IMEX America: Where Networking Complements Education

Trade shows, exhibitions and conferences too often make a distinction between their educational programs and the events’ networking opportunities—with the networking sessions invariably relegated to second-class status. Entire days may be devoted to educations sessions, while the agenda relegates official “networking” to a single two-hour evening cocktail reception.

Not so at IMEX America 2016 upcoming this fall in Las Vegas October 18–20 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center, which is part of The Venetian/Palazzo resort complex. Show organizers have scheduled no fewer than four distinct networking opportunities over the course of the exhibition. The day before the official opening, meanwhile, has again been designated Smart Monday, a full day of learning that this year includes the popular Executive Meetings Forum directed at senior corporate executives.

Last year’s IMEX America attracted also 11,000 visitors, including more than 3,000 hosted buyers from 54 countries. Organizers expect this year’s show to even surpass these numbers. Exhibitors range from a contingent of first-timers to returnees, many of which have invested in larger booths and more expansive displays.

Clearly, there is a distinction between pure education and networking. Keynote speeches, seminars, panel discussions and workshops certainly come with a definite educational mandate. Information will be communicated of interest and importance to attendees in the room. Power Point presentations highlight key concepts and data points; handouts reinforce this information further.

Networking, by definition, is more personal, even career focused. But it also tends to be less structured, more informal, relaxed and even spontaneous. But to imply that education doesn’t occur during networking events is shortsighted. Rather, the type of learning and the way information is communicated are just different.

Indeed, ostensibly educational activities like brainstorming sessions and what are referred to lately as “campfire” sessions often fall into a gray area between education and networking, combining elements of both. Indeed, IMEX America 2016 organizers expect the senior corporate executives attending Smart Monday’s Executive Meetings Forum to not only learn, but to “develop connections” (i.e. through networking).

Attending a networking event, you’re likely to meet counterparts with different backgrounds. Similarly, there will be people attending from different segments of the industry and different parts of the country or the world. Their perspective will be of interest; how they perform their jobs, informative.

Exchanging ideas face-to-face, you each learn potential new best practices. You get to explore topics raised in educational sessions in greater detail. Often, someone will have expertise in an area you yourself don’t possess. He or she can help you clarify your own thinking or add to your knowledge base—and vice versa.

Click these links to learn more about the networking events in store for planners at this year’s show,  show information,  and details of IMEX America’s Hosted Buyer Program.

Photo credits: courtesy of IMEX America

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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