IMEX America 2023 was huge by all the usual metrics. What was unusual was the lengths to which the show organizers, sponsors and exhibitors went to promote wellness amid the big-show hubbub.
IMEX America 2023 was proof positive that trade shows are back in a big way. The 12th edition of the show, held Oct. 17-19 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, pulled in almost 15,000 participants. The show floor was bustling with more than 5,000 buyers racing from booth to booth and taking part in more than 80,000 pre-scheduled meetings with exhibitors manning 360 booths — 65 of which were new exhibitors this year. Smart Monday, powered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and held the day before the official rumpus began, also was packed with eager learners, as was the Inspiration Hub where attendees flocked to learn future trends, hands-on tips, and insights on how to improve their events.
But all that bustle can lead to burnout, especially when you add in evenings packed with extracurricular events, from the Events Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders gala and SITE NITE on Monday to the MPI Foundation’s closing night Rendezvous dance party extravaganza. To stave off sensory, mental and emotional overload, IMEX America 2023 organizer The IMEX Group and its sponsors and exhibitors went above and beyond to incorporate physical and mental wellness — and an environment that was designed to be accessible to all — into every aspect of the show.
Here are a few wellness and accessibility elements that caught our attention:
- Physical accessibility: The IMEX information counter was designed to be accessible from the front for those in wheelchairs. Other areas, such as the hosted buyer lounge and Inspiration Hub, had counters accessible from the sides. All the Inspiration Hub theaters were designed for wheelchair accessibility and featured different types of seating to accommodate different seating needs. IMEX also made real-time language translation and audio transcription available through Wordly.ai. The minimum aisle width on the show floor was eight feet, and booths with raised floors had to have ramp access. Wheelchair and mobility scooters were available for borrowing at no charge but did need to be reserved in advance to ensure availability.
- Quiet spaces for those who need a break: Just outside the expo hall were two rooms for those who needed a break from all the commotion. One, the Quiet Space Lounge, was outfitted with comfortable seating and low lighting. Next door to the Quiet Space was the Resilience Room, created in partnership with the Neu Project and Marriott Bonvoy Events. In addition to quiet comfort, the Resilience Room, staffed by trained EventWell folks, offered tools and resources to help people manage fatigue and sensory overload, including noise-dampening earplugs and a Sensory Nook Pod designed to support those with neurodivergent needs.
- Wellness on the floor and Inspiration Hub: There were many sessions addressing health and wellness on Smart Monday and in the Inspiration Hub, from EventWell’s founder talking about adding quiet rooms and resilience spaces into event design, to numerous panels and individual sessions on safe and healthy food and beverage, to learning how to become more optimistic and resilient, to portable self-care habits specifically designed for event professionals. An unusual offering was a campfire circle discussion called, “Heartfelt Conversations about Midlife and the Menopause” led by IMEX’s Kit Watts. The conversation was frank, often hilarious and very cathartic for participants who had never before broached the topic in a professional setting.
The Well-being Wheel, powered by Novobeing, provided attendees with a fun and very relaxing few minutes in a virtual reality meditation. There also was a pop-up holistic wellness clinic, where attendees could get a 20-minute private holistic health and wellness consultation with certified Ayurvedic health counsellor and lifestyle coach Carmen Boscolo. For those who were too busy dashing from booth to booth to partake of these options, there were eight Nook Pods scattered around the show floor where they could take a quick breather without having to detour to the education area or the reliance spaces outside of the show floor itself. Among the many offerings at individual booths were vibro-accoustic massages and forest air breathing at the Accor team’s Energy Zone. And for those who over-indulged at the MPI Rendezvous party, The Wynn Las Vegas had Mega Recovery IV drips from Nutridrip by Clean Market available by appointment.
- Exercise inspiration: While you de facto will get your steps in at IMEX America 2023 just navigating the show floor, this year there was a fun wellness challenge designed by Maritz Global Events, powered by Heka Health, and sponsored by Caesars Entertainment Meetings and Events and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. In addition to adding some friendly competition to the show-a-thon, winners in various categories reaped some nice prizes—including tickets to the U2 concert Wednesday night at Vegas’ coolest new venue, The Sphere. There also were the old standbys, including the IMEXrun, which had more than 400 people trotting down the streets of Vegas, courtesy of sponsor The Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions and the Amsterdam Convention Bureau.
There was much more to explore, discover and learn from the wellness experiences at IMEX America, but one for the directionally disadvantaged deserves a special shout out: The Crowd Connected show app, powered by ExpoPlatform, not only allowed people to arrange meetings on the fly — it also enabled wayfinding to make it easier to navigate the packed show floor, which helped to ease the usual “can I get there in time for my appointment?” anxiety.