“Be prepared to be agile, flexible and move as quickly as possible”


Ray Bloom, Founder and Chairman of the IMEX Group, photo: IMEX Group

Ray Bloom, Chairman and Founder of the IMEX Group, discusses PlanteIMEX, helping the industry to re-connect, the value of face to face meetings and the resilience of the business events sector.

Kerstin Wünsch: PlanetIMEX October edition, the digital version of IMEX America, has just started. Earlier you said the cancellation of IMEX in Frankfurt was the toughest decision you had to make. A few months ago you had to cancel IMEX America in Las Vegas. How are you doing?
Ray Bloom: If cancelling IMEX in Frankfurt was one of the toughest decisions I had to make, then cancelling both shows was even tougher! When we cancelled IMEX in Frankfurt in March we were still hopeful that IMEX America could take place as it was scheduled for a few months away in September. When we then made the decision to cancel IMEX America it was very difficult, especially because much of the industry was still hoping that the show could take place. We’ve had to make some tough decisions over the last few months and it’s certainly not something you want to get used to.

PlanetIMEX is taking place from 12 to 16 October. Why should all of us participate?
Since the launch of PlanetIMEX in May, we’ve evolved the experience, working closely with our industry partners, so that it continues to deliver really strong and relevant content - learning that’s vital for the here and now – but with a fresh approach. Our team have worked hard to give PlanetIMEX a whole new look and feel this time around and we hope this will generate excitement and inspiration. We intend to offer all our participants a high value, highly memorable experience and one that’s centred on community, learning and business conversations - helping them to re-connect with peers and industry professionals from around the world.

PlanetMEX offers inspiration and education, but what do you tell industry partners who are desperate, because they have no business for many months now?It comes down to believing in the future, post pandemic, and the ability to survive – either by retaining staff or – if you don’t have the resources – putting your business into hibernation. Either way you need to retain belief. If you retain belief, then in most cases you’ll find a way through. Once the opportunity arises to do business again, be prepared to be agile, flexible and move as quickly as possible.

You believe in the resilience of our industry. Please explain why.
It’s very straightforward – I believe in the value of face to face meetings and the importance of people being able to collaborate in a way that can only be done by meeting in person, regardless of the digital alternatives. Put simply - the reason that the business events sector is so resilient is that people like to meet each other. One of the reasons behind our very human desire to meet and engage face to face is very simple – it works. I recently heard that people are 35 times more likely to engage face to face than online, and I couldn’t agree more with that statement.

Kai Hattendorf, President of Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC), said: „COVID-19 has again highlighted a core weakness of the global business events industry. We struggle to share a joint message, to stand as a united industry, when it matters”. Do you agree?
While there is room for improvement, I feel it is importance to recognise that the industry is doing its best to work together. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that the industry has come together more during Covid-19 than at any other period I’ve ever experienced. And with so many current restrictions and protocols around the world, that’s not always easy to achieve. Those, like me, who have been in the industry a long time will know that, no matter how much collaboration could be increased, it is totally different to how it was years ago when it would have been difficult to have the level of partnership that’s taking place today.

And how has a long term view of the industry helped IMEX to formulate a solution to help keep the industry together?
We’ve never changed our long term view of the industry and believe that our community is resilient and will, ultimately, come back stronger than ever. Our sector is powered by connections and sense of community – of family even. We launched PlanetIMEX as a way to try to recreate, as best as we could, some of the connections and community that would have been delivered at our live shows. Whilst the virtual world can never provide those same opportunities, we’ll continue to do our best to deliver connections and learning until #wecanmeetagain. Kerstin Wünsch