In Conversation With Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX


ES. Please tell us about your professional journey and major milestones achieved over these glorious years.

Carina. My father Ray Bloom has enjoyed a long career in the business events industry and so I was able to discover the sector from a young age. I began my career in the meetings industry formally in 2002 as marketing and operations director for IMEX in Frankfurt as part of the original launch team for the exhibition. Following the expansion of the IMEX brand into America in 2009, I was appointed CEO of the IMEX Group. The launch of IMEX America was a major milestone – in fact we’re approaching another milestone as we celebrate the show’s 10th edition this November! Another recent milestone for me has been seeing how well our team has responded to the challenges of the pandemic – they were highly creative and collaborative, designing a brand new virtual experience in just a few weeks following the cancellation of IMEX in Frankfurt last spring.

ES. Sitting at the helm, overall responsibility for creating, planning, implementing, and integrating the strategic direction of the organization lies on your shoulder. How do you ensure that the organization’s workforce maintains a constant awareness and motivation?

Carina. Our team are firmly embedded in the business events community – we regularly (when restrictions allow!) attend industry events and meet with our industry colleagues and partners. This means we’re heavily involved in conversations about the business events sector and at the forefront of developments – allowing us to keep up to date with our learning, contacts and sector knowledge. From an internal perspective, we’ve developed an employee engagement and motivation programme which covers training, health and wellbeing. This ranges from a programme of external speakers, employee recognition awards and surprise treats for staff.

ES. The IMEX Group organises two global trade shows, how does both trade shows create unprecedented business opportunities for the stakeholders and makes the show a perfect platform to achieve a year’s worth of business in just three days?

Carina. Put simply – by facilitating face to face connections. Ray Bloom, Chairman of IMEX, pioneered the hosted buyer programme in the 1980s and it’s a winning formula we use to this day. We know that buyers are after personalised, curated experiences and our hosted buyer programme delivers just that – the opportunity to meet in person with suppliers that fit their business needs as well as share a live show experience with their peers. Likewise, our hosted buyer programme also gives our exhibitors the confidence that they are meeting with qualified buyers who are in a position to place business with them.

The programme has been refined over the years and remains at the very core of our live shows. At the most recent IMEX America (2019), there were 76,000 appointments – that’s one-on-one, group appointments and booth presentations – across the three days of the show.

ES. Dealing with exhibitors can be one of the biggest challenges when it comes to organising a conference or trade show. How do you ensure that their needs are correctly identified and issues they faced are well understood?

Carina. We’re in regular contact with our exhibitors throughout the year – not just in the run up to the live show. This means we can evolve our offering to fit their needs. For example, at the most recent IMEX in Frankfurt in 2019, we located our onsite education as close as possible to the show floor in response to requests from exhibitors who wanted to be able to participate in the learning during their time at the show.

ES. You need to attract the right people to your event which should be highly relevant to your exhibitors. How do you get key people in the industry to attend the event?

Carina. We work with our industry partners and exhibitors who invite their key clients to come to our live shows at hosted buyers. Buyers – that’s corporate buyers, agency buyers and association buyers – can also apply directly. Our qualifying process then determines that they regularly plan or commission large scale events around the world and have business to place at the show. This is underpinned by our year-round marketing and PR programme reaching global media and industry groups within the business events sector.

ES. Please tell us about ‘On the road to purposeful recovery’, a Q&A session being hosted by IMEX on 21st April?

Carina. Nicola Kastner, VP, Global Head of Event Marketing Strategy for SAP will share her insights and learnings on how to adapt and thrive in the months ahead as our industry begins its recovery. I’ll interview Nicola about her role in designing SAP’s event strategies and explore three big questions: the importance of data-gathering and audience insights; how brand trust has been impacted by the move to digital; and how to build back better examining SAP’s future strategy and event design plans including environmental and CSR activities.

ES. Your major events got cancelled post pandemic Covid-19, how planet IMEX is instrumental in engaging its clients. Can you talk about how pleased you were with the platform and the future of Planet IMEX?

