MPI’s WEC 2014 Event Focuses on Career Development, Advocacy & Tech

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MPI WEC 2014 Minneapolis
Mill City Museum & Guthrie Theater
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MPI’s annual World Education Congress took place this week at the Minneapolis Convention Center, focused on the theme of “Discovery.”

Over the course of the last year, MPI refocused its position as the voice of the business events industry promoting both professional development and industry advocacy. The goal has been to help individual members discover their strengths through the support and industry education of MPI. There’s also a push for the business world in general to discover the true value of face-to-face meetings and their role in economic development and job creation.

“We wanted to make sure we were getting our entire community in line and understanding why they want to be part of MPI,” said Paul Deventer, CEO of MPI. “So we tightened that up. We focused our mission on two key areas: professional development, which is what this is all about, through education, networking and business opportunities. And then the second key area for us is advocating for this incredible industry we work in, but which is so misrepresented and does not get the respect we believe it should when you look at the scale and impact it has on economies here and around the world.”

On the advocacy front, MPI is working closely with the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, providing both monetary and HR support. Deventer also said that MPI is rededicating itself to building stronger partnerships with the hospitality and DMO communities in North America, home to the majority of the organization’s members.

MPI launched its own advocacy arm: Meetings Move Us Forward, which includes this six-minute documentary. Check out the articles, videos and how-to white papers providing talking points to use to help promote the business impact of face-to-face meetings.

WEC 2014 kicked off its opening night at the incredible Mill City Museum, inside the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill. The event signaled MPI’s push to develop more creative events integrating technology and innovative programming.

There was a lot of focus on event tech during the week. This was the first paperless WEC without the typical printed event catalog, so everyone was forced to join the 21st century and use the QuickMobile event app.

Luckily, QuickMobile hit it out of the park with a user experience and interface that worked seamlessly throughout the entire event. Anybody who’s been experimenting with apps at major industry events throughout the last few years has experienced a lot of wonkiness. But this was the first time we felt comfortable relying solely on an app for content research, scheduling, speaker info, and in-app communication with other attendees.

“To me a good mobile app should do a few things,” said Tahira Endean, CMP/BHM, manager of events at QuickMobile. “It has to provide all of the information and content, and it also has to connect people. It needs to include all of your agenda, program and speaker information, you should be able to build your own schedule, and there needs to be a survey mechanism built in.”

She says she especially likes the “My Schedule” component, which can load concurrent sessions that you can choose between at your convenience.

For the record, we love Endean. Give her a shout for anything and everything you want to know about event tech. As a meeting planner with over two decades of experience, she has a unique ability to put the planner first and tech second.

MPI hosted a few sessions during WEC 2014 including a discussion about the latest MPI Meetings Outlook trend report, prepared in collaboration with the Dallas CVB. The discussion revolved around how planners are continuing to be asked to do more for less. The number of survey respondents in the report who say they see meeting business improving in 2014 are significantly more than those who say their budgets are in alignment.

For the trend report session, MPI used the Lumi polling platform to collate responses from the audience, which worked well, although participation was not as high as we would have expected. The moderator used the polls to compare the audience numbers against the data in the trend report, and planners should expect to see a lot more of this type of silent interactivity in the future.

However, you can take this too far. During the MPI Town Hall session, the top MPI executives and hospitality veterans from Hyatt Hotels and MGM Resorts sat on a panel to answer questions from the audience submitted through the Conferences i/o platform.

There has been endless talk in the industry about how meeting sessions are changing because everyone is tired of being “talked at” from a sage on the stage. Everyone is shouting from the rafters about more interactivity and audience engagement.

MPI CEO Paul Van Deventer said it was the first time MPI was trying this format, where people in the audience either typed questions into their device or voted on other people’s questions. The more votes a question received, the higher it ranked on the list. The moderator then asked the panel the questions at the top of the list.

So while it’s a great idea as an added value, and props to MPI for experimenting with this, the session was a very silent and rather monotonous experience. There was never a chance to get involved in the conversation whether your question was discussed or not. Throughout the hour-long session, there wasn’t one word spoken by the audience.

In the future, it might be good to create a hybrid experience blending both the polling mechanism and people-to-people conversation. This was basically a live webinar that could have easily been recreated online.

Deventer discussed MPI’s willingness to experiment during the media session.

“WEC is a laboratory for members, we do some things here which may be on the cutting edge a little bit, it might be a little bit different than a professional meeting planner might do on their own,” he said. “We want to do that with purpose. We don’t want to make the whole event a laboratory, but we do want to try some new things that may or may not work for planners in a another environment. We want to see them and see those experiences. If you look at last night some of what was going on was very different, and what I love when I get to one of our events, if I see planners pulling out their cameras and taking pictures of different parts of the event, you know you’re getting into areas they haven’t seen before.”

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