AIME 2019 The Highlights - How did the new crew fare?

There was a lot of talk and speculation in the lead up to AIME 2019 due to the new organisers, Talk2 Media & Events taking the reins. It’s been almost 20 years since management changed hands and while most agreed the premier event was due for a shake up, the industry has been watching closely to see if the new team would deliver.
There were a few key promises made for AIME 2019 including: 
1. Create a fresh new look and feel for the event
2. Increase networking opportunities
3. Provide education to industry professionals
4. Facilitate better business meetings between exhibitors and buyers
So, after three jam-packed days in Melbourne, we’re here to tell you what we thought the highlights of AIME 2019 were, and whether the new kids on the block delivered on their promises…. 

1. A Fresh New Look for AIME 2019

We thought that the show floor looked schmick. Professional, bright, welcoming and attractive. 

The New Stand Designs | Embassy Suites
The new Embassy Suite stands designed by Decorative Events and Exhibitions looked fabulous. They allowed for a more compact layout and good sight-lines from the top of aisles. They also allowed exhibitors to create comfortable seating areas to meet with buyers. 
The suites were easy to brand – DE&E printed high-quality vinyl decals which were simply stuck onto the walls. This made for a really colourful and vibrant show floor. There were 2-3 exhibitors who chose to keep their stands plain, and to be honest they still looked good – especially when you compare what a plain 3mx3m traditional shell scheme stand can look like (eek). 
What’s more, this design ticks the sustainability box - the stands are reusable and will be stored for use next year.
Matt Pearce, CEO of Talk2 Media & Events stated that if an exhibitor chose an Embassy Suite package it was in fact cheaper than a traditional shell scheme option from the past. We don’t know the exact costs to compare ourselves… so we’ll have to trust him on that.

AIME 2019 | Embassy Suites

The Central Networking Area | The Atrium
The centrepiece of the floor plan was Harry The Hirers’ beautiful Atrium marquee. Flanked by two large open areas on either side, this space was used for the networking breaks as well as private hosted functions throughout the event program. 
The 15m structure was essentially a venue within a venue, and became not only a very useful space for exhibitors to entertain and network, but also an attractive centrepiece of the event. 
AIME 2019 | Atrium
What we loved most about the fresh new look and feel was that it felt very cohesive. There were still a few of the big custom stands, but no longer did those with a “standard booth” look like the poorer cousins to their bigger neighbours. The layout and look came together and made the entire event look fantastic. 

2. Increased Networking Opportunities…

We were promised more and better networking opportunities than in the past and boy did the organisers deliver! 
They added an event to the program on the Tuesday night and they facilitated more networking opportunities on the exhibition floor by adding dedicated breaks in the schedule for hosted morning and afternoon tea breaks. 
The Welcome Evening (Monday night) and the Networking Evening (Tuesday night) were both great events – check out our dedicated blog with all the details and images here: Networking Events at AIME 2019 – Double the Action!
However, unlike previous years, you were only able to get access to these key networking events if you were an exhibitor, buyer or like us, media. If you weren’t registered as one of the pre-mentioned attendee-types, you were able to purchase “networking” packages varying in cost – but only if you were deemed a “buyer”. This excluded suppliers, and many were not happy. 
Now we appreciate the reason for excluding suppliers who were not exhibitors – Talk2 Media & Events were keen to ensure their exhibitors got the most value out of their investment in the show, and an obvious way to do this is to restrict additional suppliers from getting access to the buyers. 

On the flip side though, AIME is considered the premier industry event and we feel that perhaps it could be more welcoming to all of the industry (including those that may not be able to afford to exhibit at AIME). For Melbournians in particular, they see the AIME Welcome Evening as the one must-attend industry networking event on the calendar each year, and to not be allowed to attend didn’t sit well. 
Our recommendation would be to allow anyone to purchase tickets to the networking events and create a true industry event that welcomed everyone. The revenue from the tickets would surely be a welcomed contribution towards the cost of these “hosted” events. And, to be honest, most people at these events are catching up with peers and not racing around “selling” to every buyer they come into contact with.