Carina. We have a history at IMEX of creating content for the benefit of the entire industry, free of charge. We didn’t want to move away from those values just because we were in an online world, plus we wanted our virtual experience to be a gift to the industry. We’re delighted with the result. PlanetIMEX, which took place in May and October last year, attracted industry colleagues from around the world who collaborated with us to put it together; as well as those who came together on the day to take part in the different activities. We’re launching a virtual experience this year which will look different to PlanetIMEX – a fresh look to reflect the current climate. The IMEXBuzzHub launches on 12 May and runs until September, paving the way for the return of our live event IMEX America.

Ray Bloom, Chairman, IMEX Group

Ray Bloom is the chairman and founder of the IMEX Group, which organises worldwide exhibitions for the incentive travel, meetings and events industry in Europe and the USA. IMEX in Frankfurt takes place at Messe Frankfurt, Germany, every spring; while IMEX America takes place at the Las Vegas Sands Expo each autumn. Ray Bloom has been a successful entrepreneur for many years. He started his career in the motor industry where his family’s Volkswagen Audi dealership won the Diamond Pin Award (the highest Volkswagen Award given to dealerships worldwide).

He subsequently entered the hotel industry and then the exhibition industry where he built up EIBTM (European and Incentive, Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition), which was sold to Reed Exhibitions in 1997. In addition, Bloom built up the leading sales and promotion exhibition, Incentive World (London), which was also sold to Reed Exhibitions in 2000.

Whilst founding and developing what have become the leading trade shows in the global meetings and incentive travel sector, Bloom also became heavily involved in numerous industry associations and has been recognised in a variety of ways. His recognitions include being inducted into the EIC (Events Industry Council) Hall of Leaders (1991); being awarded UK Personality of the Year by Meetings & Incentive Travel Magazine (1993); recipient of the ICCA  (International Congress and Conventions Association) Presidents Award (1997) and being inducted into the WATA (World Association of Travel Agencies) Hall of Fame in 2000, and the Destinations International Hall of Fame (2016). In addition in 2017 alone, he received the JMIC (Joint Meetings Industry Council) Unity Award, the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) Industry Leader Award and the ICCA Moises Shuster Award. His most recent honours include MPI Industry Champion (2020), the EN Pioneer Award (2019) and being inducted into the ICJ Hall of Fame (2019).

Bloom served on the Board of Trustees for the MPI (Meeting Professionals International) Foundation from 1996 – 2002 and MPI’s Global Strategy Taskforce Committee from 2006 – 2008. He also served on the Board of Trustees for the SITE (Society for Incentive Travel Excellence) Foundation 1993 – 1999 and, until recently, was Treasurer for the SITE Foundation. He currently serves on the MPI European Council. Ray Bloom’s views and opinions on the meetings and incentive travel industry are widely sought after and he is a regular speaker at industry events around the world. The IMEX Group’s offices are in Brighton, East Sussex, UK. Located on the south coast of the UK, Brighton is called ‘London by the Sea’ for its cosmopolitan nature and youth culture. Bloom was born and bred in Brighton and is enormously proud of his and his family’s links to the city.

Carina Bauer, CEO, IMEX Group

A passionate and dedicated leader, Carina Bauer is the CEO of the IMEX Group – an organisation responsible for organising the leading global trade shows for the international business events industry. Carina is passionate about the business events sector and its impact on the world, taking a particular interest in issues around sustainability, diversity and inclusion and mentoring the leaders of tomorrow. Carina also takes a keen interest in leadership development and organisational best practice. Throughout her career, Carina has been an active member of the meetings industry. She is currently President Elect for the AEO Council, Immediate Past President of the SITE Foundation and serves as an UFI Board member. She has previously served on the Board of the MPIUK Chapter and on global committees for MPI and PCMA.

