Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is turning heads in Indy with its completely overhauled annual World Education Congress (WEC) 2018.
The event officially kicked off June 2 with an opening night celebration at White River State Park, featuring multiple concert stages and a party showcasing the best of Indy’s culinary scene.
The following day, attendees were treated to the start of a brand-new WEC “experience,” promising to turn tradition on its head to give meeting professionals a first-hand way to experiment with new design concepts for events.
Highlights include pep rallies, innovative educational tracks offering intense live learning experiences, an open-air environment and the WEC Village concept, each bringing to life a different theme: Experiential Design, Innovation, Leadership and Social.
“The WEC Village concept will feed attendees’ minds, bodies and souls,” said Lori Pugh, lead manager, event programs and production for MPI. “Each village has a broad range of education, CSR activities, food and beverage, supplier tabletops and lounges.”
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The inspiration around the redesign was to make sure MPI was really “walking the talk” with its WEC 2018 theme of “Stop planning meetings, start designing experiences,” which was also the theme of WEC 2017, according to Pugh.
“We have been encouraging members to reimagine their events, and now we are doing the same thanks to member feedback and the #EventCanvas methodology,” she said.
A New Model for Measuring Event Success
To that end, MPI is also researching ways to better measure the success of the event itself, according to Jessie States, manager of professional development for MPI.
In addition to post-conference and session surveys, MPI will ask one participant in each session room to rate the session design and application with an observation form.
It is also inviting all participants to evaluate the redesign of #WEC2018 in real-time.
“Together with The Event Design Collective [#EventCanvas], we are recruiting experience detectives to help us uncover their experiences in real-time using an app called ExperienceFellow,” States said. “Here, participants will capture noteworthy photos, videos and notes and rate their experiences. It will help us evaluate the WEC experience, and our attendees will learn how to conduct their own ethnographic research.”
Meanwhile, Pugh said MPI is thrilled to have MIT conducting on-site research to explore effective learning practices and what effect mindset and physiological attributes might have on retaining information.
Innovating Education Through Better Design
Elements of the redesign span the entire program, from morning openers to education to CSR initiatives.
The general session space was designed to be the center court of all WEC activity, held in the form of pep rallies bookending each day with short and sweet, high-energy moments of excitement and enthusiasm, according to Pugh.
Different lengths of concurrent education sessions are another highlight, with 30-minute quick sessions to the 60- and 75-minute traditional one topic sessions. Ninety-minute, deep-dive sessions are available for more interactive and engaging experiences.
Educational programs are addressing virtual reality, event design, food and beverage trends, ethical challenges, safety and security, leadership and business growth.
Sessions and keynotes are touching on some of the hottest topics in the industry in innovative ways, from the #MeToo movement and diversity to risk management and human trafficking.
“We’re not afraid to have tough conversations,” States said. “And most importantly, that’s what we’re promoting—discussions around issues that matter and solutions to our industry’s greatest challenges.”
States cited sessions such as “Woke Women: Finding Success in the Business of Meetings and a panel discussion titled IND in INDY: Independent and Third-Party Planners Summit.
Giving Back in Indianapolis
Meanwhile, innovative social and environmental impact elements have been woven throughout the experience, according to States.
“From the items we are collecting from attendees (children’s books for the Julian Center, conference supplies for Teachers’ Treasures and accessories for Dress for Success), to the food and decor, such as floral arrangements, we donate (Second Helpings and Random Acts of Flowers), we have been deliberate in the ways we can leave a positive footprint in Indianapolis,” States said. “We’re also hosting Cheeriodicals (gift boxes) and the Foundation for Hospital Art (murals), both of which will benefit patients in local care.”
MPI will be measuring the success of these and other initiatives and creating a case study to share its process.
Elevating the Attendee Experience
With the complete redesign of WEC, MPI hopes to further elevate the ways attendees engage, interact, learn and become inspired.
“We believe the fluid and open layout will encourage more networking, peer-to-peer learning and sharing of best practices,” Pugh said.
According to States, MPI wants its attendees to learn not only from the thought-provoking speakers, subject matter experts—and each other—but also from the formats used and the design of the experience itself.
“We’re experimenting so our members don’t have to, and so that they can learn by doing right here with us at the conference,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons we’ve torn down the walls and invited our participants into the process. Even our rehearsals aren’t behind closed doors this year.”
MPI WEC 2018 runs through Tuesday, June 5.
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