IMEX CEO Carina Bauer has been mulling over some of the main talking points of IMEX’s 2018 theme “Legacy.” Recently we were able to catch up with her to discuss the ways we can all make a long-lasting impact with inspiring and enjoyable events in the meetings industry.

Building a legacy sounds like a grand undertaking. Where should people start?

It sounds daunting at first, but one of the main things we learned this year from spurring industry conversations on this topic is that legacies come in all shapes and sizes. It could mean cutting out straws and single use plastics at your event, or creating women in leadership programs. It could take the shape of donations or drives for your home or host city, wellness initiatives for attendees or creative new events for people with similar interests. The crucial idea is that you must have a true desire and commitment to creating positive change. Focus on doing something authentic to your mission and values as an organization. From there you can decide on the elements, scale, budgets and partners you needed to make it happen.

You just wrote a whitepaper highlighting legacy and meetings. How is that being received?

We were thrilled to announce a new industry whitepaper at IMEX America 2018 which is free and available to all: “The Power of Events – 29 Inspiring Examples to Increase the Impact of Your Events and Create a Long-lasting Legacy.” It provides inspiration and hands-on advice drawing from real-world legacy meeting examples. It also helps expand thinking around what constitutes “legacy building.” For example, you can leave a legacy for the meeting industry itself by championing new formats, meeting designs or ways of using technology. The response to the legacy message across 2018, and now this whitepaper has been phenomenal. It had a strong start with our She Means Business education program and the Skift report on the rise of mid-sized cities at IMEX Frankfurt in May. It continued full speed at IMEX America where Julius Solaris’ keynote moved many in the audience to tears. That emotional connection to legacy is translating into an invigorating call to action with over 2,500 people having downloaded the whitepaper so far. I think this means our industry is increasingly dedicated to the goals of legacy and bringing them to life.

What makes the meetings industry a natural place for the idea of legacy to flourish?

The meetings and events industry is brilliant at rallying its creativity and energy around a single effort or a unifying story. As an industry, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for our collective power and combined ability to have a positive impact in today’s world. As a global industry driving $1 billion in direct spending, we can also help drive real change. We have the privilege and the opportunity to touch and change people’s lives through our work. It’s often hard to see that while we’re in the midst of it all because it’s “just what we do,” but we can be the tip of the spear in creating lasting legacies. I can’t wait to see what initiatives surrounding this idea develop into the new year and beyond.