12 Trends Seen and Heard at IMEX America 2023

November 3, 2023

Held Oct. 17-19 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, the 12th edition of IMEX America was the largest ever in terms of attendance and number of booths. The event featured 360 booths and nearly 15,000 confirmed participants, of which more than 5,000 were buyers.

Those buyers, of which one-fifth represented the corporate sector, took part in more than 80,000 pre-scheduled meetings in three days, of which 73,000 were one-to-ones with exhibitors.  

The show boasted a 20% increase in space taken by exhibitors and a 9% increase in the number of booths, according to an IMEX press release


Here are 12 trends we saw and heard at the event.

The Encore booth featured a hologram experience

1. The latest tech innovations for events. The Encore booth featured a hologram experience for attendees to try (see a video here). Outside the show entrance, a hologram of IMEX Group President Carina Bauer welcomed attendees (see a video here). 

2. Events are prioritizing wellness and mental health. IMEX offered a wellness experience, where attendees could join a visualization session. The goal: Create a moment of mental wellbeing, choose an intention for navigating workplace stress in a more positive way or sketch out a vision for personal success during the event. Suppliers are responding to this trend by rolling out new products and services. For example, Caesars Entertainment introduced a wellness menu for meetings that the company launched at IMEX.

3. Event budgets are going up but not enough to cover cost increases. “Everyone is feeling the price pressure, and we are seeing that in our research, as well,” said Tara Higgins, senior vice president, commercial for Encore, and president of Hargrove, a division of Encore. “Event organizers have to be more mindful of how they spend their budgets and design for impact.” In fact, 67% of event professionals report increasing budgets for corporate meetings and events, according to the 13th Annual Global Meetings and Events Forecast, produced by American Express GBT Meetings & Events. “Budgets are higher but not at pace with inflation,” said Linda McNairy, global vice president, strategic meetings at American Express Meetings & Events. 

4. Instagram-worthy backdrops. One cool activation was located in the lobby: A black video box (see a video here). Attendees could immerse themselves in a box to take videos or photos to post on social media. IMEX-branded step-and-repeats and 3D logo signage were also scattered throughout the show floor.

5. AI is everywhere. In 2023, the hottest conference topic — no matter the industry — is AI. During one session we attended, event professionals talked about AI tools they are using to repurpose content. These include: GlossAi, Opus, Claap, MilkVideo, Canva, Hoppy Copy and Spark, an AI tool for event professionals created by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). During a press conference at IMEX, PCMA CEO and President Sherrif Karamat revealed that more than 3,500 event professionals from more than 40 countries have signed up to use Spark. According to a survey by Convene in September, “64% of event professionals are using AI, and 59% are looking for AI upskilling,” he said.

EIC Global Awards Celebration at the Bellagio

6. Celebrating industry leaders. The Events Industry Council recognized the industry’s best and brightest with a global awards celebration at the Bellagio Resort and Casino (see a video here). The 2023 Hall of Leaders inductees include: Carina Bauer, Barbara Connell, Wanda Johnson, Steve O’Malley, Amelia binti Roziman, Christine “Shimo” Shimasaki and Dr. Deborah Breiter-Terry. Other award winners include: Dale Hudson as Pacesetter Award winner; Geneviève Leclerc and Zoe Moore as Social Impact Award winners; and Megan Henshall as Adaptation and Innovation Award winner.

7. International visitors are back but not to pre-pandemic levels. While the number of international visitors is up significantly in 2023 compared with 2022, the overall recovery of overseas travel is still lacking, with only a 78% rebound compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to latest data by the U.S. Travel Association. This year, long visa wait times in China, India, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and other top markets will cost the U.S. $12 billion in traveler spending, said U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Geoff Freeman. Visa wait times for the U.S.’s top inbound markets are more than 400 days on average.

ELX hosted a dinner in the Raiders locker room

8. Go big or go home. Event Leaders Exchange (ELX) hosted a tour and reception at Allegiant Stadium. Attendees enjoyed a five-course meal in the Las Vegas Raiders locker room, followed by dessert and a violin performance by Mari Lee, CEO and Artistic Director, Salon Séance (see a video here). 

9. Costs are up significantly. No surprise: Inflation is driving up costs. Labor costs are up 20% from 2020, and raw materials, petroleum, plastics and diesel fuel are up 30%, said Jeff Quade, executive vice president, exhibitions for GES. “We are focused on lean efficiency methods and consolidated purchasing when possible to get better pricing,” he said. “It’s a friction point.”

Louisville Tourism hosted an event at the Sphere

10. Love makes the world go round. Opened on Sept. 29 with a concert by U2, the Sphere is the hottest new entertainment venue in Las Vegas. Louisville Tourism hosted a reception and dinner at the venue, which seats more than 17,000 (see a video of the private event space in Theory Lounge at the Sphere here). After dinner, attendees watched Postcard From Earth on the screen. Read more about the venue specs and opening in our story here.

11. Sustainability is top-of-mind for corporations. “We have committed to reducing our emissions by 50% by 2030 and net zero by 2050,” said Freeman Vice President Sustainability Elizabeth Fretheim during a press conference about Net Zero Carbon Events. “Even since January, our conversations with customers have changed. Sustainability used to just be a check box. Now it’s part of the decision-making process of who they are looking to work with.” In fact, almost 80% of S&P 500 companies disclosed that all of their ESG goals were on-track, according to a Harvard analysis of 250 sustainability reports by these companies published in 2023. “By any metric that we tracked, companies remained resolute on their ESG priorities despite the political rhetoric,” according to the Harvard analysis. “Sustainability is a topic that will accelerate for everybody,” said Martiz Chief Global Strategy Officer Ben Goedegebuure. “We are starting to have conversations around carbon budgets. We have seen two instances with corporations that have limited the number of events they are organizing because their carbon budgets have been reached.”

Google Xi Co-Laboratory at IMEX America

12. Inclusivity is top-of-mind. New in 2023 on the show floor, the Google Xi Co-Laboratory offered a program of sessions and spaces focused on experience design and the principles of belonging, with a focus on collaborative exploration, learning and growth (see a video here).


Add new comment

Partner Voices
Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact