• A look back at how we re-imagined innovation

    More than 300 meeting and event professionals joined us recently in Budapest, Hungary for the European Meetings & Events Conference, and the experience left me enchanted with the city and inspired by the delegates.

    A powerful opening general session with couches and yoga balls amidst chairs for delegates to watch dance, live music, dynamic speakers and experience facilitated networking - all coupled with keynote speaker Sahar Hashemi who explained the importance of being clueless and taking leaps - was riveting.  A lady sitting next to me shared that we'd just "blown away 17 years of General Sessions" in her estimation.  And as I know that my feeble attempts here to explain what we experienced can never replace sitting in the room and feeling your hair tingle in excitement you can experience via video the general session online at http://bit.ly/WatchEMEC12 .

    As well as the opening session set the tone for EMEC 2012, each element along the way seemed to just get better.  The sustainability measures put into place through the Novotel Congress Center and the planning team were noted on many occasion from recycling efforts (battery drop offs at the elevators, back of house sorting of all bins) to the locally sourced foods the delegates enjoyed during their meals and breaks. Not to mention the great work delegates were able to do with Budapest Underguide to help feed the homeless within the city.

    Oh and the breaks!  Talk about putting innovation into practice.  Advised by Danish celebrity nutritional expert and chef Christian Bitz on catering choices, the event team in collaboration with the Novotel built out three really unique "coffee breaks".  Themed around Vitality, Brainfood and Artisanal each break transformed the MPI Cafe while the delegates were attending concurrent sessions.  When the delegates adjourned they were greeted with unique displays of unique food and beverages in a variety of choices around each theme. In the case of the Artisanal break - delegates opened session doors and entered into a vintage Hungarian marketplace to explore.

    As these unique elements blended together through the conference I feel confident saying that the delegates were truly able to experience innovative ideas being re-imagined as they learned.  And it is that experiential learning that can catapult them into activating many of these concepts, ideas or practices.  That was certainly the goal with the closing session known as "The Solution Room".  Facilitated by Ruud W. Janssen  and Mike van der Vijver (who made an early appearance at the OGS- see above), the Solution Room was a hit with more than 175 participants. Designed as an attendee-led session where each individual walks away with an actionable plan to implement towards their goals after experiencing EMEC, the Solution Room is an exceptional example of why face-to-face meetings can never completely be replaced.  Ruud has done an exceptional job of crafting a video that depicts what we experienced in Budapest.

  • The Energy of EMEC 2012

    There comes a moment before a major event when you just get the tingles.  Everything starts clicking and it's as if your actually bringing something to life.  Let me tell you readers, members and MPI fans, this is what is in the air in Budapest right now.

    I just came from the opening general session rehearsals and a little coaching with some speakers.  I'm so excited.  Also, in a hour from now we will be greeting our keynote speaker Sahar Hashemi for a luncheon with the EMEC 2012 press corp. Thrilled.  There is much to blog about and much to learn here, but I fear I'll never capture it all for the blog.  I suppose that's why it's always best to be live and living the event.  But for those that could not make it and are connecting to us digitally here are my recommendations.

    1. Follow @MPI & #EMEC12 on twitter

    2. Be sure to watch our flickr stream http://flic.kr/s/aHsjx3j6Na

    These will give you insights into the users experience and some "behind the scenes peeks" from the staff coordinating the event.

    And last but certainly not least, you can find the outstanding programs for a limited time at http://bit.ly/WatchEMEC12.  Our members will be able to access all of the content free in our Professional Development on Demand Portal in the future.

    For now I must sign off and host an amazingly talented leader and some very inquisitive press.

    Búcsú !

  • Final Preparation for EMEC 2012


    Upon arriving in Budapest, Hungary for European Meetings & Events Conference this year I was greeted with FREE Wi-Fi.  Then I arrive at the Novotel Hotel and was greeted with FREE Wi-Fi, then stopped into the Congress Centre and was greeted by FREE Wi-Fi.  This digital gal is excited!

    Once I looked up from checking in on foursquare and updating my twitter status I was also greeted by the beauty of this great city.  The buildings rise high and and the streets are bustling.  The gorgeous bridge over the Danube River at night was lit up like a beautiful chandelier in the city.

