Ray Bloom, chairman and founder of IMEX Group, exemplifies the essence of MPI’s Meeting Industry Leadership RISE (Recognizing Industry Success and Excellence) Award. The award honors those rare individuals who, by visionary hard work and creative insight, have positively changed the global meeting and event industry.
It also recognizes sustained commitment and contributions to the industry. Bloom has done just that, introducing countless impactful programs and ideas that should inspire others to learn from his example.
Bloom took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with One+ about receiving the 2012 RISE Award.
Acknowledged as an industry game-changer, Bloom launched and developed EIBTM, which he eventually sold to Reed Exhibitions, and then subsequently went on to launch IMEX in Frankfurt.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg for Bloom, who pioneered the concept of the hosted buyer program in 1988, starting in Geneva, Switzerland.
One issue that Bloom is especially passionate about is the need for politicians, at all levels of power and seniority, to understand the true economic value of this largely hidden industry. Therefore, he launched the Politicians Forum in 2003 as a key part of IMEX in Frankfurt.
Other industry staples in which Bloom has had a hand: introducing the industry’s first-ever green awards, designed to recognize and reward the efforts of those suppliers who are doing their utmost to work and deliver in a more sustainable way, and debuting the IMEX Challenge, a biennial CSR initiative designed to bring people in the industry together to create a lasting legacy for local community in need of help. Importantly, working with MPI, Bloom also pioneered the Future Leaders Forums, which have become one of the leading programs to inspire talented young people to enter the meeting industry (MCI is also now a key partner). One+: Talk a bit about pioneering the hosted buyer program.
Bloom: We went to virtually all the trade media in our industry, particularly in Europe, and we said, “We would like you to bring your top buyers to our show—and we will cover the costs.” As far as I recall, they all said yes. And why wouldn’t they? It was a win-win. As a result of that, other elements fell into place. Exhibitors wanted to meet the best buyers. Partners and associations wanted to be involved in a strong show. In that year we also worked with just one hotel group, Sheraton, and that was how it all started. Was there a time when you thought the program wouldn’t work?
Well it certainly felt high risk at the time. The concept was unknown, it was labor-intensive and, of course, financially we’d made a huge investment. However, I had a strong hunch that the market desperately needed a fresh approach so I had to stick to my instincts. I felt it would work, eventually, but I wanted it to work from year one. Fortunately buyers and partners did respond and, as a result, the hosted buyer program soon went from idea to reality. You’re passionate about the Politicians Forum. How did that come about?
It is very important for our industry to convey the value of meetings—I’m talking about meetings, incentive travel and events here, the whole of our sector—to political representatives at all levels and worldwide. Our industry has never received the recognition that it deserves and certainly the recognition it requires for future growth. The value of what we deliver—aspects such as the knowledge economy—have rarely been properly understood. So, under the auspices of the Joint Meetings Industry Council, we devised the Politicians Forum that now runs annually in Frankfurt. Here politicians and the industry can meet privately to discuss and, often hotly debate, key issues. The U.S. side of the industry also understands the value of proper representation to government, so we’re working with the USTA at IMEX America to achieve a similar end, albeit on a much smaller scale initially. How does one come up with such impactful and innovative programs?
We’re very close to the industry and we’re very passionate about it. Our fresh thinking comes from the heart. The staff comes up with ideas and we’re also approached by others who sometimes have the idea and the drive but not necessarily the scale, the clout or the contacts to pull them off. Other than that, coffee time can be very inspiring, especially if the coffee is good! What program are you most proud of?
I think it’s generally recognized that we pioneered the hosted buyer program and I’m very proud of that. And of course, it is—and has been—the foundation of everything we do. You’ve received a number of industry awards and accolades. How does receiving this RISE Award stack up against the others?
Absolutely right at the top alongside some others I’ve been delighted to receive. This is the recognition of my peers in what is the largest trade association worldwide in our industry, which I’ve been part of for so many years. When you first learned that you had been nominated and subsequently won the RISE Award, what was your reaction?
It was one of great appreciation. Just absolute appreciation.