Q&A with Steve Prahalis

Experience Manager, imX-The Interactive Manufacturing Experience

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The imX team has basically created a new paradigm, in terms of the traditional tradeshow experience. Could you explain your reasoning?

I’d be glad to. For many years tradeshows have focused on the exhibitor’s experience, thinking that a high volume of attendees was the primary proof of a successful event, but many of the attendees we polled said they left feeling dissatisfied. They’d been impressed by the size of the booths, and the number of machines on display, but the atmosphere had been too loud and hectic for them to really sit down, have an in-depth conversation, and walk away having learned something.

So we decided to flip the focus from the exhibitors to the attendees, and to create an environment devoted to education. In many ways we felt that the publishing industry has it right in that magazine editors provide quality content, which draws readers, which then attracts advertisers. But the reader’s experience comes first.

Two other things happened during the past 10 years that have changed the way people perceive tradeshows, as well. The first one was 9/11, which led businesspeople from around the world to question the need to travel to so many shows, or to travel at all. The other is the internet, which has made it so much easier to seek information and do research on new equipment and technologies, etc. So you had both exhibitors and attendees questioning the value of attending so many of these shows that were just getting bigger and more impersonal. One CEO remarked that he spent a lot less money, and enjoyed a much larger return, by inviting his target audience to visit his facility for a one- or two-day seminar, so we decided to look at that very closely.

We knew that open houses and corporate seminars tended to be very effective and popular, but you can only host or attend so many, so we asked ourselves how we could create something along the same lines but all in one place, and that’s the question we’ve spent the last three years answering. imX is an invitation-only event hosted by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME)—where I also work, in strategic alliances—and the American Machine Tool Distributors’ Association (AMTDA), with “eXperience partners” including Sandvik Coromant, Kennametal, DMG/Mori Seiki, FANUC, MAG, Makino, Methods Machine Tools, and Okuma. We also have many other sponsors, and we’ll have between 150-200 exhibit partners.

Tell us more about what attendees can expect from imX.

It will be held September 12-14 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and even though it is invitation-only, as I’ve mentioned, those who’d like to attend can apply on our website. Once invited guests have signed up to attend they will receive information that allows them to build their own itinerary by signing up to meet with the representatives of the different companies for educational sessions, not just a quick hello and exchange of cards. I

n addition there will be Learning Labs where companies will give presentations on topics such as productivity and innovation. There will also be Interactive Industry Panels sponsored and moderated by Gardner Publications, and keynote addresses by senior members of the automotive, aerospace, and other industries.

There will be eXperience Zones that are centrally located so that imX partners and attendees can discuss new technologies and products, and a Resource and Networking Center for private meetings and conversations. One thing I’d really like to emphasize, however, is that imX is meant to bring people together on a level playing field. That’s why we decided that all the booths must be the same size, so that the focus is on education and personal interaction rather than whose display is flashier.

This is a very special event created by the manufacturing industry for the manufacturing industry, and just as our tagline reads, we’ve done everything we can to make sure that it will be “An Event Like No Other.”

MORE INFORMATION: Call (800) 733-4763 or go online to [www.imxevent.com].