Meeting Professionals International has pledged to try new things on your behalf, and the annual World Education Conference in Indianapolis this week embraced that mission. MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer put it this way: “We are taking chances members can take back to their practices.”
Instead of isolating sponsors to a trade-show floor that attendees may or may not visit, booths are sprinkled around themed villages—innovation, experiential, leadership, social—where presentations take place in glassed “huddles.”
The integrated, high-energy concept focused on inspiration the first day (ideation and activation follow the next two days). It offered a number of lessons for planners.
1. Make a Memorable Entrance
Attendees walked into the morning pep rally at Indiana Convention Center to a cheer line of greeters. Later, moderator Dena Blizzard and speaker Visit Indy CEO Leonard Hoops bounded in wearing auto racing suits, accompanied by a drum line. Instead of talking about how to create excitement and inspiration, they showed it with a poetry slam-style speaker delivering a message about the planner’s role as artist.
Modification: If you don’t have an army of people to make some noise, find a way to make people feel welcome and energized using lights, music and a personal greeting. In a perfect world, attendees will ever again walk into a boring, silent room, wondering if they are in the right place.
2. Put Safety First
Not everything is about break-dancers and fireworks. One of the first orders of business from the stage was making sure everyone knew where exits were located and how to use the safety button on the app. To address the larger issue of making everyone feel safe, day one ended with diversity developer Hayley Barnard. As she said, “Diversity is about commercial success.”
Modification: Review your agenda for unconscious bias in the form of panels that don’t showcase diverse points of view. Be the change.
3. Make It Unforgettable
Dustin Garis, “chief troublemaker” at LifeProfit, stressed the importance of jolting people out of their routines so they can “live aware.” He explained: “Most memorable companies aren’t just innovating on products. They are innovating in the human experience.”
Garis described life profit as the incremental value of a memorable experience. “Change your socks and change the world,” he said.
Modification: When you surprise and delight, you are heroes—because you literally save days of people’s lives from being forgotten. So, help people expect the unexpected.