Limitless possibilities, diversity, drama… and dogs drive Smart Monday

Limitations are a source of creativity’ – sound improbable? Not according to artist Phil Hansen, keynote at IMEX America which began today with Smart Monday, powered by MPI.

Hansen was forced to find creative ways to overcome a tremor in his drawing hand and in the process he learned how to ‘embrace the shake’ – creating art using other tools – shoes, coffee cups, matchsticks… even hamburgers! Through live examples of his disruptive artistic process – the audience ripped up one of his artworks and created one of their own – he shared his learnings in his keynote: Embrace the shake: transforming limitations into opportunities. “We’re taught that we need choice, but limitations can prompt fresh thinking – don’t seize the day… seize the limitation.”

The audience accepted the challenge – John Larson, from Marquis Exhibits, says: “What an inspiring guy – he’s shown me never to be afraid of the unexpected. A situation may seem like a failure, but it’s simply a different option.” Cathy Peterson from Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau adds: “A lesson learned is the importance of looking at things differently – reframing how we approach a project.”

Ask ‘What if…?’

Smart Monday, powered by MPI, is a dedicated day of education which sets the tone for an intense week of business, networking and skills development at IMEX America, September 10 – 12 in Las Vegas. Imagination was the driving force behind the day with a whole host of experiential activities designed to prompt attendees to ask ‘what if…?’.

What if I change my event and include different groups of people? This is one of the questions Julius Solaris from asked attendees to consider in his session Unleash your Event Imagination. As research partners on the IMEX Talking Point of ‘Imagination’ this year, launched their report, created in association with PSAV, containing best practice case studies of some of the most imaginative events across the industry.

A host of experiential activities from mindful sessions at the Be Well Lounge, digital portrait painting, a string art wall, to Paws for a Break (downtime with dogs!) gave attendees both relaxation and inspiration as PK Keiran from Butler Events explains: “Mindfulness is a real thing, something we all need to do and embrace. I dragged people over to experience the joy of it.”

Diversity and drama drive the education

“The future of finance is female – and we all need to take better control of our financial futures” – Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey from UBS Switzerland AG issued a rallying cry to women at She Means Business, a joint event by IMEX and tw magazine, supported by MPI. Mara, keynote at the new conference, showed some hard-hitting stats on the true impact of the gender pay gap over a lifetime and talked about the need to drive forward progress on workplace equality and to pass on the powerful message to the next generation. She encouraged her audience to understand the impact of all their decisions on women, not just at work but in every product and service they purchase. She urged event planners to transform the value chain and also the supply chain of their businesses. Ask yourselves “where are the women in everything we do? Make sure your RFPs ask where your suppliers stand on gender equality. You have the power. You need to use it,” she urged.

Attendees were put in the driver’s seat of a high-stakes challenge at InsideRisk’s session – What kind of leader are you under maximum pressure? Based on the true story of Swiss executive J.P. Mottu, who in 1988 found himself in charge of saving a young engineer kidnapped by Colombian rebels, the interactive session challenged attendees to consider what they would do if faced with these incredibly complex – and dramatic – decisions.

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Smart Monday also featured special events for specialist audiences, including an Association Leadership Forum, Executive Meeting Forum plus open-to-all education crafted and delivered by leading industry associations including EIC, ICCA, PCMA, IAEE and SITE.

Tailored education to transform

The IMEX America Executive Meetings Forum at Caesars Palace earlier in the day saw 35 senior corporate meetings executives gather in what facilitator, Terri Breining, described as ‘a sacred space’. With a full day’s program shaped entirely around the challenges and issues gathered from the group in advance, this year’s Forum focused on specially curated conversations on topics including motivating teams and best practice leadership. Attendees included representatives from KPMG, Boston Consulting Group, Astra Zeneca, Enterprise Holdings and EY. This program also focused on what Breining called ‘clearing the underbrush’. “You told us you want to walk away from today with actionable insights and a sense of how to cut through all the ‘stuff’ that inevitably accumulates around your role. You want to learn new ways to be more effective, you want to find inspiration from each other and you want to discover new course correction tools and approaches. Our goal today is to help you transition or transform, possibly both.”

The ability to adapt and respond to these drivers of change was at the forefront of the Association Leadership Forum. “We need to have strategic conversations looking up to 10 years into the future in order to consider how to prepare our association for the future and engage with staff,” advised speaker Hannes Combest, CEO of the National Auctioneers Association.

IMEX America continues September 10 – 12 in Las Vegas.


IMEX America 2019 is currently taking place September 10 – 12 at the Sands Expo® Convention Center preceded by Smart Monday, powered by MPI on September 9.

Exhibitor news can be found here:

IMEX America takes place in September again next year: September 15 – 17, 2020.
#IMEXcited. Why? Because IMEX America is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2020. More details to follow soon.

For further press information, please visit the on-site press center (Upper Lobby, Level 2, Sands Expo® Convention Center) or contact:
Emma Blake (UK): [email protected]
Norman Birnbach (US): [email protected]

About the author

Linda Hohnholz