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by Leo Jakobson | October 17, 2014

The fourth IMEX America ended on a high note Thursday, with IMEX Group Chairman Ray Bloom announcing that 2,900 hosted buyers attended the leading meetings, incentive, and convention industry trade show, up from 2,700 last year and 2,000 at the first show in 2011. Altogether there were 10,000 attendees, including non-hosted buyers and exhibitors, and they participated in about 63,000 scheduled and group appointments.

Still, the highlight of the show came on the first day, Tuesday, Oct. 14, during a video interview with Bill McDermott, CEO of the global business software firm SAP. Pointing to his early days at the helm of SAP, McDermott explained that rethinking the firm's events strategy was one of the keys to a three-year period of growth that was 10 times what the company had achieved in its previous three years. 

"During my time at Xerox I'd learned that you have to bring people together," McDermott said. "You can't motivate for growth by email!"

McDermott_IMEX

Challenged to take up a position as a spokesperson for the meetings and events industry, McDermott accepted, calling meetings and events key to successful businesses. Bloom said that meetings industry leaders would quickly meet with McDermott to plan how to take advantage of such a high profile champion for the industry. McDermott spoke on the day his new book, "Winners Dream: A Journey From Corner Store to the Corner Office," was released.

In response to McDermott, Larry Luteran, senior vice president of group sales and industry relations for Hilton Worldwide, and co-Chair of Meetings Mean Business, an advocacy group created by the U.S. Travel Association, said "as an industry we are now playing offense where we were once on defense. We are all here to spread the word that when people come together something magical happens."

In addition to the growth in hosted buyers, the number of exhibitors at IMEX America also grew to 2,900 from 2,700 last year, and the floor size of the exhibition hall grew 13 percent. 

Beyond that, a new feature in the IMEX app that allows buyers to send exhibitors what Bloom described as a mini-request for proposals (RFP) describing their needs, was utilized by nearly half of the hosted buyers. Bloom credited that for feedback he'd received that the exhibitors were exceptionally well prepared for their meetings this year. 

A major feature of IMEX America is Smart Monday, a dedicated education day held before the show itself, which ran from October 14 to 16. More than 900 people attended the education programs offered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI), IMEX's lead education partner, according to Cindy D'Aoust, MPI's COO. That's in addition to 1,100 attendees at the keynotes and 150 at on-the-exhibit-floor education sessions offered at the MPI booth. 

Beyond that, $190,000 was raised for the MPI Foundation at its annual IMEX America party. That event, MPI Foundation Rendezvous: The IMEX America Night, was held at Drai's Beach Club and Nightclub, an impressive venue at The Cromwell, a newly opened boutique property on the Strip.