IF ONE THEME KEPT RUNNING through my mind at IMEX (The Worldwide Exhibition for Incentive Travel, Meetings and Events) in mid-May, it was change.

Start with the exhibition itself. The show sold out its space in the Messe Frankfurt facility, with 30 percent more countries exhibiting than last year (including all 10 new members of the European Union). Just think, this was a trade show that didn't exist two years ago.

I ran into an incentive planner friend in the aisles who commented on how few familiar faces he found at the show this year. That was my experience, too: Many supplier friends I have worked with over the years are leaving to start their own consulting companies, more than ever before.

At the show, Meeting Professionals International announced the findings of new research about women meeting planners in Europe, and the theme there, too, was change. The findings show that women who are working for top-down, inflexible companies are leaving in increasing numbers. “New companies are being formed which offer a preferred work environment for women who aspire to leadership in the meeting industry,” the study concluded. “These companies are often started by mature, experienced professional women who have chosen to create a work environment they could not find elsewhere.”

Europe itself was buzzing with change when I visited, only two weeks after 10 countries joined the EU. As these countries — Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic among them — slowly assimilate into this new economic power, expectations are that the meeting industry in Europe will boom with new activity.

Another hot topic at the show was procurement's involvement in meeting buying, a practice much further along in Europe than in the United States. Two years ago, it was a rare U.S. company that operated this way; not any more.

CMI will be here to help you navigate these and other changes affecting our industry. Look forward to more on the MPI survey and the new EU in our next issue, and our cover story on how procurement departments are establishing preferred supplier relationships with their meeting vendors.
Barbara Scofidio

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