Four Lessons from MPI’s World Education Congress

When 2,500 meeting planners gathered at the MGM Grand in the entertainment capital of the world to learn and connect, it was inevitable that a party was going to break out. To be more accurate, a lot of parties took place up and down the Las Vegas Strip when Meeting Professionals International gathered there for its annual World Education Congress June 19-22.

The Rise Awards honored Ginny Fontain from the Carolinas Chapter as Member of the Year; Colleen Rickenbacher from the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter as Meeting Industry Leader; Natalie Beiro from the Potomac Chapter as young professional. Mike Dominguez, chief sales officer at MGM Resorts International, was given the Chair’s Award.

The Northern California Chapter was recognized for Marketplace Excellence and Educational Programming (also given to the Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter). Texas Hill Country Chapter was awarded for Industry Advocacy for its high profile celebration of Global Meetings Day. And at a special MPI President’s Dinner at Caesars Palace, IMEX Group founder Ray Bloom was given the Industry Leader Award.

In between all the clapping, there was a lot of learning going on in the sessions and behind the scenes as MPI leadership tried new things and made adjustments when a keynote speaker backed out at the last minute and temperatures soared to 117 degrees. Here are some of the lessons that can be learned from what ended up being a memorable conference experience.

1. Always be ready to jump in with a Plan B.

When Keynote Speaker Magic Johnson informed MPI that he would not be able to speak at the attendee lunch the next day, planners came together to determine what resources were available (it was Vegas after all) and brought in the hip-hop dance crew Jabberwockeez. The audience loved it and it was another opportunity to show off the amenities of the area.

2. Be transparent.

While a number of the presentations talked about the importance of being authentic with attendees, MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer modeled the behavior. After the opening night went long, he acknowledged it during the opening general session and said the group was taking risks, trying new things and learning from it. Even more transparent was an interactive discussion at the lunch where Johnson was scheduled to speak that used the change of plans as a case study everyone could learn from.

3. Have a safety plan.

The well-being of attendees is always the first concern for planners, but only 50% have written risk management plans according to MPI research. Van Deventer stresses the importance of considering what you would do in a wide range of possible scenarios from a medical emergency to a live shooter at an event. Included in that is what to do when temperatures reach record highs as it did during the group’s time in Las Vegas. The MPI team quickly engaged shuttles to take attendees down the block to the opening festivities and installed misters and fans at the outside venue, The Park, where it was still over 90 degrees at 9:30 at night.

4. Allow magic to happen.

The theme of the event was “stop planning meetings and start designing experiences”. That means putting the pieces in place to allow attendees to make choices that are appropriate for how they want to learn and interact. It means tapping into the knowledge in the room rather than talking to them from the stage the entire time. It requires breaking information into smaller chunks to keep attendees engaged. It means letting go sometimes and enjoying the experience.