Blog > Trends

IMEX America: Connecting the dots and bringing your whole self

By Blair Potter | Sep 26, 2023

“We are in a time of belonging,” says Tahira Endean, head of programming for IMEX Group.

A focus on belonging is certainly not new to IMEX America educational programming, but it’s getting more attention than ever next month in Las Vegas (IMEX America starts on Oct. 17, immediately preceded by Smart Monday, powered by MPI on Oct. 16).

But understanding belonging and its societal importance is more than a job for Endean, who describes herself as obsessed with social physics and recently completed her Masters degree in creativity and change leadership from SUNY Buffalo State University—delving extensively into belonging research along the way.

“A decade ago, there were 20 or 30 scientific journals focused on wellness and well-being. Now there are about 10,000,” Endean says. “When planning our events, we must intentionally design for belonging.”

At IMEX America, that focus on belonging is evident in the Google Experience Institute (Xi) CoLaboratory.

“Interestingly, the Google Experience Institute has pretty much nothing to do with technology,” Endean says. “In fact, it’s the opposite of technology—it’s how we don’t use technology to connect people.”

Tuesday at 9:30am, Google Xi will begin with Reverend Maya Jaguar leading an opening ceremony ritual. Wednesday and Thursday, participants can expect opportunities for reflecting and also a connecting energizer with The Party Scientist (Jacques Martiquet).

“Then they’ll go into the different sessions—Xi talks that look at designing for healing, ritual design and dimensions of designing for humans,” Endean says. “How are we going to create connection, map and measure it and create belonging? This will be crowdsourced, so we’re not telling you how to do it, but talking about how we can do it together. And then we’ll have workshops on inclusion, emotional data and musicology.”

Redesigning the Inspiration Hub

The Inspiration Hub has a new look for 2023.

“It’s designed in a semi-circular fashion so that bigger theaters are across the back and our smaller theaters are across the front, with some seating areas and some nooks,” Endean says. “So it will be really easy to find what you’re looking for.”

The new design will also increase opportunities for collisions—in a good way.

“You aren’t going to feel connected to the show if you don’t feel connected to the people, and as humans, we come back for the people at any event.”

“It will be easier to run into people and continue conversations,” Endean says. “I always find when you’ve just seen something really great you  want to process it a bit, and for some that may include discussing it with other people. It will be nice to have a bit more of that synergy. 

Along with the new Inspiration Hub design, IMEX took the opportunity to bring educational partners closer together for a more cohesive learning experience.

“Last year, Encore was way far away from us on the other side, but this year, they’re right beside the Inspiration Hub with a shared fireside chat area that connects the two,” Endean says. “The MPI, ICCA and Maritz/DRPG booths are places where a lot of other education happens, and they’re all fairly close.”

Endean calls the learning area “the dots.” 

“If you’re looking down from a bird’s-eye view, it looks like a series of polka dots,” she says, noting that the new space design is intended to be in place for the next three years so that there’s a sustainable, consistent approach. “So for me, it’s like connecting the dots with education.”

If you haven’t attended an IMEX event in the past and this sounds at all overwhelming, fear not: A more robust first-timers program is planned for this year including a First-timers tour Tuesday morning.

“You aren’t going to feel connected to the show if you don’t feel connected to the people, and as humans, we come back for the people at any event,” Endean says.

Wellness on the wheel

IMEX has always been ahead of the curve with its focus on wellness, which means the team knew the bar was high when the decision was made to not bring back the Be Well Lounge.

“One of the things I always really liked was going to the Be Well Lounge for some quiet time—that was always really important to me,” Endean says. “When we looked at taking away the lounge, it felt like it was ripping off part of our body. What’s going to replace that?”

The answer would be multifaceted, including one significant addition: the Well-being Wheel. Part of the wheel experience is focused on dialogue-rich content.

“So there will be no audiovisual,” Endean says. “It’s Ayurvedic medicine, nutrition, sleep, emotional intelligence sessions, menopause—some of those other softer topics that you want to be a bit richer in dialogue will happen in those in those two spaces.”

Google Xi has partnered with Eventwell and Marriott to offer two spaces just outside the show floor. A liminal experience offers a “space between” where attendees can go to relax—a quiet/darker space for attendees to get away from the bustling activity of a live event.

“You could choose to sit there and do emails. It’s not a place for conversation. It’s not a place to make your phone calls from,” Endean says. “We’re also going to have a resilience room designed for the needs of the neurodivergent if you really need that escape space to just recharge.”

More areas for wellness include massages on the show floor and life and health coaching available on the Inspiration Hub,

Back to work better

Endean says it’s no secret that IMEX is a marathon, and attendees will be bringing their whole selves. 

“Whether you’re seeking education that’s a balance of personal and professional or whether you need some time away or some time to just sit and work, you’re bringing your whole self,” she says. “There’s a  focus on nutritional choices for food and beverage. Though we keep most sessions to 30 minutes, we’re adding a few longer super sessions because the content is so rich or the opportunity for dialogue is so important. We have a lot of sessions that are on emotional intelligence, on reconnecting to your whole self, taking care of yourself so you can take care of others—a lot of different sessions around leadership and why you need some of those soft skills for leadership.”

Endean cites a statistic: 10 minutes of face time is equivalent in productivity to 64 emails.

“The taking care of business part of it is so much more efficient face to face, but yet we have a lot of people who drop out at the last minute,” she says. “If you drop out because you have a family emergency or a client who demands a site visit, that’s understandable, but sometimes we drop out because we think, ‘Oh, I just have so much work to do, I can’t do this one more thing.’ But the reality—and I’ve experienced it as a buyer—is that if you go and you have those conversations and spend that time, eat well, pace yourself and take advantage of the quiet zones and work zones as needed, for example I would do wellness on the Wednesday afternoon (which was my recharging time), you can come out at the end feeling recharged and ready to go back and tackle more things. But you have to plan to do that.  I think that when we look at well-being, it’s such a holistic part of what we need to offer and take advantage of.”



blair potter new
Blair Potter

Blair Potter is director of media operations for MPI. He likes toys and collects cats (or is it the other way around?).