An expert look at IMEX Las Vegas
“IMEX America is the very best trade show for our industry”
We know that the most important show in our industry brought together 3,250 exhibitors and 12,227 attendees, but beyond the figures Phil Cross, head of sales at CCIB, unveils the keys to the latest edition of IMEX Las Vegas
Why do you consider it is important to be at IMEX and, therefore, decided to attend the show?
We have attended IMEX Las Vegas since its first edition in 2011. Since its creation, I have not experienced a bad show. The US market represents an important percentage of our business. Yet we find it increasingly more difficult to meet our clients face to face. Our clients have very busy schedules, as do we. IMEX America, offers almost a unique opportunity to meet our clients and prospects face to face.
What would you prioritize on your participation in IMEX America?
I would say, it is all down to planning and contacting your clients well before the show goes live, to ensure that they will make a little time in their show agenda to see you. All clients and hosted buyers that attend IMEX have a tough time meeting their objectives at the show, and balancing the things that they need to achieve, whilst respecting the number of appointments and meetings they must comply to. The only way of ensuring you meet with the people you need to meet with, is by speaking to your clients well before they even confirm they will be at the show and letting them know that you will be in Las Vegas and why you would like to see them.
As an active MPI member in Spain, Smart Monday enables me to keep in contact with friends and colleagues I have built up in from across the States and the world in one day, and learn or hone some important skills.
IMEX not only gives us valuable time to meet our clients face to face, also gives us valuable time with our partners from Barcelona and Spain. Time with our fellow venues, hoteliers, CVB’s and DMC’s is extremely important, to help us gain some important insights into the current trends and exchange information on many aspects of the business.
As an accredited participant, is there any aspect that has surprised you?
I think I entered the industry late as I have heard many competitors and colleagues mention at other shows how many or how few lads they have generated at a trade fair. Personally, I have always felt the importance of a show like IMEX is to have yet another touch point opportunity with many clients, not to generate leads.
This year, I was concerned going into IMEX 2016. The number of pre-booked appoints were down this year compared with 2015 and the preparation, this year had been better than ever. However, the number of those pre-booked appointments and other clients that came to visit us with genuine business in their hands was incredible. The biggest surprise is that we generated an RFP at IMEX and this event has since confirmed. Direct ROI on IMEX 2016, I am delighted!
Generally, which are the 3 things that have caught your attention at the IMEX America?
1) Quality. The level of buyers that we met this year and, that we have met since we started attending, has always been extremely high. For me, it’s not about how many people we meet, it’s about the quality of the interactions and touch points we make. The people we met this year all had valuable conversations about their business and real interest in our offerings.
2) Positivism; there was a real positive vibe this year. The US market seems to be buoyant and growing again. Regardless of the uncertain political situation, this does not appear to have affected (yet) the event planning for the coming years. There appears to be real interest in Europe and Spain from the States again. The potential growth of large and citywide events that are now looking to take their events out of the US.
3) The sad lack of real long term planning. With the event industry seemingly in some sort of resurgence and recovery, the inability for many clients (both corporate and associations) to want to make long term commitment for spaces in their key destination choices could be potentially be detrimental to their events success. In addition, it could ultimately give the risk of destinations not being able to house their event and this risking the success of the event or congress. We need to start to help protect clients in some way to encourage long term planning, but also help educate them.
How have events evolved in the recent years?
In my opinion, events like IMEX America have greatly invested in training and educational sessions that are run parallel to the trade show. This guarantees that the number of participants and the quality of the attendance is very high. They are also using social media in the event PR campaign. This makes the event more accessible, even for people at home.
Regarding the venue, what would you stand out from Las Vegas and the Sands Expo?
Until you actually visit Las Vegas, it is very difficult to understand the colossal size of the hotels, the casino floors and the meeting spaces by then. Las Vegas is an incredible destination and much to my surprise is a key element to the success of IMEX America. When IMEX choose Las Vegas as the destination for the US based industry event, the industry was trying to recover after the recession. There was bad press about Las Vegas and the activities there. I could not see IMEX being the successful event that it has grown into. Ultimately, there is not place in the world like Las Vegas. Is not until you are in Las Vegas and you experience events like IMEX America in one of the large Conference hotels that you realize the mindset of many American based event professionals. When they come to Europe and expect lodge opens hotels for events of thousand or more delegates. At the Sands Expo and the Venetian you can realistically be indoors for 4 – 5 day and never truly see the light of day.
Which perception of Europe, Spain, Barcelona and the CCIB have your American business contacts?
The US perception of Europe and Spain remains a strong one and Barcelona is still seen as a stand-alone destination.
Briefly, how would you summarize your participation to IMEX America 2016?
In addition to everything I have already mentioned, in my opinion, IMEX America is the very best trade show for our industry. The quality and level of the attendees is extremely high, the professionalism of almost everyone I have met there is second to none.
Phil Cross, CCIB’s special envoy at IMEX Las Vegas 2016
In a sentence, can you define what your work in the CCIB consists in?
My role in the CCIB is a simple one; it is a business development role where my principal responsibility is to help our business grow. This happens in many ways: either we identify new opportunities in the market through sales prospection and market research, or we build strong relationships with our clients, listening to their needs and genuinely delivering on the promises we make.
What aspect of your work do you like the most?
The most interesting and motivating part of my position is that no 2 days in a week are the same. I am privileged to have a direct influence on many aspects of the business from sales, marketing, and to a certain extent on the way, we orientate the execution of the event. By far, the most rewarding part of my role is team management and inter-departmental relations. Managing a team of diverse and strong minded sales professionals of varying levels of experiences a lot of fun and motivating, and in all honesty, this has got to be the most challenging part of my job.
Interview with Phil Cross at IMEX (minute 34)