With snow forecast for Pittsburgh, I decided to split IAEM Thursday afternoon rather than deal with the logistics of attending the gala dinner and hoping my late flight would land as scheduled. I'd wanted to attend Philippa Gamse's session on RFID, but I'll just have to wait to hear feedback from others on that one.
Maybe it's because I spend a lot of time in coffeehouse and blog communities where there is palpable buzz on numerous topics, but I didn't feel a ton of energy at this year's IAEM. One great example of that is that I didn't hear a single word about the CEIR/IAEM merger at the event. I read about it here.
Even the infamous Mexican Party was a bit of a dud this year, with maybe 150 partygoers instead of the usual 300+. Patricia Farias, the event's unofficial host, was very upset about the venue and location - a $20 cab ride to a strip mall restaurant in Chamblee. There was one small shuttle from the Omni, nothing from the Marriott. I rode up with the Canadian contingent from ARSystems, who hired their own coach to get to the party. I will note the finger food was great and the tequila was still free (more apologies on the unitentional time-lapse photos).
There was a bit of a brouhaha at Thursday afternoon's luncheon, when outgoing chair Chris Brown put an association name change to a vote. Seemed most of us hadn't heard about this until reading about it in USAE that morning (no link on their site yet) and were suprised to find that we were being asked to rubber stamp the decision during lunch.
The move, to change the name from IAEM to IAEE (International Association of Exhibitions and Events, Inc.) did not carry, according to a MiMlister who was at the luncheon and reported that after ballots were counted it was determined a quorum was not present and discussion would continue. (I had left the luncheon to get an earlier flight and wasn't around for the final word on this).
I'll note that the ongoing talk (and volume) from the podium during the luncheon made it impossible to talk with anyone at the table - which was extremely disappointing since there were folks there I really wanted to speak with, especially the "director of event excellence" from McCormick Place, where Coverings is moving to in 2007. I understand that the luncheon is a convenient venue for gathering enough people in order to hold IAEM's business meeting, but I wish there were another way to do that.
On the positive side, it is extremely encouraging to see IAEM beginning to go outside the industry and the "usual suspects" for more of its programming. There are a multitude of great resources and ideas to tap into from outside our industry and, as evidenced by Richard Laermer's session, among others, there are excellent ready-to-use marketing concepts out there we can all employ instead of the "trade show version" of how we traditionally handle our business.
If there was one company getting buzz, it was BDMetrics. They were mentioned in a couple of sessions and in many of my hallway and taxi conversations. I expect to be calling on them shortly for some more insight on what they've been doing vis a vis matchmaking and their "You-Based portals". Vinnie Polito of Reed had very positive experiences to relate and the company appears to be signing up some big shows for 2006.
One company that laid an egg in the opinion of many I spoke with was ExpoExchange. The opinions shared with me by numerous attendees and exhibitors was that they were doing next to nothing with the RFID cards in everyone's badgeholder. Many of us continue to hope that IAEM will become a laboratory for new technologies, but it just never seems to happen. With RFID the hot topic of the moment, this would have been a wonderful opportunity to showcase all that was possible. Guess we'll have to wait for a case study from some pioneering event down the road.
I'll add as an aside, there were a surprising number of attendees I spoke with who removed the RFID card from their badges. I'd get into my thoughts on how to incentivize attendees to embrance RFID (think "Minority Report") but that'll be another post for the future.
This is my last show as a member of the education committee. Part of me wanted to continue, but in looking at my schedule, I couldn't afford to give that job the attention it needs, considering much of the work (and travel) happens right before Coverings. I'd like to think my two years on the committee had an impact and hopefully it did. I'd recommend service to any and all of you who think that IAEM's events could offer more. It's more fun - and more fulfilling - to be in the game than sitting on the sidelines.