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IAM in the windy city

Nov 05, 2019
An overview of the IAM (International Association of Movers) conference in Chicago, by Steve Jordan

IAM Conference

Another year and another
IAM, this time in the rather splendid, supposedly windy, city of Chicago (it’s not really windy at all).  High-rise buildings can tend to make all American cities appear similar to the casual visitor and Chicago has plenty of them, including the world-famous Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), once the world’s tallest building; and Mr. Trump’s monolith that stands dominant.

Trump Tower

But Chicago does have charm, especially around the river that cuts the city in half, the green spaces that add relief from the oppression of the concrete and, of course, Lake Michigan, serenely putting all into perspective and reminding mankind of the mediocrity of his achievements.

It was with this backdrop that the global moving industry came together for its annual melting pot. Around 2000 people, all with a single aim: to go home wealthier than they arrived.  That might sound a little uncharitable but, for me, that’s the fascination of IAM.  For a few days each year the niceties of relationship building take second place to bare-faced commerce.  I like it.  If all conferences were like that it would be a chore, but they are not and IAM remains special in my eyes as a real opportunity to cast away the gloves and ‘just do it’ as they say at Nike.

The venue

The hotel worked well, in my opinion.  It was big, of course, but not quite as voluminous as some of the IAM venues in previous years.  This made getting around quite easy, especially as the lifts worked well, even during the breakfast-time rush, and the escalators whisked delegates to meetings over four floors.  Despite the number of people, and the other conferences that were on at the time, it was always possible to find a quiet-ish corner for a meeting. A remarkable trick.


The registration process proved to be not quite as scary as it initially promised.  IAM had ramped up the security requiring all delegates to show picture ID or a QR code to acquire their badge.  The badges also carried photos of their owners which were taken at the registration desk: something that seemed to cause the female delegates more angst than the chaps.  Big surprise.  All this served to create queues for registration that stretched along a couple of corridors and around multiple bends which had people wondering whether they would indeed make their 10:30 appointment after all.  In the end the system was handled efficiently and with good humour by the staff and, although a few delegates ended up on the wrong side of grumpy, most escaped unharmed.

Brian Limperolulos and Ray daSilvaMeetings

Although most people at IAM stick to their own agendas of back to back meetings from breakfast to sunset (and beyond), Chuck White and his staff did a great job of putting on a packed business programme.  It’s a pity that not more attend the plenary meetings but, hey ho, it’s always been thus.  Congratulations to Chuck, Brian Limperopulos and Ray daSilva who were ubiquitous throughout.

Presentations included sessions courtesy of the IAM Learning Lab on how to get more business from RMCs, governments and corporate customers; the latest initiative from the Department of Defense to appoint a single company to manage the world’s biggest moving contract; how technology could transform communications in the industry; IAM Mobility Exchange to help increase engagement with industry colleagues; and a session about the learning opportunities available.  There were also sessions about risk management; the President’s State of IAM address, which is always good value; and the presentation of the new inductees to the IAM Hall of Honor: this year Paul Evans (Trans Euro, Interdean and AGM Group), the late Koji Tominaga of Fukuoka Soko and, of course, Terry Head, following his retirement as president of IAM last year.  More about all these in future issues of The Mover.

Receptions and entertainment

Lilly and Sam BassinIt wasn’t all work.  The opening reception was well attended, as was the exhibitors’ cocktail reception and, of course, the closing dinner.  But for me, being a chap of simple taste, one of the highlights was the music provided by pianist and guitar player Sam Bassin and his daughter Lilly, who is blessed with the voice of an angel, who kept everyone enthralled ahead of the president’s keynote address.  I don’t know if they were expecting the standing ovation they received, but they thoroughly deserved it.

Expo 2019

The exhibition seemed busier than usual.  I understand there were around 150 booths manned by moving companies and suppliers to the industry.  At any exhibition there are winners and losers when it comes to stand positioning and footfall, and I heard from both but, as a visitor, there was plenty to keep me going back time and again.  I did, however, hear some who thought there were too many stands and there is a risk of diminishing returns if the Expo gets too big; maybe something IAM will consider next time.

IAM was not perfect.  How could it be? I heard complaints, for example, that the meeting points were too vague and people had difficulty finding each other.  Personally, I managed OK however, having two lobbies and two concierge desks did focus the mind a little, at least at the start.  Some thought the catering in the exhibition hall was a little meagre too. 

But I am being picky.  IAM is a great annual event and the place for the whole industry to come together.  Whereas most groups relish their exclusivity, IAM prides itself on being inclusive, welcoming virtually everyone.  If there’s someone you really need to talk to, you can bet they will be there. 

Next year is back in the naval city of San Diego from 21-23 October, a little later in the month than usual. Another great city.  See you in the Top Gun bar! 

Photos (top to bottom): Chuck White, IAM President;Trump Tower; Ray daSilva; Brian Limperopulos; Lilly and Sam Bassin.

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