Analysis Global

Creativity and collaboration on show at IMEX

Modern placemaking tactics, creative thinking and sustainability dominate discussion in Frankfurt.

Following three days of meetings, networking and education, this year’s IMEX in Frankfurt wraps today. Here are some key highlights:


‘The Business of Placemaking’ was the focus of this year’s IMEX Policy Forum, which explored how business events can act as a catalyst in developing destinations. More than 130 participants from more than 30 countries, including 35 political representatives and policymakers, attended the event, which took place at the InterContinental Hotel on the first day of the show (Tuesday 21 May).

Julie Grail, a senior fellow at the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, and an expert on the development on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), delivered a keynote address.

Interactive discussion at the IMEX Policy Forum

She outlined the essential elements of a placemaking programme – from defining the place and the ‘place brand’, to collaboration between the public sector, commercial sector and community during the implementation phase. According to Grail, collaboration and authenticity, are key in engaging the community.

During an interactive discussion 50 per cent of participants said ‘integrating placemaking into the wider business strategy’ is their biggest challenge when it comes to adapting to the demands of modern placemaking, 22 per cent said financial issues are a major hurdle.

Sergi Mari, manager of tourism, commerce and markets at the Barcelona City Council who took part in Policy Forum for the first time said: “It’s been stimulating and I’ve enjoyed it a lot. The high quality of the discussions was impressive. I’m going to take back to the council several ideas from today that we can put into action.” 

IMEX Group chairman, Ray Bloom, said the high-level discussions at the forum highlight a growing awareness to the value of business events.

“[Discussions] clearly show how far the conversation, and the level of understanding, in the political sphere has moved forward over the years. It has progressed from establishing the importance of business events to economic development to how to make the most them. The IMEX Policy Forum has, I believe, made a substantial contribution to this.”

 360° photography at the IMEX Discovery Zone

Creativity is (still) exclusively human

During the Exclusively Corporate learning and networking event on EduMonday, speakers from the International Olympic Committee, Barclays, Cisco, Microsoft and KPMG shared their approach to events.

Held at the Grandhotel Hessischer Hof before the official opening of the show, discussion at the event focused on creativity, and the fine balance between technology and the “human spark”.

Nicola Wedge, head of events at Barclays, defined creativity as “the human spark that gives meaning to life,” urging planners to give their attendees “what they don’t know they want.”

Bob Bejan, GM of global events at Microsoft, said: “Five years ago, the discussion was whether digital events would completely replace live, in person events. What we see now is that in-person events are more important than ever.”

Bejan explained how the “connection between people, the exchange of information” lies at the heart of meetings and events.

Business is strong

“The planners we’ve met with so far really tick the box for us,” Tricia Loh, head of sales at Penang Convention & Exhibition Bureau, said. “They’re association planners from the medical and financial sectors wanting to hold events at a scale that perfectly suit the venues we have to offer.”

Karina Grützner, director of Convention Marketing at the Stuttgart Convention Bureau, said: “I’ve been to 13 IMEX shows, and we’re especially busy this year. I like to talk with hosted buyers and I also like meeting other industry professionals because they’re very interested and focused on what they need.”

Experimenting with experiential

The show’s new Discovery Zone provided buyers an opportunity to experience a number of experiential concepts to engage event delegates – think dancing robots, holographic presentations,  360° photography, and a walking piano.

This also allowed brands to showcase how they are embracing experiential meeting trends – we were particularly impressed by Hyatt’s Meditation Station – an inflatable purple dome where delegates could retreat for a moment of peace.

Hosted buyer, Patricia Torres, from ISA CTEEP in Brazil said: “The Discovery Zone is very creative and makes IMEX really stand out from other events I’ve attended. This area really encourages you to open your mind to new concepts and creative thinking.”

Inside Hyatt’s Meditation Station

Going green

The show’s Inspiration Hub held a number of educational sessions that addressed sustainability.

“Waste is one of the biggest issues we have in the world,” said Laure Berment, from Too Good to Go, who delivered the learning session What a waste! Finding solutions for world problems using co-creation. Too Good To Go is one of the world’s leading apps for fighting food waste and, according to Berment, 50 tons of waste is generated each second. She invited planners to discuss how they can address this issue with their events and – importantly – how they can communicate their actions and encourage others to act sustainably.

Hosted buyer Jennifer Papenfuss from OSIsoft Europe left the session inspired: “If I walk away from an education session with one idea, I’m happy. I’ve left with plenty of ideas that I know I can implement, such as the concept of food repurposing. So smart – I love it!”