Trade Shows

A Walk on the Wild Side at IMEX

The running joke at IMEX 2010 is that many of the exhibition stands are so large, well-finished, and inviting, attendees are tempted to move right in.

You wouldn’t lack for nightlife: the Paris CVB has built a sidewalk cafe, complete with pink neon signs, and the German CVB has created a beer garden — with wooden tables, beer, and pretzels — as well as a 100-person rooftop restaurant.

As IMEX and its reputation has become firmly established, exhibitors have become more willing to invest in making their presence felt, said Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group. (Japan, for one, doubled the size of its stand this year.)

But with so much competition for attendees’ attention, it is nice to know that there’s also a place for newcomers who never before have exhibited at a major trade show.

Every year, IMEX chooses three destinations as “IMEX Wild Cards,” and gives them free exhibition space, complimentary accommodations, discounted airfare, a ticket to the IMEX Gala, and marketing support. The 2010 winners were Uganda; Morzine, France, an alpine village; and Hof Conference and Cultural Centre, in Akureyri, Iceland.

I stopped to chat with Saevar Freyr Sigurosson, who was promoting the Hof Center, which is in northern Iceland and will open in August. The good news was that the volcano has stopped spewing ash two days ago, Sigurosson said. “If it just stays calm, fantastic.”

Along with the striking, round conference center, which can accommodate meeting groups of up to 500 people, Akureyri offers out-of-the ordinary adventures, including tours of the Northern Lights and of the lunar-like landscape in interior Iceland where NASA trained Apollo astronauts. Sigurronson, who also works as a guide, told me his surname means “son of the one who goes into battle with god and the winds.”

Not a bad guy for a meeting planner to have in his or her corner.

Barbara Palmer

Barbara Palmer is senior editor and director of digital content.