Meeting Professionals International’s Global Meetings Industry Day 2020 virtual event showed off some of the best parts of the meetings community during the most trying of times, with contributions from attendees in addition to an impressive lineup of experts.
The 12-hour educational event provided sessions and video contributions from MPI chapters around the world. Not all the education came from sessions offering clock hours or certification; many of the comments from attendees in the chat function of Digitell’s virtual meeting platform were informative, including a spirited debate over paper versus digital materials, and suggestions on conference badges made with seeds that could be planted after an event. Although the 12-hour event suffered from the occasional pause while videos were cued up or before session speakers were introduced, the attentively moderated chat function made the experience feel personal as questions were immediately addressed or conveyed to the speaker, and contributions from chapters and experts around the world provided a great sense of community to professionals under lockdown. A session on transitioning events to virtual and engaging an audience online from MPI Caribe-Mexicano chapter hosted by Flor Lopez de Jauregui, VP of marketing and communications at Encore Caribe & Latam, illustrated the best approach perfectly: short, with luscious visuals and a lighthearted approach that made the major points more memorable. No “Frankendecks” for your slide shows, if you please.
Although the event took place in English, translation services by Worldwide Tech Connections made it accessible to all and demonstrated the ease with which virtual events can be made welcoming to everyone.
A Q&A with MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer revealed that one emphasis for the upcoming World Education Congress still planned for June 6-9 at the Gaylord Texas Resort and Convention Center will be on mental and emotional wellness, not just physical wellbeing. When asked if he could look into a crystal ball and say when meetings will take off again, he said that the pent-up desire to meet will mean “local” events will start again by late spring or early summer. He believed that larger, global events will take longer, but added, “Hopefully we’ll all be meeting at IMEX in Las Vegas in September.” Van Deventer’s business advice to meeting organizations was to stay in touch with their communities, be more active on social media or podcasts and find new ways to stay in touch.
Educational sessions were kept short, to accommodate digital attention spans, and included topics on marketing and legal questions, and designing a virtual event. “Could we design our own evolution?” asked Anthony Vade, CED, experience architect, at FMAV. “In moments of crisis, innovation is born,” he said. During his 35-minute session, Vade gave an overview of how the environment, engagement, and immersion of live events can translate to the virtual experience—though planners need to focus on creative experience design. “Focus on being human,” he said, “Don’t try to convert directly.” For example, he compared a live registration experience, where attendees are welcomed, have a sense of arrival, receive a badge, and get their questions answered, to a virtual experience, which should prioritizes ease of access, create a sense of arrival through a video or other welcome features, and include an FAQ; some platforms, he noted, even allow for surprise encounters with other attendees, using private video chat.
According to MPI, more than 10,000 meeting professionals attended the virtual event, and raised $6,888 for the MPI Foundation’s scholarship program.