Creating a virtual world

The pandemic has led IMEX Group to spin off a new online platform, PlanetIMEX, which aims to keep the business events industry connected.

PlanetIMEX's Education Island

Hot Idea
Take a user-experience approach when designing virtual events, especially if you’re working with multiple tech providers. A central hub will help attendees navigate the different platforms and learning opportunities on offer.

When this year’s IMEX Frankfurt was cancelled in March due to the coronavirus outbreak, show organisers IMEX Group received an outpouring of support from the international business events industry.

Shortly after the cancellation, IMEX announced it would launch PlanetIMEX, a new virtual hub for education and business, as a ‘gift’ to meeting, incentive and event professionals.

“Rather than switch to a one-off online event, we opted for innovation through transformation,” said IMEX CEO, Carina Bauer.

Together with local tech company, The Platform Group, IMEX created a 3D world with three distinct islands: A beach-themed Community Island; A forest-inspired Education Island, and a Networking Island featuring canyons, teepees and fireside chats.

Reflecting the original dates of the tradeshow, PlanetIMEX kicked off with EduMonday (May 11) on the Education Island – a day of virtual learning with more than 40 speakers, four concurrent tracks and 32 live sessions.

Partnerships proved critical to the success of the event. Cvent provided the registration system; while a CrowdCompass mobile app provided interactive elements like Q&A; and Streamlined Communications supported speaker management.

The virtual education environment was delivered via 6Connex and designed to reflect the familiar setting of a convention centre, with a central lobby that featured a help desk, links to various meeting rooms, and a comprehensive agenda that was updated live.

Each session had a dedicated moderator and countdown clock with adjustable time zones, making scheduling easy for attendees globally.

EduMonday was swiftly followed by Community Day (May 12), where 19 association partners delivered a mixture of live and pre-recorded sessions; and virtual networking at the SITE’s Got Talent event (May 14), which helped raise funds for the SITE Foundation.

“The reaction online, during and after these live events, on social media has been extraordinary,” Bauer said. “In some ways, we felt that we’ve managed to capture some of the magic and excitement of people all around the world coming together.”

As PlanetIMEX continues, focus will be centred around the Networking Island. Free business matchmaking and peer-to-peer learning opportunities were introduced last week (May 28) via yet another tech partner, Conversations with Brella.

In order to deliver the multiple different elements of PlanetIMEX at speed, Bauer said the team had to use different technology platforms for different elements of the programme.

“The island concept sought to bring these into one central location and drive people to the different platforms depending on their interest. I would say that this was successful in its first iteration, but we will be seeking to simplify the user journey over time,” she said.

Managing a live broadcast with speakers in remote locations also proved challenging, but an all-hands-on-deck approach allowed the team to come together. This involved reimagining existing structures and procedures used to deliver the live event in Frankfurt and encouraging the team to embrace a digital mindset.

“We’ve had to learn to work in a new way as we adopted an agile project management approach – an approach that’s new to the team, but worked well,” Bauer said.

“We’ve learnt a huge amount about what we should and should not do in terms of the management and delivery of online events, and will improve on this as PlanetIMEX evolves.”

Event PlanetIMEX
Organisers IMEX Group
Dates May 11-14, 2020
Attendance 5,000 delegates across Europe, US and Asia

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