World Education Congress (WEC) 2024, Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) annual gathering, is always notable for its range of educational programming. This year’s production in Louisville, Kentucky, was themed around crafting experiences and heavy on musical metaphors. But in the breakout sessions, real talk from working meeting planners about how AI, global risks and economic shifts will impact programs in the near future drew standing-room-only crowds.

Read More: What to Expect at MPI WEC in Louisville

First, the numbers. Nearly 1,900 people (700 of them identifying as meeting planners) traveled to Kentucky International Convention Center for the three-day event with a robust hosted-buyer component. It was the largest gathering since WEC ’19 in Toronto and an increase of 33 percent over WEC ’23 in the Mexican Caribbean.

Mirroring trends seen in the turnover in the industry since Covid, approximately 50 percent of the audience was attending for the first time. “This further showcases both the event’s appeal and the strong desire for educational opportunities within the industry,” concluded MPI CEO and President Paul Vandeventer.

High Notes

Photo: MPI

Celebrity drummer and author Mark Schulman was joined by Neuroperformance Coach Heather Crider for a deep dive into hacking the rockstar brain. Whether you suffer from imposter syndrome or stage fright, regulating your overworked brain requires a combination of commitment, coordination and collaboration.

Mastering your art and reaching “drummer’s high” levels requires the ability to leverage the power of the “pause, breathe and drill down” on what is scaring you. “As a human, you deserve happiness and taking time to breathe gives you the chance to choose your course rather than blindly reacting,” explained Crider.

Virtuoso author and entrepreneur Felipe Gomez shared the importance of practice for musicians and meeting professionals. “We are all capable of extraordinary performances,” he said. “Aim for excellence, create meaningful and long-lasting connection and build effective cultures of innovation.” He demonstrated on the piano onstage that there are no short cuts and only by moving beyond your comfort zone can you achieve your personal best.

Finally, a trio of Broadway performers, Jessica Lee Goldyn, Taylor Parker and Fergie Phillippe, entertained and made the connection that, “We are all better together when working in harmony.”

Real-world Up-skilling

Two floors down in the education sessions, attendees were earning certificates in Event Data Analytics and Healthcare Meetings Compliance. Topics such as Navigating AI Integration, Building Mental Fitness, New Solutions for Your Tech Stack and Embracing Neurodiversity were drawing big crowds, challenging questions and lots of notes.

Read More: Neuroinclusion: Events for Everyone

two people standing in front of purple neon letters that spell 'MPI'
Photo: MPI

Devon Pasha, director for North America of Event Design Collective, shared the power of co-creation, rapid prototyping and flexible focus, tools meeting professionals could put to use right away.

Pamela Schuller, a comedian living with Tourette Syndrome, helped attendees embrace their “messy” parts and leverage their individuality and unique talents to conquer their goals. She encouraged planners to think more widely about how they invite and welcome everyone.

Kevin Coffey, a retired Los Angeles Police Department detective shared tips for managing risk associated with travel and events, including technology failure, theft, facility evacuation, medical emergency and violence. “Most meetings take place without incident, he prefaced, but it just takes one thing to turn your next event upside down.”

The education wasn’t limited to those who could make the trip to Bourbon City. One hundred people registered for the digital stream of five hours of keynotes and interactive chats hosted by The Amani Experience, powered by Grit Productions and Expositions. The WEC Louisville Town Hall on Wednesday was also broadcast live on LinkedIn.

MPI WEC 2025 heads belatedly to St. Louis at the expanded America’s Center Convention Complex June 17-19, two years after it was originally planned. This will be a repeat performance, as WEC was last in Gateway City in 2012.

Celebrating Excellence

WEC is also when MPI awards its RISE (Recognizing Industry Success and Excellence) Awards. The focus was on innovation global transferability and influence. Winners Included:

  • Evan Nielson, CMP, event manager with AARP and member of the MPI Potomac Chapter for Young Professional Achievement.
  • Jenny Dao, business development manager with Discover Saskatoon and volunteer with the MPI Ottawa chapter for Member of the Year. She helped her chapter advance truth and reconciliation processes by embedding indigenous rotocols into event design.
  • Steven Foster, CMP, managing partner of Foster+Fathom, a team-giving group for Meeting Industry Leadership. He served as president of the MPI Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter and supported the creation of a $7,000 endowment to inaugurate the Travel, Exhibition and Meeting Management Program at the community college level and was instrumental in launching an advocacy day that led to what is now Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID)
  • MPI Tennessee Chapter was recognized with the Innovative Educational Programming award for its “educate through entertainment” initiative.
  • MPI Wisconsin Chapter was recognized with the Marketplace Excellence award for its Strategic Partner Program that has resulted in the financial success to help other chapters in need.
  • MPI Indiana Chapter was recognized with the Industry Advocate award for the collaborative effort to produce March Meeting Mania to raise GMID engagement and awareness.
  • MPI Pittsburgh Chapter was recognized with the Membership Achievement award for its personalized outreach strategies aimed at fostering growth and retention in membership with a special effort to engage student members.

A new award was announced for 2025. the Industry Advocate Award will be replaced by the Social Impact Award to honor the chapter that innovates in the promotion of diversity, inclusivity and social impact.