With over 170 education sessions offered across this week’s IMEX America 2013, the first day of the show offered no lack of choices for attendees wanting to learn, network and share ideas.

The day started off strong with an MPI keynote from Eileen McDargh, CEO of Resilient Spirit, on creating agility and adaptability in turbulent times with a talk entitled, “Staying Right-side Up in a World That’s Upside Down.” McDargh received a standing ovation from the crowd in the Sands Showroom.

Also today the two-part Executive Meetings Forum (for C-suite corporate meetings executives) and Women’s Leadership Forums, both part of the IMEX Vision Program, got underway providing expert presentations, roundtables and built-in networking breaks.

Once the trade show doors opened, meetings industry professionals quickly filled sessions of different formats and sizes at numerous show floor learning locations. These included the Networking Hub, Tech Hub, Sustainability Hub (powered by GMIC), IMEX-CIC Inspiration Center and the App Bar.

At the Inspiration Center attendees learned how to take marketing and social media to new levels with Alyssa Dver, Chief Confidence Officer and Jessica Levin, MBA, CMP, CAE and President and Chief Connector at Seven Degrees Communications. Dver spoke to the importance of not putting the cart before the horse in marketing by first taking the time and discipline to develop stand-out messaging and positioning based on a true understanding of the real target market. This step, she said, is often rushed through or overlooked entirely in the dash to create deliverables, pricing, websites, etc. which can only produce real, qualified leads if they are relevant.

Levin shared various techniques on how to tailor your persona in different social media environments.  For example, Facebook requires a warmer touch with a feel for the personality of the business leader or brand vs. LinkedIn, which requires a more formal approach.

“The number one success factor for social media is to make it a commitment and have someone watch for consistency of message and image. They need to ensure they integrate with more traditional forms of marketing and communication,” said Levin.

Meanwhile education participants in the Networking Hub, sponsored by Turkish Airlines, let their hair down using props, toys and fun to create new ideas to engage event and meeting participants. Rhea Blanken, FSASAE, Creative Genius & CEO of Rhea Blanken Consulting taught them that creative thinking does not require artistic talent but simply permission to think outside the box and have the courage to practice new things.

As part of the technology track, Mike McWilliams, Director at Aimia, addressed a standing room crowd at the Tech Hub, sponsored by Double Dutch, on “Why Hybrid Meetings Build Long-Term Engagement.” After touching upon the importance of including social media and mobile technology into meeting design to increase interaction, McWilliams talked about the importance of gamification as an effective way to engage younger, tech-savvy professionals. He also stressed the importance of measuring every interaction, both as a way to get feedback on current meetings and as part of the process of gathering input on future programs. At the App Bar, sponsored by QuickMobile, Trevor Roald, Mobile Event Technology Evangelist at QuickMobile, also talked about the monetization of show apps, including tapping into the many sponsorship offerings provided by splash pages, video and more.