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IAM Conference 2017

Dec 14, 2017
In October 2017, IAM held its annual conference in Long Beach, California. Here Will Kohudic, Marketing and Communications Manager for the International Association of Movers, reports on the proceedings.

IAM’s 2017 Annual Meeting and Expo was held in sunny Long Beach, California. In all the most important ways, the conference was the same as ever - a gathering of nearly 2,000 industry professionals with unlimited opportunities for networking, developing new business, socializing, and strengthening old connections. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Charting a New Course’, which was meant to apply to the state of the industry in general (think Brexit, cyber threats, alternate transportation methods, and changing regulations, just for starters) and also to numerous innovations in the meeting itself.  

One new feature was the check-in process. People who registered for the meeting in advance (about 98% of attendees) received a QR code in their confirmation e-mail that allowed them to check-in quickly at one of several kiosk stations, grab their badges and bags, and head straight to their pre-arranged meetings and the expo hall. This system was better than having to choose from one of several long lines at the registration desk, by all accounts. 

The expo hall, too, was a novel scene this year. Firstly, it opened earlier than ever before on the first day, allowing traffic from the check-in kiosks to flow straight in to the exhibit floor. The expo hall space was much larger than usual as it was in a convention centre, rather than in a hotel space. The expanded size allowed for the placement of trucks and containers in the hall, and contributed to a décor theme the IAM staff named ‘warehouse chic’.  

On the first three days lunch was provided by food trucks positioned in the expo hall. For many attendees the food trucks, with their variety of offerings, were a welcome change from the typical conference fare, while some missed the abundance of the buffet. One more new feature was the availability of small offices inside the expo hall that people were able to reserve for their own networking meetings. The idea behind these offices was to provide a central, easily-accessible place for members to schedule client meetings because the meeting was not contained in a single hotel. The consensus was that for a first-time trial the office spaces served their purpose well while generating important feedback for their use in future annual meetings.  

The most anticipated events of the first day of the meeting were, naturally, the social events, which began in the early evening with the IAM-YP (young professionals group) welcome reception at the nearby Cove venue, which offered YP members an opportunity to socialize together before the start of the night’s main event: the IAM opening reception, which was held outdoors to take advantage of the wonderful coastal California climate. Food trucks and plentiful bars provided refreshments, and the venue remained lively all evening as members renewed old friendships and mingled socially.  

One major event that IAM held at the opening reception was an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for Most Nationalities in a Group Hug. There was an official Guinness World Record judge on hand to adjudicate and individuals from many countries signed up to take part. Unfortunately, not enough nationalities were present and checked in to set an official record, but a valiant attempt was made; those who did take part enjoyed the experience, and lessons were learned for possible future attempts.  

The Alan F. Wohlstetter Scholarship Fund FUNd Night was also conducted during the opening reception, an event at which attendees supported IAM’s scholarship fund while playing games of skill and chance. The games included casino table games, fair games, the Money Machine, and a Texas Hold’em poker tournament, whose top prize was a free registration to the 2018 IAM Annual Meeting and Expo.  

The second day began with the membership breakfast, at which IAM President Terry Head traditionally gives his State of the IAM address. Mr. Head began by inviting Move for Hunger Founder and Executive Director Adam Lowy to the stage to present an award to Beltmann Relocation Group for supplying more donated food over the past year than any other IAM member. Over the last eight years, Lowy said, IAM members have supplied 1.2 million pounds of food through Move for Hunger; collecting unwanted, non-perishable food from customers when they move and taking it to a local food bank where it is distributed to those in need rather than thrown away.  

Mr. Head started his presentation with a look at IAM membership statistics. During the past year, he said, IAM has grown by 112 companies. He illustrated IAM’s new joins with a chart that showed the largest percentage of growth (29%) coming from European companies, followed closely by growth in Asia (including Southeast Asia, 23%) and North America (19%). He followed this chart with a series of slides showing the current distribution of IAM member types geographically and explained that the trend towards increasing overseas membership in all categories continues, particularly in the case of governing and IAM-YP membership.  

Mr. Head devoted a significant portion of this year’s address to the results of the recent IAM Member Needs Survey. The survey was opened to all members this past April, and was designed to measure what aspects of IAM membership are most highly valued and what challenges and obstacles concern the members most.  

