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Changing Times: IMEX America ‘full steam ahead’

We caught up with Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group, as part of our Changing Times series of industry views on the unfolding coronavirus outbreak.

“We don’t know how long it will go on for, but at some point it will be over. Whether that’s in two months’ time or whenever, I believe people are going to be desperate to meet each other, for that facial interaction. I think it will reiterate how valuable face to face is, how much more productive and effective and how much more you can do.

“We’re all working from home. It’s a bit of a different world for us, learning to collaborate when people are remote. There’s no choice. We were slightly ahead of the curve, we had already moved people more vulnerable out of the office.

“In less than two weeks it’s absolutely extraordinary. Everybody’s reacting in the industry, at first it was about travel and events and now it’s everybody. That piece has changed enormously. I’ve told my children they’re living through extraordinary times, they’ll tell their kids about this! It’s unprecedented.

“One thing that has been amazing is the camaraderie in the industry between lots of groups, competitors sharing information, people just want to help each other and share whatever they can. It shows what the industry’s about.

“Over the next however long, people will be doing much more online. Our industry is super creative and will learn how to move events online – that is knowledge that will not be lost. I’m hoping it will be a positive impact, more hybrid events. Maybe some will be replaced, but I don’t think that will be the biggest impact.

“Whenever we come out of this, for a period, health and safety will be right at the top of the agenda. You can’t go through something like this and not be affected. My nephew is a germophobe and I’ve always made fun of him, but maybe he was right all along! In terms of events, we’re going to have to think about health and safety, I don’t know if it will be short or long term, but it is something you’ll have to be aware of as organisers. It’s in your consciousness now.

“It’s devastating to think about freelancers and contractors. From what I’ve seen people are being extremely collaborative. Most venues are not going down to the letter of the contract, they’re working out something that will work for both parties. That gives all of us the best chance of staying in business and keeping their jobs. It’s a mixture of businesses working together and that government support to help people. Some businesses will need direct support to pay salaries – the self-employed will need more than that.

“At this point, our hope is that this will stall and by the fall this situation will be over. We’re still working hard towards IMEX America, we still have people contracting. We’re very hopeful that it will be the first big event of the year. We’re full steam ahead for it, it’s our 10th anniversary – we have plans for that.

“People are looking forward to IMEX America, they want to be there, they’re going to want to see people and get together and relaunch. People will have been hurting a lot but I think people will be really grateful to be together – and we’ll be delighted to see people.”

Read more of our Changing Times series of interviews:

Changing Times: Optimism the keyword for TEN6 Creative

Changing Times: ‘When this blows over we’ll have one hell of a party!’