IMEXBuzz Hub

“The concept is that of a swarm”

Nikki Williams leads the new digital platform IMEX BuzzHub. The new digital experience will run from May to September. Foto: IMEX Group

Nikki Williams, Buyer Experience Development Director at the IMEX Group, about the new project BuzzHub, the big questions in the industry, a different approach, mini eco-systems and 12 commitments.

tw: tagungswirtschaft: In 2020 and 2021 the IMEX Group was forced to cancel its shows in Frankfurt in May. Last year you launched the virtual Planet IMEX. Why don't you get on with it?

Nikki Williams: There are two main reasons for this. On the one hand, after a year of this pandemic, our industry is at a very different point this year. People are currently dealing with the big questions of how and when things will continue for them and all of us as an industry, they are faced with a variety of very personal challenges, be it job loss, home office and home schooling and also with uncertainties about the future. When we decided to cancel IMEX in Frankfurt very early in January in order to be very clear for all our stakeholders and to save everyone time and resources this gave us the focus and the time to step back and – instead of having to react like last year – dive deep into a concept and strategy phase to decide what we wanted to do this year for our global audience. The new concept has been crafted following extensive customer research plus dozens of lessons learned from two editions of Planet MEX in 2020. IMEX’s agencies, partners and other experts have played an important role in shaping the content and formats.

How did you proceed?

We went into focus groups with our key audiences and discussed with them what their needs on both levels, professionally but also personally were. This was a very important source for us. We then decided that we wanted to have a different approach, one that also focuses also on the people on a very personal level rather than mainly on the professional person. People will be connecting to people rather than business persons to business persons or titles to titles. This gives us the chance to also support people in their personal situations – with many insecurities or a lack of orientation and many even lost their jobs. We wanted to take this very special situation into account and also offer our audience – besides making great business connections also the possibility to make new connections on a personal level that can support them. Everyone can share knowledge, too. The concept is that of a swarm. Our idea was to learn from nature and create mini eco-systems – just like a bee hive – that supports each other in order stay strong and survive.

“People will be connecting to people rather than business persons to business persons or titles to titles.”

Nikki Williams, IMEX BuzzHub Project Lead at the IMEX Group

What did you learn from Planet IMEX?

We learnt from launching and managing Planet IMEX last year that it took a lot of resource from our team. This year we decided to scale back our virtual experience to deliver a series of bite-size bespoke content, much of it tailored to specific industry groups. Visitors can choose from a variety of activities and sessions – all free of charge – and pick options that best fit their business or personal growth ambitions. This also allows us to concentrate our resources on planning and delivering our live show, IMEX America 2021, in November.

You are leading the new project BuzzHub. The new digital platform is focusing on collaborations, connections, community with a series of digital activations for the global business events community. How do I imagine this activation?

The series of digital activations will run between May and September and will deliver learning, business opportunities and connection in the run up to IMEX America. The new concept is designed to give tangible business value to IMEX’s traditional buyer and supplier audiences who have now missed a year of face-to-face trade shows. We’re set to announce some exciting, high level speaker to spearhead some of our education sessions. These sessions will be delivered a mixture of learning styles – auditory, visual and kinesthetic – to give attendees the choice of actively participating in discussions or listening to a great speaker.



The programme will run between May and September. What topics and dates are you planning and what formats?

Our digital activation launches on 12 May 2021 and will focus on different themes each month based on IMEX’s 12 Commitments for 2021. We begin in May with a Buzz Day day of programming centred on Collaborations, Connections and Community. The first Buzz Day will start at 15:00hrs London time with an introduction and welcome by IMEX Group Chairman, Ray Bloom and CEO, Carina Bauer. It will be followed by 20-minute keynotes, intimate campfires with speakers and topic-focused roundtable discussions. The day will close with a heavyweight panel focusing on the role that events play in building and maintaining communities, facilitated by Julius Solaris, Head of Engagement at Swapcard.

  1. Our primary commitment is leading a safe, confident and positive return to face-to-face, in real life IMEX events.
  2. Enabling micro-experiences and the power of small, like-minded tribes
  3. Cherishing extreme innovation
  4. Nature+
  5. Living our values of diversity, inclusion, equity and accessibility – our fifth commitment
  6. Analogue moments – „The Phews…“

The new concept is designed to give tangible business value to meeting and event planners, IMEX’s traditional buyers. How do you want to achieve this? Our new concept offers the global events community multiple chances to connect based on an array professional and personal interests. In this challenging time for our sector, event professionals are craving the chance to reconnect with their peers. Therefore, we’ve intentionally added plenty of time and space for networking, for meeting new people with shared interests and for business conversations. Another aim is to attract a new online audience. Who would you like to see for the first time? The business events industry is in flux with many new faces – including the next generation of meeting planners – entering the sector. We want to help them build connections ahead of being able to meet in person at the live show later on in the year.

IMEX America 2021

What are your plans to get people engaged, to contribute and to interact? Alongside our monthly Buzz Days are networking, specialist education, community get togethers plus some fun-filled surprises. IMEX staples, such as the famous IMEX Run, will also feature. The pandemic prevents personal encounters and we are in danger of losing contact with each other. How can we reconnect people? We know that human thrive on face to face connections with others and that has certainly been difficult during the pandemic. In fact, our challenging times have thrown into sharp relief the importance of meeting face to face and I think there is pent up demand for this once it is safe to do so. In the meantime, our digital activations to fill the gap, proving people with the opportunity to connect virtually before being able to meet in person again. The discussion is not new, but has been reignited by the crisis: trade fair organisers are transforming themselves into community builders. What are your thoughts about it? I believe that trade fairs have always been community builders, and this remains their primary purpose. Trade fairs are, at their heart, a marketplace. A place for people within a certain sector or discipline to come together and do business. The pandemic has shown people outside of our industry the real value in bringing together a community to meet face to face and how this can aid business recovery. I’m certain that this renewed appreciation for business events will help our sector to recover and continue to being together communities for many years to come. You are planning IMEX America 2021 from 9 to 11 November at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, as an event in presence. Will there be a digital extension for those participants who cannot fly to the USA? We’re currently exploring option to offer a hybrid element alongside the live show but are unable to share any further details at this stage.

Kerstin Wünsch

IMEX America 2021, America’s worldwide exhibition for incentive travel, meetings & events, will take place 9 to 11 November at its new location – Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, preceded by Smart Monday, powered by MPI – Meeting Professionals International on 8 November.

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