The first slide of survey results showed responses to the question of why companies choose to join IAM. The top three answers, by a wide margin, were ‘To network with others in the industry,’ ‘To find other IAM members around the world,’ and ‘To attend the IAM Annual meeting.’ A related slide showed that 61% of respondents valued networking and making connections most about IAM, with the next-highest rated answer coming in at 15%. “All of this data,” Mr. Head remarked, “tells us that, more than anything, IAM members value the ability to meet directly with one another and establish the relationships that our industry is built upon.”  

The next two slides displayed the level of satisfaction that respondents reported with their IAM membership, with 89% saying they are either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ satisfied. Compared to the average 76% level of satisfaction for trade associations, IAM finds this very encouraging. “We see this not as a sign that IAM can rest on its laurels,” Mr. Head said, “but rather as an indication that we are on the right track and that we need to continue to focus our efforts on staying current with industry trends and delivering what our members need most.”  

Other slides showed that 83% of members consider the value of IAM membership to be equal to or greater than the cost, and that ‘keeping up with changes in technology’ and ‘financial concerns’ top the lists of challenges that people believe will have the greatest impact on the industry over the coming years.  

To address these topics, Mr. Head first gave an overview of IAM’s near-term financial prospects and assets, which have levelled off since the previous year but have not regressed. Also, he presented an overview of the continuing success of IAM’s Receivable Protection Program (RPP), which became an inclusive Core and Governing member benefit in 2015. Since its inception this program has paid out approximately $274,500 in unpaid invoice compensation to members. Combined with $321,890 resolved via IAM intervention on debts during the same period of time, $596,399 has been delivered to members who would have otherwise gone unpaid.  

Speaking both to members’ technology concerns and to the importance of connecting with other companies, Mr. Head talked at some length about the just-released IAM Mobility Exchange (IAMX). IAMX is a revolution in the traditional membership directory concept, as it is far more than just a list of IAM member companies. “An association directory exists to serve the interests of its members,” Mr. Head said. The vision of IAM Mobility Exchange is to become the universal directory of service partners for the moving, relocation, logistics and mobility services industries. It serves the whole industry by presenting enhanced directory information about IAM members and non-IAM member companies.  

With this step into an inclusive dynamic directory, IAM has recognised that the agent-to-agent concept of industry service providers collaborating to deliver service to their clients depends on efficient and accurate partner selection. Businesses in our industry depend on the availability of reliable information about companies they need to partner with, and this need for solid connections is the premise on which IAMX is based.  

Future improvements to IAM Mobility Exchange are in progress as companies are catalogued into the directory and are invited to claim their listings to ensure their accuracy. The need to differentiate between the service providers who are flying by the seat of their pants and the ones that have invested in infrastructure, staffing, and quality is further addressed in the IAMX Validation program. Mr. Head then pointed out two business sessions focussed on IAM Mobility Exchange later in the meeting schedule. Rather than reproduce them here, if you would like to learn more about the directory and review and claim your company’s own listing, visit  

Mr. Head closed his presentation with a recap of scheduled events and an announcement that the 2018 IAM Annual Meeting will be held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington, DC from October 5–8.  

Attendees spent the remainder of the Annual Meeting alternating (sometimes frantically) between their own scheduled client meetings, the exhibit hall, the knowledge labs, and the US government business sessions. Also, a special luncheon was held on Wednesday to recognise recipients of, and donors to, the Alan F. Wohlstetter Scholarship Fund and the newest inductees of IAM’s Hall of Honor: Anthony (Tony) Waugh, Maureen Beal, and Estelle Tredway.  

At the end of the final day, attendees and their guests gathered one more time for the closing reception, dinner and entertainment. The final celebration is always highly anticipated and never fails to provide an evening of spectacular entertainment, social mingling, and dancing. This time, the theme was a cruise ship environment. IAM President Terry Head welcomed everyone to the venue, after which dinner was served and performers took the stage to create an enchanting and elemental spectacle. When dinner and the grand show were finished, the dance floor filled quickly and remained active for the remainder of the evening. We’re not entirely sure how IAM intends to top this show in 2018, but we look forward to finding out. 

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