Marketing Liverpool Business Development Manager, Suzanne Watson.

Yes, there’s an element of luck. But Marketing Liverpool’s Business Development Manager, Suzanne Watson, doesn’t believe in luck. She believes you make your own luck and that’s why she’s heading to IMEX America with the confidence of a seasoned, professional card shark.

“This is the part of my job I really relish. Representing Liverpool City Region at an event of this scale requires a lot of preparation if you’re going to take full advantage of the opportunity. You need a plan, with lots of pre-booked meetings…”

I meet Suzanne at Marketing Liverpool ‘s Cunard office, as she’s working with the design team to tailor brochures and marketing materials specifically for the Northern American market that IMEX America serves and I ask her to tell me about the event.

“IMEX America is one of the leading trade shows for North America’s meetings, incentives, conferences, events and business travel industry. It takes place in Las Vegas from 11-13 October and Liverpool Convention Bureau have partnered with MeetEngland to develop a strong UK presence at the event, promoting our destination as a leading European host city.

“What’s great about IMEX America is the scale. The event, held at Las Vegas’s Mandalay Bay attracts destinations from all over the world, including hotels and transport operators, all competing and lobbing for business. It’s very fast-paced and extremely well organised. Las Vegas does these kind of events brilliantly.

“IMEX America poses a great opportunity for Liverpool, because the US market loves cultural cities and places with a strong brand, so I always lean in to these attributes of our city at events like this.”

Suzanne talks about the importance of tailoring your message to specific audiences and how she works to present Liverpool City Region at large-scale USA events like IMEX America.

“In the meetings and incentive travel industry one size certainly doesn’t fit all. The first thing we do is identify who is going. What companies are in attendance? What international events do they host? Who will be looking for a host city and when?

“The most important thing is to reach your precise demographic and book in a brief meeting with them.  Scatter gun can be useful, but to really make an impact you need to work more strategically.

“At Liverpool Convention Bureau, our product and unique selling point is Liverpool.  When we talk about the city region we talk about its culture, its heritage, its visitor economy and it key sectors, including health and life science, maritime and logistics and advanced manufacturing.

“An event like IMEX America attracts scores of global organisations in these fields, each of which hold lucrative conferences and high-level events. In the run-up to the event, I like to identify and research these organisations as soon as possible, and make contact with them to arrange a meeting. The more you understand about their business and their needs the better the meeting will be.

The MeetEngland exhibition at IMEX America 2021

The MeetEngland exhibition at IMEX America 2021

But Suzanne is keen to stress that not all eventualities can be planned for and it’s important to build some flexibility into her approach.

“Sometimes the correlation between the target organisation is obvious, and Liverpool is clearly a great match for an event. Sometimes it’s more about positioning and finding an angle. This is where you really need a good depth of knowledge about Liverpool.

“To a degree, you need to be open to the unforeseen. In America they have conferences for everything, you name it, and Liverpool’s rich history and impact on the world is so vast and our offer so strong we can also make a good pitch for some events that you might not initially think of Liverpool for.

“I remember meeting with a soap manufacturer and suddenly talking about how Liverpool pioneered public baths, how Unilever are based out of Port Sunlight and how our Materials Innovation Factory and Knowledge Quarter are working to make industries like theirs more sustainable and eco-friendly. With Liverpool, there’s always something that connects with people or industries.

The MeetEngland delegation at IMEX Frankfurt 2021 - including Marketing Liverpool's Suzanne Watson, third from the left, on the top row.

The MeetEngland delegation at IMEX Frankfurt 2021 – including Marketing Liverpool’s Suzanne Watson, third from the left, on the top row.

Through my conversation with Suzanne, I discover that IMEX America also enables delegates to attend seminars and networking sessions within the tradeshow’s Education Programme. I ask her what sessions she’s hoping to attend and where she thinks the meeting industry is heading.

“I love to hear how the industry is embracing new technology to enhance delegate experience, not just at the venue but all over the host city. It will be interesting to see how virtual events adapt in a post pandemic world and discover the best examples of destinations embracing innovation to become carbon neutral. IMEX America covers all these things really well. You learn a lot just by meeting and talking to other destinations and sharing ideas.

It’s clear from our conversation that Suzanne, a natural host, loves meeting people and introducing them to our city region. I ask her about the US market. Is IMEX America very different to its European counterpart?

“You know, it’s not totally different but there are notable differences. American delegates tend to be very overtly positive, very open and enthusiastic. Very eager to speak to you and to hear about Liverpool and very knowledgeable about their own industry, which is great.

“We have a great central location this year, on the main aisle and my diary is already pretty full with meetings. MeetEngland make fantastic partners and the world is finally ready to fully get back out there and hold events again. You can feel a certain buzz and excitement about the future when you speak to people now. Being able to take a plane, or set up an exhibition or seminar and talk about your organisation and how you help people in incredibly important to businesses. It’s often their life-blood.

Finally I ask Suzanne about what she learns from host cities like Las Vegas, when it comes to attracting and hosting major events.

“Be bold. Be ambitious and don’t be afraid to take a gamble! I love to see how Las Vegas operates and at Liverpool Convention Bureau we’re always promoting the city region, no matter where we are. You’ve got to be in it to win it.”

For more information on Liverpool Convention Bureau at this year’s MEX America contact Suzanne on swatson@marketingliverpool.co.uk

For more information on IMEX America click HERE.