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Know Before You Go: Valuable Tips for IMEX America, Straight from the Pros

IMEX America is one of the biggest, best networking events of the year. Find out how to make the most of it.

IMEX America is the best show for networking on and off the showroom floor. Whether you are a first-timer at this year’s event or joining as a seasoned attendee, our team at San Francisco Travel thought you would enjoy some useful and original tips from veteran attendees to help you make the most of IMEX this year.

First, Some Incredible Numbers

IMEX brings together over 3,200 destinations, venues and suppliers from more than 130 countries, all under one roof. For newcomers, this is exciting, but it can make IMEX seem a little intimidating. For IMEX regulars, these numbers make it easy to see how valuable time is at the event.

We Went to The Sources

We talked with Leeta Cruise, Senior Director of Sales & Development for HelmsBriscoe, Roger Stauffer, Director, Sales Support & Procurement for Global Cynergies, and Sarah Brady, Senior Sourcing Manager for Creative Group to get their top IMEX tips.

What is a must-know for first-timers?

LC: If you are a hosted buyer, be respectful of the host and make it a point to attend all of their scheduled events and appointments. For any supplier appointments assigned to you (even if you feel they may not be a perfect fit), be respectful and give them your full attention, with a genuine interest in learning about their organization. You never know where these connections can lead in the future!

RS: Maximize your time at the show. Don’t just schedule the minimum appointments required. You only have one chance a year to meet with some of these suppliers. Fill your day with appointments or educational sessions.

What’s a lesson you learned the hard way from your past attendance at IMEX?

RS: Before you make your first appointment, block specific periods for lunch and other potential periods if you will need to check messages or emails. Be sure to block off your schedule so you have time to make the airport transfer. If you don’t, you will inevitably schedule appointments through lunches and breaks and schedule late appointments on your day of departure.

SB: Give yourself break time on your schedule and leave time at the end of the day to wander the show. Many booths have hospitality times, which are a great way to meet new attendees.

Are there any tips you can give regarding the appointment process?

LC: Mapping out your appointments by printing out the tradeshow floor layout for each day and highlighting important booth numbers/suppliers will make getting around much easier and more efficient. 

RS: Download the list of exhibitors to Excel. Using the country or supplier name filters, highlight your potential appointments. Once you have your list of 30-40, you can prioritize to ensure your top suppliers are selected, then go in and make the appointments. I find this much easier than using the filters within the diary. It also ensures I don’t miss my top choices.

SB: Make a list of those suppliers you want to visit and then, when working through the system, try to schedule based on the booth numbers, so you aren’t doing laps around the show floor the entire day. Make sure to plan breaks; you can block them in the system so you don’t accidentally schedule appointments.

Any must-see things near the Sands Expo?

LC: The High Roller at The Linq is the world’s largest observation wheel that offers a 30-minute ride with amazing views of Las Vegas and the Strip. Sunset or nighttime is the best time to see the city lights and mountain views!

SB: It’s Vegas! Take it all in, from the Bellagio Fountains and the Eiffel Tower at Paris Las Vegas to Topgolf at the MGM Grand and Fremont Street at night.

What networking events do you recommend?

LC: The evening networking events are valuable. Be careful not to over-commit yourself as you will receive many invitations from various suppliers. Be sure to protect your time and energy by being somewhat selective about which invitations you accept. This will help to ensure that you see all of the suppliers you commit to, and that you have a successful IMEX experience.

SB: Site Nite is a great one to connect with industry professionals from all areas of tourism; there are so many events to choose from. Focus on your areas of interest; there are options every day/night.

 More Quick Tips

  • Accept event invitations from DMOs you do business with. It's their way of saying thanks.
  • Pop over to a new city you don't know much about and meet new friends!
  • Share new RFPs with cities of interest.
  • Sample the great food and beverage options the exhibitors are showcasing.
  • Plan your exhibit time on the floor knowing there will be disruptions. You may walk by an exhibitor who will pull you in. Make it a good thing!
  • Listen and learn for both yourself and the exhibitor.
  • Have the RFP and your business cards set up electronically. It saves you the headache of shipping/carrying them to the show.
  • Use the IMEX app. The map is priceless to know where you are going. The show is enormous.

Do you have some tips of your own? Feel free to send them our way, so that we can include them in future articles!

Join Us at IMEX!

Don’t forget to book an appointment with our destination experts to learn why San Francisco surpasses planners’ expectations and offers a little bit of everything for every group: the mystic hills, the Bay, world-class food, events, activities and more.

Already booked up? Stop by the San Francisco Irish Coffee Happy Hour, Sept. 10th and 11th, 10-11a.m. & 4 - 5:30 p.m., at the San Francisco Travel booth (Booth #B1631).

We look forward to seeing you!