MPI World Education Congress Demonstrates the Power of Face-to-Face Meetings
More than 1,200 event professionals gathered at MPI’s World Education Congress at CAESARS FORUM last week, the largest in-person industry event so far this year. While attendance was about half of pre-pandemic levels, the large showing is another shot in the arm for an industry recovering from essentially a lost year of business.
A hybrid event, WEC placed an emphasis on safety in bringing together 1,229 people in Las Vegas and attracted another 568 remote attendees. Content reflected the state of the industry, pointing toward ways to hold events responsibly while confronting social issues that reinforce the need for greater diversity and inclusion. Among the highlights of the three-day event were a question and answer session between MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer and music star Usher, and a panel featuring women executives leading prominent organizations.
Timing worked out well for the event, which occurred two weeks after Nevada lifted all COVID-19 restrictions. While MPI maintained what it referred to as “duty-of-care” procedures, it was able to set a number of firsts:
- First large-scale event at CAESARS FORUM
- First large-scale industry event held at Allegiant Stadium (Opening Night Celebration)
- First large-scale event held at the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas (President’s Dinner honoring Terri Breining)
- First large-scale event held at the Venetian Pool Deck (Rendezvous Closing Night Celebration benefiting the MPI Foundation).
Vaccinated attendees were not required to wear masks, and the bulk of the audience identified themselves as ready to forgo social distancing, and acted accordingly.
“This show has been well received by everyone — it’s truly a love fest,” reported Destination DC President and CEO Elliott Feguson on a LinkedIn post, noting this was his first industry show since January 2020. “When people question if in-person events will return, this has been evidence of the importance of convening live. Nothing compares.”
MPI was among the few industry organizations, along with Connect, to host an in-person event in 2020. About 700 attended WEC in Grapevine. Meanwhile, PCMA Convening Leaders adopted a hub-and-spoke hybrid model that was primarily virtual and IMEX was forced to cancel its annual Spring European event. IMEX is moving ahead with its Las Vegas show in November. Connect, which hosted 750 event professionals at a collocated event with BizBash May 24-26 at Red Rock Casino Casino Resort & Spa, is aiming for more than 3,000 Aug. 30-Sept. 1 in Tampa, Florida.
Yet with the seeming return to normal, WEC took on a greater purpose. It occurred as statistics bear out that business travel is not coming back as quickly as hoped (evidenced by MPI’s smaller attendance). Industry shows bringing together trade show organizers and meeting planners with destination representatives and venue operators will be important in spurring new events that should help fill many of the still vacant hospitality industry jobs and further resuscitating the U.S. and global economy.
Angie Ahrens, senior manager of global events at Infor, said she could feel the difference being among her peers again. “Connecting with friends and meeting new colleagues was my priority in coming to Las Vegas,” said Ahrens. “I value hybrid yet it was incredible to be with everyone.”
MPI will mark its 50th anniversary at next year’s WEC, to be held in San Francisco, June 21-23.
Photo Credit: Soliman Productions