marked my first experience of attending an events industry 'mega event'. In my
previous years of working in meetings publications, I would 'watch'
events unfurl from afar, while more experienced
hands jetted off to Frankfurt, coming back with tales
of marathon conference-floor sessions.
It all sounded fraught, but nothing quite prepares you for the real thing.
My first sign that eight hours is not really that much time came within the
first hour of day one. Attend a press conference, jot down on a laptop some notes
and pithy statements, shape into a coherent story, attend a second press
conference, repeat – all fine, until I tried to find the
necessary punctuation marks on a German keyboard in the press office. Now, I know Germans do
punctuation, but I could not find out how. I quickly leant that the way to
go was to have Wikipedia’s entry on punctuation open to one side, so that I could
copy and paste the relevant marks into the document.
Even as we emerged exhausted, happy and relieved at the
end of day three, news came in that Buenos Aires had
been awarded the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) 2015 conference. As we moved quickly to retrieve our suitcases from the IMEX
cloakroom en route to the airport, I kept one eye glued on my
colleagues so as not to lose them and the other on my BlackBerry’s screen
while typing the news back to HQ – and I probably could have used another pair of eyes to help negotiate the escalators!
I write all of this knowing that the organised chaos
of my very own very, very small role in the entire IMEX conference was being
replicated a thousandfold everywhere else on the conference floor but done so
with the energy, desire and passion that drives our industry.
The stands did a fantastic job to calm busy nerves and spark flagging energy. Scotland dispensed drams of its finest export; England countered with a
welcoming tea bar with Jaffa cakes and brightly-designed tea pots; Argentina
was literally bouncing following news of its ICCA triumph; Oman, in my opinion, had the most impressive booth; Colombia had the
best coffee; Macao’s opera singers clashed with the clinking of neighbour
Singapore’s Tiger Beer bottles; Serbia had a distinct buzz as attendees crowded
around demonstrations of its two innovative, interactive meetings/events
Facebook games that go live next week; Thailand served out truly
delicious portions of lab moo. And on and on and on.
But the real buzz, no doubt, came from the business being done on the floor,
the industry’s future, and the relationships being re-forged, made and,
possibly, repaired. I, too, got to meet new friends – even some old ones – and
get to better know my magazine colleagues.
Sure it was tiring, but I emerged energised. Bring on the next mega event!