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Marcum (left) with her daughter Ella

“We Take Chances So You Don’t Have To”

In 2020, when Meeting Professionals International needed to help the industry learn how to pivot, the planning spotlight fell on Changemaker Lori Pugh Marcum, CMP, CMM, CED, HMCC.

MeetingsNet’s 2021 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2021 Changemakers list here.

Lori Pugh Marcum, MEM,

Director of Events, Path to Purchase Institute, IQ Ensemble

For quickly developing virtual and hybrid events that educated fellow planners and showcased pandemic-era events for the entire meetings marketplace

In March 2020, Lori Pugh Marcum was thrown into scramble mode just like every other meeting and event planner, except for one thing: As lead planner for Meeting Professionals International at that time, Marcum knew the events she would transform into virtual and hybrid experiences were going to be closely watched and judged by the entire meetings industry. No pressure there, right?

First up was a complete rebuild of the agenda for the April 2020 Global Meetings Industry Day as a 12-hour virtual event—in just five weeks. Marcum then served as co-moderator for that digital broadcast of Covid-related presentations and panel discussions which, in essence, kicked off the worldwide effort to adapt meetings and events so they could continue during the pandemic. 

“Getting that done was a mad dash, to be honest,” she recalls. “That’s a lot of content for one day and we had our friends from Europe and Japan participating too, which meant a lot of different time zones. I sourced all the content scripts, but on the day of the event I had my colleague Jesse States anchoring the program with me. We did that remotely from our homes while the rest of the team monitored the Q&A and chat forums from their homes.”

More than 10,000 industry members tuned in live for the event, with thousands  more watching on demand in the weeks after. “It was free for everyone, and more than half our viewers were non-members. I think many of them came to realize there’s a huge community of meeting professionals out there who can lean on each other when they need to.”

Marcum then created MPI’s Coronavirus Dialogue Series, which featured 35 educational webinars that drew more than 15,000 viewers over several months. “It was when a lot of people first got furloughed or laid off or were simply stuck in their home offices,” she says. “We wanted to show what was going on in the industry at that moment and share whatever information was out there.” The webinars covered everything from force-majeure clauses and other contracting issues, to how to choose a virtual platform, to how to put on different types of digital events, to leading your team virtually as they work from home. “There was even some mental self-care and mindfulness lessons, too,” she notes.

Later in 2020, Marcum oversaw the educational strategy for the inaugural hybrid version of MPI’s World Education Congress, with a theme of Reunite for Recovery. “The motto that’s used at MPI is, ‘We take chances so that you don’t have to.’ In this instance, planners could participate in WEC to see how we do the in-person and digital components of a hybrid event, and then they could decide how they wanted to do it for their own events.” 

Managing Change

“With all the hours I put in, what really kept me going were the messages I was getting from other planners about how helpful it was to them and thanking us for the education. Among my team, it was about communicating the ‘why’ behind what we were doing. The team was happy to put in the work when they knew it was making a difference, and the survey results and comments would come in and really rally us.”

Spare Time

“I love antiquing and thrift-store shopping, and spending time with my daughter, my husband, and my two crazy dogs.”

View the full list of 2021 Changemakers

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