Field Report: IMEX America, Where Business Is Personal

By Kelsey Ogletree, October 19, 2015

In the weeks leading up to my first IMEX America, I asked some industry veterans how I should prepare. “This is a show where real business gets done,” many said. Noting this, I jam-packed my days with appointments, planning to get as many story ideas and contacts as I could. During meetings and while walking the trade show, I witnessed many serious conversations, both in the exhibiting destinations’ booths and elsewhere at the Las Vegas event. However, I discovered that IMEX is a lot about personal connections too.

“I was taken aback that he’d not only read the notes, but absorbed the information to make a personal connection.”

Take my interaction with Geoff Ballotti on Tuesday morning. I’d been invited to a media breakfast during which the CEO of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts would make a big announcement about the company. A few moments after I arrived, Mr. Ballotti introduced himself to me. Asking if I’d like a cup of coffee, he led me over to the station and poured me a cup. “How about those Grizzlies, Kelsey?” he asked, referring to my home state football team at the University of Montana, where he mentioned his daughter had looked into attending college. I was shocked. It turns out his communications team had provided bios of all media attending the breakfast—not surprising, but I was taken aback that he’d not only read the notes, but absorbed the information to make a personal connection. That’s impressive.

On Wednesday, I had a 10 a.m. interview scheduled with Michael Massari, senior vice president of meetings and events for Caesars Entertainment’s 40 U.S. properties. I had prepared some questions for him that morning, but needless to say, I was nervous. After all, this was the same hotel executive profiled in The New York Times earlier this year about his role in reinventing Atlantic City with the new Waterfront Conference Center at Harrah’s Resort. Mr. Massari invited me to visit with him while sitting on a plush leather couch in the Caesars booth, not only giving me 30 minutes of his time (which he could have spent doing business), but asking me about my own career and how he could help, and promising to personally send me one of his favorite business books.

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