Did you ever have a favorite restaurant or pub where visiting felt like home? Every interaction there was like being surrounded in a blanket of comfort and security. Everything was going to be okay, familiar and safe. Never a care in the world, these people had your best interests at heart, and you were 100% confident that everything would be taken care of to your satisfaction.
Such were my feelings, for many years, with the folks at Horizon House and their managing of our industry’s largest Conference, IMS (that is MTT for the soon-to-be-old-timers like me). Each January, when the large binder containing all the information needed to run our booth arrived by mail made me feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk when his new phone book came (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7aIf1YnbbU). That binder contained a world of possibilities for Reactel – where would we stay, what of the endless list of services would we take advantage of, what presentations would we watch and what events would we attend? That binder, and all that it represented, was comfortable.
In 2008, like an unexpected lightning bolt, IEEE announced that conference management was changing. A company from Colorado called MP Associates would be in charge beginning in 2009 and in a cruel twist of fate, the location for their first IMS was in Horizon House’s backyard of Boston, MA. Who are M and P and what were I to make of their Associates? Did they have the familiar names and voices of my Horizon House friends? Who would be their Howard Ellowitz, who called me every year to select my booth location? Who was going to be their Kristen Anderson, who seemingly could recall every detail of every exhibitor in an instant? MP Associates? Were they even in our industry? What has the IEEE done? I know I was not alone in my anxiety over this change.
What the IEEE did was, knowingly or not, drag IMS into the modern world of Conferences and Exhibitions. I was extremely skeptical, right from the start, when it was said that the binders would be no more. Everything was to be done on-line though they would supply a binder and material for those who absolutely insisted. Me? I made my own – and to this day still do so for each Conference placing all correspondence and printed receipts for services dutifully inside. As it turned out, there was no need for an MP version of Howard – we got to select our booth location for the following year right there during the Conference. My space was known, guaranteed and signed for before the Conference ended. It blew my mind how great this was. In time, after a few bumps along the way, I adjusted to the “MP” method of doing things. The folks at MP led by Lee Wood became a part of our little community and by the second year, almost everyone I knew was comfortable with them.
As with all things, change is inevitable. IEEE has changed the IMS Conference Manager (effective IMS21 in Atlanta) back to Horizon House. I have full confidence in the team assembled by Carl Sheffres at Horizon House and look forward to their blending of the best elements of the MP way with their extensive experience in managing Conferences to bring back that comfortable feeling I thought was lost 12 years ago.