Henrik von Arnold

“Knowledge talks” at IMEX 2016?!

Henrik von Arnold

IMEX is a very good show where we are meeting buyers and colleagues, scouting trends, listening to lectures and exposing ourselves to the media.

I was happy to be part of the Swedish stand as presenter and moderator. The Swedes really changed their participation. They have “Knowledge talks” on sustainability and technology etc. at the stand and provided lectures on active learning and 3D-visualisations at the Inspiration Hub. They try hard to turn meetings into a tool for destination development – not “just” a tool for filling up venues. Looking around on the exhibition floor – I wonder if a not so small part of the exhibitors understand what has changed in the meetings industry. Ladies with bananas on their heads, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a green Hulk, a big guy from Game of Thrones, two “funny” professors in lab coats, and many more amusing things… They make it hard for the political delegation visiting the show to understand our approach to meetings, to science and associations, to the economy and corporations. And they make it difficult for many destinations to ask for resources for destination marketing.

Why do so many exhibitors choose to be part of the circus, and not focus on the important things?

Is it a spill over from leisure exhibitions? Is it to be acknowledged by the media? Does it really work to attract visitors? I thought we tried to distancing ourselves from leisure tourism, and instead offering platforms for attracting talents, for new research fields and investors. The time when we just tried to fill up hotel rooms is long gone. We all have a responsibility to show, that we are a serious and important player in destination development and knowledge transfer. Exhibitors and the media can show the way. Let’s focus on understanding the client’s needs in terms of infrastructure, research and development within universities, trade and industry, skills in learning and in terms of issues like sustainability, safety and security etc.

I will probably be seen as “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha”, but I would like to initiate a discussion among the industry and media, to clarify and portray our responsibility to be taken seriously.

Not boring serious. But interesting serious.