    Of course it's also lovely to see our European team mates again and I enjoyed the walk through of the Budapest Congress Centre. There's something about the space that has a great feeling of anticipation. As I ran into two of our speakers and they both commented on the great "vibe" of the centre.  I think it will be great to see the delegate's responses to the location as well as the Meeting Design experiment lounge and ohhhh the Opening General Session.  For those reading this who cannot attend, watch the twitter hashtag #EMEC12 and our Flickr stream for EMEC12.

    Tomorrow I will update from the media tour hosted by Hungarian National Tourism, and then more each day from EMEC 2012.  While you're here, be sure to bookmark this site: http://bit.ly/WatchEMEC12 for recorded sessions from the conference.

    All by best from Budapest!

  • Delivering on a Promise


    When you promise to deliver on ‘innovation’ in a dynamic city like Budapest to seasoned meeting and event professionals, it’s imperative that you deliver. And that is exactly what EMEC will do a few short weeks from now.


    Delegates will spend quality time among their peers and learn from some of the most unique and visionary speakers from across Europe. They will also encounter a Meeting Design Area with demonstrations of meeting-room innovations and opportunities to participate in a meeting-design experiment focused on the impact of physical positions on groups of participants. Other meeting design elements of the conference include sessions such as “Designing Interaction for High Attendance Events.”


    Elevating the mobile experience, MPI offers EMEC 2012 applications, now available on iPhone, iPod Touch and BlackBerry smartphones that allow delegates to evaluate speakers and sessions immediately, access social networking sites, direct message other delegates and maintain a customized diary for the conference.


    All of these elements and experiences are designed so European event professionals can experience live what they are learning about in dynamic sessions such as “The Revolution Starts Where?” and “Make Virtual Presentations Inspiring & Engaging.”


    While dining at EMEC, delegates will taste cuisine that honours Hungarian classics, which have evolved with modern cooking techniques and pairings. Attendees will experience firsthand the expertise of FlashPoint speaker and Master Class expert Chef Christian Bitz, who consulted on the entire event’s menus. Bitz is a Danish top-model-turned-guru-chef, author, speaker and television personality who has a master’s of science in nutrition and is passionate about making meetings better by choosing food that stimulates the brain. With Bitz’s guidance, the host venue will create four unique coffee breaks where delegates can experience healthy and local food. The themes: Vitality, Brain Food, Back to Nature and Artisanal.


    During the opening reception at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, delegates will experience Molecular Mixology, the latest innovation in the catering world. The practice manipulates states of matter to create new flavours, textures and visuals that enhance the drink and make the experience stimulating.


    Registration is open, and inspiration is just around the corner for those who want to invest time in their careers and join hundreds of other leading professionals in Budapest, 29-31 January at EMEC. More information is available at www.mpiweb.org/EMEC.

  • Digesting the $16 muffin issue

    Reading JoAnne Allen’s report via Reuters on Wednesday, Sept. 21 about the US Department of Justice audit that “showed” an itemization for a meeting indicated the department paid $16 per item for 250 muffins created many reactions here at MPI headquarters and resoundingly throughout our membership. We have to be careful - one line item plucked from a bill on any event or meeting can be just as out of context as a line randomly pulled from a speech.  

    What we find sadly lacking in the discourse around this story are issues like – what were the return on the objectives and investments in these meetings, where is the strategic meetings (event portfolio) management for the Department of Justice, the significant value and cost savings of utilizing professional event planning services and agencies.

    We encourage our members, industry colleagues and friends in the hospitality and travel industry to speak out against knee-jerk, sweeping assumptions to the value of a meeting based on one line-item description.  Let’s have robust, informed discussions on how to take the skills and best practices that insure success in meetings and events, and give them the attention they need in the C-suites in the private and public sectors that will dissuade these assumptions in the future.

    Given the $263 billion and the 1.7 million jobs the meeting and event industry provides the United States economy we encourage our government and all businesses to continue to meet responsibly.


    Here is the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General Report.

    Additionally, here is an article by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones explaining the "Myth of the $16 Muffin".

    Note: MPI collaborates on endorsing the importance of meetings and their economic impact with U.S. Travel Association, ASAE, Convention Industry Council, American Hotel & Lodging Association, and Destination Marketing Association International and other industry partners and other associations. 

