So much to like about my first MPI WEC that it's hard to know where to start, but here are a few of my favorite things, in no particular order:
Puppies! I loved the puppy cuddling CSR station, where the good folks from Pacific Assistance Dog Society brought in little--and mostly grown--bundles of sweet puppyness for us to play and snuggle with (thank you, St. Louis, for making it possible). Like Hawk here, who took a quick snooze between snuggles.
They say we were helping to socialize the puppies, but really, I think the puppies were doing a lot more for us than we were for them.
Meeting Eli Gorin! And Mitchell Beer! and Samuel Smith! Of course, it was wonderful to reconnect with a lot of old friends, but actually getting to meet some amazing people I've only known virtually (in some cases, probably "stalked through cyberspace" might be more accurate) was phenomenal. There are a few more that, while I didn't actually get to meet them, I did get to sit in on their sessions so I know now that they are, in fact, just as cool in person as they are online (like AVGirl Midori Connolly).
Vancouver! I'm not, generally speaking, a city person, but I could see myself living here. I won't wax all poetic about it again, but the mix of sea and mountains, urban and green, friendly and professional, great food and even greater food, is pretty compelling. I mean really, how often do you see a cruise ship tied up next to a convention center?
I ended up taking the Skytrain to get back to the Vancouver Airport, and it was gorgeous, spotless, fast, and only cost $3.50. I would definitely recommend it for conference attendees.
Keynoters! John Furlong, CEO of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee, made me cry a little as he talked about the challenges and joys involved in making the Olympic and Paralympic Games happen (and he's forgiven for gloating just a bit about Canada's hockey team victories); futurist/consultant Emmanuel Gobillot, who had a tough act to follow (Furlong) and did a fantastic job of outlining how meetings are essential for changing the world; and Jeremy Gutsche, innovation expert, author, and founder of TrendHunter.com, was funny, insightful, energetic (and very cute). Videos of some of these guys are available on MPI's Web site.
Flashpoint speakers! I only caught two of the 10 (environmental activist/actor Ed Begley Jr., and
executive coach/author Libby Gill), but I loved the format of having 10 speakers with only 15 minutes each to rock your world (and, I presume, get your business). They need to work on the formatting a bit, though, if they plan to do this again. The room was too big and spread out, and having them squished on small stages to either side was kind of awkward. MPI is going to release videos of the Flashpoint speakers throughout the remainder of the year, so keep an eye peeled for those.
The Twitterings! Participants seemed to get into tweeting about the sessions, which was really useful. I hadn't planned on going to Seth Mattison's session on working with Millennials (I've been to too many of those in the past few years), but after seeing a bunch of rave reviews on the Twitterstream, I went to his last session. Even though I had to sit on the floor -- it was SRO -- this old dog learned a few new tricks, and found reason in the person of Mattison to hold high hopes for the future. What a sharp guy.
The Future of Meetings sessions! I wasn't able to attend the Future of Meetings co-creation session on Saturday (Samuel Smith's excellent wrapup is here), I did get to participate in the two-part session led on Sunday by Joan Eisenstodt, and by John Nawn on Monday. I'll do a writeup of these sessions at some point, but they were very thought-provoking, to say the least.
The parties! OK, so I only went to the opening reception and a few private social events, but I hear the Big Deal poker event on Saturday night was a hit, as was the Rendezvous party and the closing block party on Granville St. I think it must have been the jet lag that kept me from doing the stay-out-all-night-and-rock thing.
Then of course, there are my least favorite things:
While the Water Coolers were absolutely hilarious (especially their takeoff on flying economy, and the unforgettable "office hottie" number), their relentless pumping of Harrah's Las Vegas was pretty off-putting. As one MPI staffer said when I mentioned it, Harrah's paid for it and so they can do whatever they want, but I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in wishing they hadn't customized the act so much that it became a de facto PR pitch. Or at least that the PR parts were as funny as their regular numbers.
The lack of a printed on-site program. I know, I know, it's all the rage in green circles not to print things out, and I was encouraged to see that MPI provided little fold-out daily schedules you could tote around easily. Unfortunately, I found them a little confusing, expo times were hard to find, and you had to go to the Web site to get session descriptions. I did print out a bunch of stuff to bring with me, but the staples would come undone and I lost pages, yada yada yada. The whole thing was pretty awkward, I thought, and I ended up missing some things I wanted to check out. Like the conference bags, I'd make an on-site full program an option for those who want it.
The session rooms sometimes didn't fit either the size of the crowd -- I sat on the floor a lot at this meeting! -- or weren't set up to facilitate the type of education that was going to be going on in them (try doing small-group interactions when you're sitting in locked-down rows of chairs). And while I know it's better to keep the temperature on the cooler side, it got a bit arctic at times.
Trade show as bowling alley. I think we can blame the fabulous weather and the siren call of Vancouver for this one, but the trade show floor was pretty much a ghost town the times I walked through it. But I didn't hear much grumbling from exhibitors I spoke with, so maybe it wasn't as sparse as it seemed to me? Or maybe they were getting enough client contact outside the trade show?
(Disclosure: I received comp registration to the MPI WEC)