San Francisco was the scene of Meeting Professionals Internationals’ 2022 World Education Congress, held from June 21 to 23. This year’s attendance topped 2,000 attendees, with approximately 1,700 in person and 300 virtual. That’s about 11 percent higher than attendance for the 2021 WEC held at Caesars Forum in Las Vegas, which drew 1,812 total attendees: 1,238 in person and 574 virtual. WEC had a little more than 2,500 in-person attendees at the 2019 edition in Toronto.
During a press conference on June 22, Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI, said that as the Covid pandemic fades and in-person meetings and events ramp up quickly, one of the most pressing topics he’d heard from attendees was staffing. And not just their difficulty in filling positions on internal planning teams, but also their difficulty in ensuring there will be sufficient personnel to serve their events at hotels, convention centers, and elsewhere.
“We’ve spent the last 20 to 30 years trying to demonstrate the value of in-person meetings,” Van Deventer said. “Well, the pandemic did that for us,” noting that business executives’ recognition of the importance of bringing people together was heightened by their inability to do so. The resulting imbalance between demand and the supply of labor is especially stressful to planners right now, he added.
To enhance the value of attendees’ experience, MPI implemented two notable changes to WEC’s format. First, the event agenda was shortened by a full day, with two and half days of educational sessions this year rather than three and a half. And second, many sessions were formatted to allow more interaction with the presenter and with fellow attendees rather than being primarily presenter-driven. In fact, all sessions were listed in the event’s app according to the amount of interaction and networking each would deliver, to better meet attendees’ preferences.
One other change to the event from last year was in its masking policies for Covid-19. In 2021 at Caesars Forum, masking was optional for vaccinated attendees and mandatory for unvaccinated attendees, though enforcement was left to attendees themselves. No proof of vaccination was required, and very few attendees wore masks. Security staff at Caesars Forum conducted temperature checks at the building’s entrance each morning.
This year, the association relaxed its requirements further: Unvaccinated attendees did not need to wear masks. Here is the Covid-related wording that appears on the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the WEC 2022 website:
“Duty of Care: While Covid-19 will remain with us for the foreseeable future, we are now better positioned to live with the virus in ways that it does not have to upend our lives. Vaccines and treatments aimed at preventing severe illness in people at higher risk and testing are widely available. We will be guided by the data and science on the public-health decisions we make moving forward.
“We aim to implement the less restrictive Covid-19 measures within our local context that keep our communities safe and preserve lives, and continue to prioritize our Covid-19 resources, including vaccinations, testing, and masks, to highly impacted communities.
“Following the city and state recommendations and starting on April 1, MPI [does] not require proof of Covid-19 vaccination or a negative test to enter Moscone West.”
MPI’s World Education Congress will come to St. Louis in 2023, Louisville in 2024, and San Antonio in 2025.