The 7 Things I Learned at MPI’s World Education Congress

Taya Paige
Taya Paige

MPI World Congress Event

Earlier this month, Meeting Professionals International hosted the World Education Congress, the premier event for education, networking and business opportunities in the meeting and event community.

It’s an innovative and informational event—and, for meeting professionals looking to stay on top of trends, it’s a can’t-miss. I was inspired by the momentum and energy at WEC. There are so many creative and dedicated people in this industry, and seeing technology and talent in action had my head spinning with ideas for all of our clients.

There are seven key things that I learned from the WEC.

1. The Meetings Industry is Getting Recognized

Meetings Mean Business, an industry-wide coalition of event professionals, works to unite the industry around one voice “by rallying industry advocates, working with stakeholders, conducting original research, engaging with outside voices and more.” And, from the energy and excitement around the World Education Congress, they’re doing a great job.

According to a study by PwC, the meetings industry contributed more than $280 billion to the national economy and put another $88 billion back into the economy through federal, state and local taxes in 2012 alone. And that’s just the start.

The meetings industry is primed for incredible growth, and we’re just now seeing the beginning of years of hard work.

2. Executives are “Getting It”

Why is the industry taking off? Because executives (or others with decision-making powers in companies) are growing to understand the importance of powerful meetings.

The days of cajoling your boss to invest more into your event are waning. Today, more executives are understanding the importance of meetings, and more planners report directly to CEOs than ever before, giving them front-row access to the decision makers.

After all, a majority of executives say in-person meetings improve their ability to close deals, network, develop professionally and grow their bottom line.

3. SMMP is Not a Trend

Many people think that strategic meeting management programs are just a way to make the life of a meeting planner harder. Others think that it’s just a fad. To be blunt, those people are living with their head in the sand.

At the heart of SMMP is the ability to capture critical information: how much you’re spending, what you’re getting in return and more. If you’re a meeting planner and you don’t know how to answer the tough questions from your executives, you’re behind the eight ball.

The only way to know where your spend is going is SMMP, and that’s not going the way of bell-bottom jeans or leisure suits anytime soon.

4. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is Huge

Gone are the days of wasteful conferences. In conferences past, you saw tons of waste, but, as the world shifts toward a green-centric consciousness, meeting planners need to consider ways that their events can become more socially responsible. Food waste especially—it’s costly and downright wasteful to get rid of extra food.

For instance, consider a local charity to donate leftover food to, or find an organization to take and recycle leftover decorations.

It doesn’t just help the planet. There’s a triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. When you create green elements in your event, it’s better for the planet. Saving resources also means curbed costs, and your attendees like the fact that they’re contributing to a reduced footprint.

Need more convincing? Consider these stats from 2013 Cone Communications/Echo Global CSR Study:

  • 90% of global citizens say they would boycott a company if they learned of irresponsible behavior.
  • 93% of global consumers want to see the products and services they use support CSR.
  • 87% of consumers consider CSR when deciding what to buy or where to shop.
  • 85% consider CSR when recommending products or services to others.

5. Security is Crucial

Unfortunately, situational awareness and security are more important than ever. From an information security standpoint, smartphones make it simple to scan and share delicate information before you even know it’s a problem. To combat this, many meetings are putting a crackdown on information left in conference rooms.

More serious than information security is the looming threat of terrorism. As events in Orlando and Paris have reaffirmed, any kind of large, public event is a potential target, including yours. That’s why it’s crucial for your event to have a process and a plan, and to be very clear in communicating the process to meeting participants in advance.

6. Boring Space = Boring Meeting

Mark Cooper, Chief Executive Officer at IACC, had a great quote at the conference: “Life’s too short for a boring meeting space.”

Nothing could be truer. You could have the most important content, the best keynote speakers—even the best food—and your meeting could still fall flat if it’s in a boring space. (If you’re looking for a great space, we recommend these incredible venues.)

Flexible, open meeting spaces are all the rage at the moment, as is a “theater in the round” approach to meeting rooms, where the presenter is in the center with an audience all around them. This sets the tone for a more collaborative and interactive session. And, when people enter the room, they know that a unique experience is in store for them.

7. Tech Is Changing the Role of the Meeting Planner

Technology has a deep impact on all aspects of your event. But, for meeting planners themselves, technology can seem a little daunting. They need to juggle a lot of paperwork, and a missing document could be catastrophic.

It’s a cliché that event planners carry around a massive binder to keep themselves organized. But that will soon change—key documents can easily be centralized and attached to the cloud, making them easily accessible from a tablet computer rather than lugging around a 40-pound stack of paper.

In fact, I spoke with several event planners who used to be binder devotees, but have since transferred to tablets. They love it, and their SMMP events have seen the benefit of a unified spot to manage documents.

If you’re ready to drive successful meetings with unified purpose, investment and results, learn how to bring meeting strategy into focus with our SMMP white paper.

Taya Paige

Taya Paige

Taya Paige brings over 25 years of hospitality industry experience to ITA Group, including leadership positions in sales, marketing and operations in destination management, meetings and incentives and as an entrepreneur. She is known for her impact and roots within the pharmaceutical/healthcare meetings industry, and is a contributing author of the CMP-HC certification, which represents current and best practices in the industry. She has also been appointed to MPI’s new Medical Meeting Professionals Advisory Council. Her vision of success fuses with ITA Group’s vast experience in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, and offers incredible new insights from decades in the field.