3. Educating the Industry | The Knowledge Program

AIME 2019 kicked off with the Knowledge Exchange hosted on the Monday. It was clear a lot of thought had gone into the program, with a range of speakers and topics scheduled throughout the day. 
With a few breakout sessions to choose from, Fiona and I split up to learn as much as possible. 
AIME 2019 | Dialogue in the DarkMy personal favourite was the Dialogue in the Dark Pop Up Workshop. Held in conjunction with Guide Dogs Victoria, this was an exceptional experience and we’d recommend that everyone take the opportunity to experience it for themselves. Essentially the participants were led into a pitch-dark room and asked to sit at a table with 7 strangers. With no ability to see, the groups needed to complete a series of challenges together. It was problem-solving, team building and personal development at its finest. It was hard and rewarding – we both succeeded and failed. 
Dialogue in the Dark Melbourne is the first of its kind in Australia and they currently run workshops at their dedicated facility in the Docklands. However, what this pop-up experience showed is that their team can facilitate this workshop in other locations. Offering it Australia-wide is a goal we hope they can achieve.
Fiona really enjoyed the session on Challenging the Meeting Norms – Rethinking the status quo. With speakers from IBM and George P Johnson, they used Think 2018 as an example of how to create human-centred (aka delegate-centred) experiences using technology and re-think the how and why of meetings and events. 
So inspired by the content in this session, Fiona immediately messaged me following the presentation to say she had at least 10 blog ideas for us to work on (keep an eye out for those in the coming months).
Overall the sessions we attended were insightful and interesting. There were clear themes of inclusiveness and diversity running throughout the Knowledge Program as well as a focus on the community that can be created from events. Human interaction (meetings) are the foundation of a community, and while technology infiltrates our lives, it is at its essence, a tool we can use to create better communities and personal experiences. These communities are a powerful force in which we foster and grow ideas and solutions. 


AIME Knowledge Exchange Video 30s from AIME on Vimeo.


4. Facilitating Better Business | Exhibitor and Buyer Meetings

We asked a LOT of people (both exhibitors and buyers) during the event how they felt about their appointments during AIME 2019, and we’re delighted to say that the overall vibe was a big thumbs up!
Feedback was that the pre-event matching technology was easy to use and that exhibitors and buyers were matched with the majority (if not all) of their preferred appointments. 
The majority of buyers were turning up with minimal no-shows recorded and the quality of appointments being held were worthwhile. 

5. The Venue | MCEC

It would be remiss of us not to mention MCEC in this AIME 2019 Highlights piece. The venue after all, is one of Australia’s leading business events centre. After spending three days within its walls it’s easy to see why. 
The new Convention Centre (opened mid-2018), is an excellent facility. It’s bright, fresh and modern. The spaces are huge, and so too are the opportunities to create a variety of exciting events within in it’s walls. 
Catering-wise their team did a great job – challenging the norms and providing first class food and beverage throughout the event. Although we must admit the salty, savoury doughnut balls would have been better sweet… just saying. 

6. One Last Key Highlight… | The Event App

In addition to the above, it’s worth giving a bit of praise to the Event App. It was easy-to-use and included all of the relevant information like the Event Programs, Exhibitor, Buyer and Media lists, floor plan, and the like. In addition, both exhibitors and attendees could use the event app to scan badges and write notes about their appointments or new contacts. 

Final note…

For first timers, Talk2 Media and Events produced a great show. There were a few little hiccups along the way, but none were major downfalls and we’re positive next year is going to be even better. 
Overall, we had a great time and felt that the vibe from everyone else was the same. It was productive, fun and absolutely worthwhile attending. 
It was also exhausting, so excuse me while I go and have a rest. 
See you at AIME 2020!