their annual “SITE Night” on Monday; our very own DMC Network and Ovation Global hosted its 3rd annual TALENT SEARCH late-night party on Tuesday; and, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) hosted their signature ‘Rendezvous’ event on Wednesday. These events provided even more opportunities for networking, camaraderie and, frankly, the opportunity to loosen up and have a good time after several full days of working 90mph.

If I can leave you with a final thought about IMEX America, it’s this: the networking, education and entertainment is second to none in the industry – and you can sleep when you get back home. We look forward to attending again in 2016!

IMEX party 1

IMEX party 2The 3rd annual DMC Network and Ovation TALENT SEARCH for hospitality professionals and IMEX attendees.