It’s become a tradition, my attendance at the biggest industry event of the year, IMEX, which takes place each October at Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas. I should like to think I’ve gotten good at it, if you can acquire a skill at tradeshow attendance. But if there is any tradeshow at which to acquire some proficiency, it’s this one. For those rookies attending this giant spectacle of a tradeshow, here are the skills you’ll want to sharpen: appointment organization, appointments themselves, and time management.
For those lucky enough to be hosted buyers, as I have now been each year, we are to set eight thirty-minute appointments each day. The trade show runs from 10:00a to 5:00p daily so there are more than enough slots to create a reasonable day. But in terms of organizations, I’ve gleaned a small handful of lessons over my years in attendance. For one, it’s imperative to create natural breaks for one’s self – whether that’s a bio break or a meal break. The schedule is your own to create so if there isn’t a gap for these important duties, that’s on the maker of the schedule. And the luncheon provided (at a price) on the tradeshow floor, while sufficient, pales in comparison to the sheer endless array of dining choices if one schedules himself enough time to commute. And so each day I venture to try a new restaurant at this sprawling resort complex – it breaks up my day nicely and besides, the food is fantastic. The second face to organizing appointments over the course of three days is personal choices. Some like to structure them so the walk from one to another is not terribly distant. After all, the hall is gigantic. But with thirty minute appointments, surely there’s enough cushion to budget in reasonable commutes. So instead of organizing them by their floor geography, or even their national geography this time around, I established one day where I’d meet with destinations, one day with hotel chains, and one day with properties specifically. This way, I’d be tailoring my own appointments by appointment style and wouldn’t have to shift my train of thought too terribly each appointment.
Indeed the appointments themselves are worth mastering. Thirty minutes is oodles and oodles of time. Having attended Connect Marketplace as many times as I have, whose appointments are just 6 minutes long, I’d like to say that 15 minutes is probably the sweet spot. Six is too short, we barely have time to introduce ourselves properly. And frankly, 30 is too long. After a half an hour, I probably know where the sales manager grew up, went to college, their kids names, and what might be their favorite foods. Unless we’re detailing a contract itself, I don’t need that long to determine whether we can do business. Food for thought.
And finally, time management. There’s a fair amount of free time naturally built into the IMEX schedule but that can quickly be eaten up with glorious invitations by all sorts of suppliers. And don’t forget, the shopping and gaming that’s at one’s finger tips in Las Vegas would be shameful to miss. That said, my advice is to pick and choose wisely. IMEX has been known to burn out even the most savvy of veteran meeting planners. But if the time is structured with a proper mix of business and pleasure, IMEX can easily be a meeting planner’s dream conference all the same.