A busy trade show floor marked the first day of the new IMEX America show in Las Vegas October 11–13, with both attendees and exhibitors commenting about how good it was to once again see such robust activity at a meetings industry exhibition.

At the opening press conference, IMEX Group Chairman Ray Bloom reported that the show surpassed its original target of 1,500 hosted buyers, bringing 2,000 buyers to the Sands Expo this week, along with 1,867 exhibitors. Bloom estimated that there will be 30,000 appointments between buyers and suppliers (including group appointments) between now and the close of the show October 13.

Many visitors arrived early for “Smart Monday,” a day of education developed by Meeting Professionals International, and a sold-out Site Nite event Monday evening at the Encore Beach Club, which raised funds for the Site Foundation. In all, 14 meetings industry associations co-located their events with IMEX.

On the show floor, the Learning Curve Center had a jam-packed schedule of presentations, including new findings from the Convention 2020 project on innovative meeting design, while more informal “campfire” discussions included one with Shawna Suckow, founder of the Senior Planners Industry Network, sharing senior planners’ pet peeves.

A presentation by Roger Dow, president of U.S. Travel Association, about the Meetings Mean Business promotional campaign he spearheaded after the AIG uproar included a panel discussion in which Larry Luteran, senior vice president, group sales and industry relations from Hilton Worldwide, called for the industry to get back out in front of potential negative publicity. “Promotional activity about the value of meetings has dropped off, but we should be messaging now just like we did in 2008. We need to get out in front of things, be more proactive, not just reactive.”

U.S. Travel Executive Vice President Geoff Freeman spoke of initiatives his association is taking along these lines, including meetings with leaders from 12 universities to encourage them to spread the word about the economic impact of meetings and developing 40 “champions” in Congress from districts with strong business travel industry interests.