Having graduated from Oxford University, UK, with a degree in politics, philosophy and economics, and following a short stint in retail and catering, she joined the business events industry in 2002 as the Marketing and Operations Director for IMEX in Frankfurt as part of the original launch team for the exhibition. Following the expansion of the IMEX brand into America in 2009, Carina was appointed CEO of the IMEX Group. Carina lives in the south east of the UK, near to the IMEX Group office in Brighton – a coastal town called “London-by-the-Sea” due to its cosmopolitan nature and youth culture.

She enjoys spending time with her family (she’s a mother to two boys) and travelling for work and pleasure. She is an adventure sports enthusiast with a particular love for skiing, hitting the slopes with friends and family when she can.

Industry/Media Highlights

  • Board Member UFI
  • Vice Chair AEO Council 2020/2021
  • President SITE Foundation 2020
  • MPI Industry Champion 2020
  • Mentor 2019 and 2020 for Fast Forward 15, the mentoring scheme for women in hospitality and events
  • Winner of the Smart Women in Meetings Award 2018 and 2019
    One of the 25 Most Influential People in the Meetings Industry – Successful Meetings Magazine, 2015-2017
  • One of the Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry – M&C Magazine, 2015-2016
  • Supplier of the Year: Industry Leader – Smart Meetings Magazine, 2017
  • One of the 25 Most Influential People in the Incentive Industry – Northstar Meetings Group, 2018
  • Winner of the Spirit of Collaboration Award, Timothy S Y Lam, Spirit of Hospitality Awards, 2018
  • Winner, Inspirational Women Awards, ICCA 2018

ES. As one of our industry’s leaders, what in your experience has helped prepare you to manage through this very difficult time? What would be the key learnings from this pandemic?

Carina. There are two learnings I can share from the cancellation of our live shows. First, transparent and honest communication is essential in a crisis. Second, you need to be very agile in a fast-moving situation and change your response quickly based on new information. That speed requires total focus and a great team to whom you can delegate different elements of the crisis management process. I’m very proud of my team who have responded to a challenging year with creativity, positivity and honesty. It is not in the DNA of any tradeshow or event organiser to cancel their show – particularly when the entire team and industry are so invested in the success of the event. Our team has responded by creating some amazing virtual experiences to bring our community together until we can meet again at a live show.

ES. When the whole world is shedding off their loads by making job cuts in their organisation, IMEX Group steps forward in creating several new roles and by making a significant investment in systems, marketing and design. What makes your organisation more optimistic and confident than others?

Carina. We believe it’s important to maintain business investment even during a challenging climate. By continuing to invest in our talent, our culture and we’re creating new opportunities for our team and building up our business resilience so we remain agile, creative and responsive to the shifts in the world.

ES. What is your forecast in terms of innovation that might change the working pattern in 2021? What is your take on virtual events and the role of technology going forward?

Carina. We’ll see the rise of hybrid as an enabler to expanding the reach of events. Hybrid events can bring a wider audience to an event, allowing those to experience some of the content even though they might not be able to participate in person. The digital elements of hybrid events, when done well, can communicate some of the feel of the show, creating a sense of FOMO and a desire to experience the live element in person.

ES. How will IMEX be a leader in helping the industry recovery?

Carina. Throughout the past year, we’ve continued to champion and invest in our industry, providing grants to our industry partners – including MPI and SITE, as well as investing in our own team. Live events remain at the core of what we do and we’ll continue to champion the business events industry through our work with our industry partners, research and participation at industry events.

ES. What are your plans for IMEX and its evolution going forward? What are your upcoming plans in context to launch of more shows in other parts of the World?

Carina. We’re currently planning confidently for a strong IMEX America and are exploring what hybrid elements could run alongside the live show.
We have no immediate plans to launch a new show alongside our existing presence in Europe and North America.

ES. What is your message to the industry?

Carina. The business events industry is certainly resilient and has weathered many storms and crises over the years. Whilst they may not have been as great as the pandemic, we have all learnt from past events and this is certainly helpful today.
We very much believe that business events will make a strong comeback once the health and safety situation is improved, because business events are a critical business accelerator and that has not changed.