In the lead up to AIME (Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event) 2019, held in Melbourne from February 18 to 20, there was plenty of speculation due to the change of hands with new organisers, Talk2 Media & Events, having taken over the reins from Reed Exhibitions that managed AIME for over 10 years.
But if the numbers were anything to go by, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that the new team has successfully delivered on a refreshed industry event.
For starters, the 2019 event received over 2,500 total attendee registrations, of which there were 50% more hosted buyers from previous years. More importantly, 62% of them came from outside Australia spanning 38 countries and 55% never attended the trade show before - providing more fresh contacts and potential business opportunities for new and repeat exhibitors.
"It was clear from exhibitors, buyers and visitors that AIME needed a fresh lens, and it's been so rewarding to be recognised for the positive changes we introduced this year. We are so proud of what the team has achieved, delivering the new vision on behalf of the industry and have already started planning for 2020,"said Matt Pearce, CEO, Talk2 Media & Events.
Networking in varied spaces
Keeping in mind the three key tenets of a successful trade show, namely networking, education and business according to Pearce, organisers delivered with more and better face-to-face interactions.
During the pre-event cocktails on Sunday, hosted buyers and guests were invited to a new eco-friendly venue, The Timber Yard, a beautifully restored yard built on the philosophy of recycling and upcycling, where reclaimed timber and steel is juxtaposed with lush greenery.
Hosted buyers letting their hair down at The Timber Yard. (Credit: Lee Xin Hui)
At the newly added Tuesday Networking Event, known as the Asia Street Food Festival, 800 people mingled over a selection of Asian fare and ice cold beers from pop-up food stalls and container bars along South Wharf Promenade.
More networking opportunities were also added to the show floor through dedicated breaks that were built in to the schedule for hosted functions. Many of these were held at The Atrium - a beautiful 15m glass structure with two large open areas on both sides, that served as an attractive centrepiece for the event that was equally functional as a spot to connect.
During the Northern Territory Convention Bureau's hosted function, a live horse was brought in to The Atrium, much to the delight of attendees.
Of this, Pearce said, "We need to create moments where serendipity can happen."
Ample learning opportunities
On the education front, AIME partnered with PCMA, ICCA, SITE and Meetings & Events Australia (MEA) to create a comprehensive day of "outcome-based learning" on Monday's Knowledge Programme, which saw over 600 participants across its 15 sessions.
Danielle Di-Masi speaking at the 'Transform Connections into Vibrant, Impactful Communities' session.
The session on 'Challenging the Meeting Norms - Rethinking the status quo' was particularly useful as it got attendees to brainstorm the various pain points of the industry- think uncurated speakers, homogenous venues and death by powerpoint presentations - and saw speakers from IBM and George P Johnson using IBM's annual global flagship event, Think, as an example of how to create delegate-centric experiences using technology.
"As the Major Partner of the Knowledge Program, we are incredibly proud of the comprehensive ideas sharing and inspiring educational content delivered at this year's event. The feedback has been incredibly positive. When the media, repeat exhibitors and attendees who are all so vocal tell me that AIME has improved significantly, it's a win," said Karen Bolinger, CEO, Melbourne Convention Bureau.
Facilitating better business interactions
Over the three-days, there were over 8,400 meetings conducted, through the carefully matched algorithm on the new AIME app, which also featured a rating function, with hosted buyers giving an average of 4.4/5 for their exhibitor meetings, said the organisers.
On the ground, many exhibitors and buyers expressed that the pre-event matching technology was easy to use, and helped match them with their preferred appointments, although a minority highlighted that appointments got booked up pretty quickly.
Business on the show floor.
Overall, the new event format is expected to drive strong inroads for AIMEs in the years to come, especially with the possibility of expanded space for next year's edition. In fact, 20% of exhibitors have already booked in for the 2020 event, according to organisers.
AIME 2020 will take place from February 17 to 19, 2020, in Melbourne.