‘Hindsight is wonderful’ – how AIME turned 30 in its best shape yet

AIME

It’s not the most technical analytical tool, but the Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) welcome event can often be seen as a precursor of what is to come over the next few days on the show floor.

And this year’s welcome event, thanks to Peter Jones Special Events, was a banger! A thousand people on the hallowed turf of Marvel Stadium taking an anthem fuelled trip from 1993 (when AIME launched) to today all thanks to DJ Hot Dub Time Machine. Cue fireworks, flames and a thousand hands in the air.

Rewinding the years back to 2018, when Talk2 Media and Events took on the responsibility of delivering AIME, only hindsight allows us to see just how important the next four events would be to its future.

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The AIME 2023 Welcome Event at Marvel Stadium.

“We had to build that trust with the Melbourne Convention Bureau to show we understood the brand and what to do with it,” said Matt Pearce, Talk2’s CEO. “The already good partnership was probably strengthened over what happened during Covid.”

The event in 2022 was running a tight rope when Omicron threw the country a massive curve ball just a few months from the opening dates that had the industry wondering which direction it was headed.

“Hindsight is wonderful but at the time it really was pivotal,” said Pearce.

“There was that moment where we and the Melbourne Convention Bureau said if we don’t who will? If we as an industry can’t come back, then what does that say to the rest of what we do?”

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MCB CEO Julia Swanson and Talk2 Media & Events CEO Matt Pearce.

AIME 2022 went ahead despite the challenges, marking the first international event to return since the pandemic started.

“Last year, we got a free hit because everybody was just glad to be back,” said Pearce.

“I knew this year we were going to have to work just that much harder.

“The welcome event was fun but you still have to be able to do business and that’s what we focused on. We invested more heavily in the hosted buyer program, vetting everyone, making sure the app worked properly.”

Silke Calder, AIME’s event director, was always confident this year’s event would eclipse 2022, even though the team walked away with the Australian Event of the Year for their efforts last year.

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AIME event director Silke Calder is confident of further expansion in 2024.

“We have grown to more than 350 exhibitors and 411 hosted buyers, while pre-registration was through the roof,” Calder said.

“Having a good show last year helps, so we knew pretty quick we were able to fill two more bays, from five to seven.”

That’s not to say organising this year’s event was not without its challenges.

“The squeeze on the event supply chain affects everyone, not just in getting things done but also on costs,” said Calder. “It’s not easy.”

But the team is already focused on next year, with Calder confident they can add another bay already with more international exhibitors and China hopefully back as buyers.

“I am already confident we can fill it with the feedback we have received already, especially about the quality of the buyers,” she said.

The Northern Territory stand was in good company, with all Australia’s convention bureaux participating this year.

“And that is what our show is all about. I don’t want to do a quick sale to an exhibitor and not hear from them all year.

“We are trying to build a community.”

Julia Swanson, CEO at the Melbourne Convention Bureau, echoed a similar sentiment.

“AIME is not about being the biggest in the world, it’s about delivering value to the people that are here and having all the right people at the table,” she said.

Swanson also acknowledged the sector wide impact AIME had in leading by example when it went ahead in 2022.

“Last year we were the canary down the coalmine being the first international event to reopen only four weeks after the borders reopened,” she said.

This year though has been “much more fun” with the business event industry settling into “a new normal”.

“It has been a rocky couple of years but the main thing about what we have tried to do is understand what our value proposition is for the market, where do we play and what do our stakeholders want,” Swanson said.

“We have a bespoke approach – we are not one of the big global tradeshow where it is a volume based show. It’s about the value, the connections and the collaboration and quality of the show.

“That’s been at our core. We will continue to grow, but at the right pace and keep our focus on the customer.”