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#WEC17 – Stop Planning Meetings, Start Designing Experiences

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Monday kicked off with the Opening General Session, featuring four keynote speakers, and a sneak peak at the endless talent that we were about to experience over the next four action-packed days (including a teaser of the awe-inspiring comedy and musical flair of the Blue Man Group, and the hilarious emceeing skills of Dena Blizzard, One Funny Mother).

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Ron Tite of The Tite Group, taught us about ways to create meaningful, compelling connections with your audiences, whether you are a planner marketing your event to your delegates, or a supplier marketing your products & services to your customers. Sarah Prevette of Future Design School, taught us how to turn our ideas into meaningful innovation, with empathy playing a key role in that process. Bruce Mau of Freeman Audio Visual & Massive Change Network, answered questions about the power of designing the world around us to invoke positive and meaningful change. And last but not least, Dr. Deepak Chopra of The Chopra Foundation, walked us through an interactive discovery of the positive effects of self-meditation and other natural ways to recharge your mental & physical health.

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As the keynote presentations came to an end, attendees filed out of the Park Theater at Monte Carlo for an evening of networking, live music, and delicious food stations: set outdoors throughout The Park next to New York New York Hotel. The B-52’s got the crowd moving to fan favourites like Love Shack and Rock Lobster, and although the time difference meant that it was well past most of our bedtimes by the time the event got started, you could feel everyone’s energy and excitement, knowing that we were surrounded by like-minded professionals who all share the same passion for the MPI mission: When we meet, we change the world!

The next three days were then packed with a mix of thought-provoking educational sessions, inspiring keynotes, and exciting networking events.

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What stood out most to me about the education was the fact that almost all of the sessions incorporated an interactive element. Topics ranged from event marketing, to team-building trends, and from risk management to experiential food & beverage. There were sessions designed for sales professionals, third party planners, medical meeting professionals, faculty, students, expert planners, and newcomers to the industry. There were fishbowl sessions, panel sessions, brainstorming sessions, and behind-the-scenes experiences. No matter what you wanted to learn about or how you wanted to learn, there was something available for everyone throughout the entire conference schedule.

Attendees were also impressed and inspired by the many keynote presentations and signature luncheons that were scheduled throughout the conference program.

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The RISE Awards luncheon took place on Tuesday, and this year’s RISE Award Recipients included: Natalie Beiro (MPI Potomac Chapter), recipient of the Young Professional Achievement Award; Colleen Rickenbacher, CMP, CSEP, CPC, CTA, CPECP (MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter), recipient of the Meetings Industry Leadership Award; and Ginny Fountain, CMP, CMM (MPI Carolinas Chapter), recipient of the Member of the Year Award. The RISE Award for Educational Programming was presented to both the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter and MPI Northern California Chapter; the RISE Award for Marketplace Excellence was also presented to the MPI Northern California Chapter; and the RISE Award for Industry Advocacy was presented to the MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter.

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One of the most popular sessions this year was Wednesday’s keynote: Michael Cerbelli‘s Hot List of today’s best acts and ideas for events. Some of the most innovative ideas included: LED Lights Light-Up Costuming; Body Painting by Trina Merry Studio; Attendee Lip-Syncing Battles and Talent Shows by SongDivision; Calligram Imaging Photo Booths; The Gastro Garage; Pancake Artists; The Chocolate Genius; LOLIWARE Edible Cups; KM Productions Video Spheres; and Black Light Visuals Body Marbling.

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Magic Johnson had been scheduled to speak at the All-Attendee Luncheon on Wednesday afternoon, however on Tuesday evening MPI received a notification stating that he had to back out due a last-minute scheduling conflict. Luckily MPI’s leadership put their creative thinking caps on and worked late into the night with their partners at MGM Resorts International to come up with an excellent substitute, and together they surprised us all with a private performance by the Jabbawockeez dance group.

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What’s more: after the show had ended, MPI invited anyone who was interested to stay behind for a panel discussion about overcoming challenges like this, and they shared their lessons learned from this real-life experience. One of the key lessons that came out of it all was definitely to have back-up plans in place, and to work closely with your partners throughout it all, since they can help you turn things around and help to maintain the value for your event attendees.

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On Thursday, the audience was entertained by the incredibly talented Josh Kaufman (sixth season winner of The Voice, and an Indianapolis local), as the Visit Indy got the crowd excited for #INDY18 at the WEC 2018 Preview Lunch and Closing General Session.

Then there were the networking events. Tuesday night featured The Big Deal: an ever-exciting annual poker tournament in support of the MPI Foundation, which took place this year at Caesars Palace. The evening was filled with fun & games, delicious food, and even a TV Celebrity (Jack Effel from the World Series of Poker) who was calling the shots throughout the poker tournament.

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Wednesday was the NHL Awards & NHL Expansion Draft at the sparkling new T-Mobile Arena, so a group of MPI Ottawa and MPI Toronto members got together to take advantage of the chance to experience this Canadian-bucket-list style of event, and went to cheer on their favourite players from the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Montréal Canadiens.

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After the NHL Awards let out (and the MPI Ottawa Chapter members enjoyed a photo-op with none other than Craig Anderson, who was awarded the Masterton Trophy earlier in the evening), our Canadian colleagues joined back up with the rest of the conference goers for a night of music, dancing and fun at the annual Rendezvous event. Everyone danced the night away at XS Nightclub, sharing smiles and memories to last a lifetime, as more funds were raised for the MPI Foundation.

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The Closing Night Celebration at Brooklyn Bowl took place on Thursday, and included a private concert by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; an 80’s Fashion Bar (where you could get your glam on with professional hair and makeup services); bowling with Elvis and the Pink Ladies; a super slow-motion photo booth; and a ride on the World’s Tallest Ferris Wheel to (literally) end the night, and the conference, on a high note.

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It was clear that the MPI planning team put a lot of thought and effort into creating a multi-dimensional conference experience for attendees. Their goal of transforming Planners into Producers and Suppliers into Partners was accomplished throughout every aspect of the event, and the stage was set for next year’s congress in innovative Indianapolis.

lydiablanchard Article Written By Lydia Blanchard, Fairmont Château Laurier

Article edited by Rozanne Lyons, CMP, Intertask Conferences

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