  • A PURE-ly Vegas Industry Party

    As an industry professional, few of us would be described as wallflowers. We’re the connectors, moving through cultures and countries, connecting people for education, incentives, business and more. So it’s no surprise that the upcoming MPI Foundation Presents PURE Rendezvous party is going to be, as they say, legendary.

    MPI Foundation and IMEX America are planning a soiree fit for the lush and luxurious host city of Las Vegas and the exclusivity of the venue, PURE Nightclub. Not sure if you know this but PURE, it’s kinda a big deal. A veritable who’s who of entertainers, athletes and famous-for-being-famous folks carouse at PURE, which was named the # 1 nightclub and hippest hotspot in the country” by E! Entertainment Television. And during on October 12, the who’s who could be you.

    After experiencing Rendezvous for the first time at WEC in Orlando, I know firsthand the high energy excitement that our industry professionals bring when great company meets the right time and the right place. The music was jumping, folks were catching up over drinks and no one wanted the night to end. So I can only imagine the event design and delivery of PURE Rendezvous.  PURE Rendezvous takes over the 36,000 square feet and four unique experiences, bringing powerhouse singer Suzie McNeil for live entertainment along with top shelf open bar, unparalleled views of the city and that certain vibe you only get in Vegas. Attendees will meet and mingle with the thousands of international professionals looking to make connections, including hundreds of hosted buyers.

    With these expected attendance numbers, PURE Rendezvous is one of the best investment planners and suppliers can make at IMEX America for a great time and the networking expected from MPI. Tickets are sure to sell out, so we advise you move quickly. Buy in bulk and get a great price break, plus you can bring your VIPs and make it a crowd. 

  • WEC Must-See: Kathleen Madigan at St. Louis Lunch

    If you’re following the twitter and facebook conversations, you know there is a lot of excitement building up for WEC 2011. Thinking ahead to 2012, St. Louis is building excitement for their turn as WEC host with a promotional lunch at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, July 26. St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission president Kathleen “Kitty” Ratcliffe will kick the lunch off with an overview of the Midwestern hospitality attendees can expect. If you’re not energized then, you will be when you see the main act: comic headliner and St. Louis native Kathleen Madigan!

    Not only is Kathleen an American Comedy best female stand-up winner, she is a regular with late-night giants Jay Leno and David Letterman and performed standup specials with HBO and Comedy Central. Her style is unpretentious, with a straight-forward delivery and wit that will have attendees on their feet. We’re excited to welcome Kathleen Madigan to WEC in Orlando, and hope to see all attendees there enjoying a laugh and finding out more about WEC 2012 in St. Louis, because when you register for WEC 2012 in Orlando, you receive $100 discount!

    The St. Louis Lunch requires a reservation, so update your registration now. If you have already completed registration, you are able to use the confirmation you received to add the St. Louis lunch. Then get a preview of what you can expect in Kathleen’s act from the below video. 

  • European Content, You're the Best

    We have 11 chapters and one club in Europe, which means that when reaching members in the EMEA region, membership and events teams have a number of learning objectives and cultural leanings to consider, especially with content. Liz Luna, Program Manager extraordinaire, has been tackling this head on by reaching out to the leaders of each chapter and asking for submissions for EMEC 2011 “Best of the Best.”

    What is Best of the Best, you may be asking? It’s collaboration, it’s crowdsourcing. It’s recognizing that our members are one of our best resources in creating valuable and relevant content at our live events. MPI members experience 80% of their membership on a chapter level; the leaders must be doing something right, especially as the membership numbers in Europe remain consistent in the face of uncertainty in some markets.

    We asked the European chapter leaders to send their most imaginative and innovative sessions from the past year.  The three most relevant submissions will be featured in the educational program for the hundreds of expected attendees at the Congress Centre Dusseldorf. And bringing it to EMEC means that an even larger and more influential audience will be able to use the expertise of the chapter-chosen speakers to bring business into focus, which is the goal of the conference.

    For the leadership teams at these chapters that work so hard to get speakers, this is their opportunity to peacock a bit, shake a tail feather, if you will. And proud is what they should be. European members, despite being hit the hardest by global economic downturn, foster a sense of community that goes across borders, with a dedicated volunteer leadership that includes current MPI board chairman, Eric Rozenberg from Belgium.

    Look for the winners to be announced in the next week, and let them inspire you to register early (and save €250) for EMEC 2011. 

    I leave you with theme music, courtesy of "The Karate Kid."

  • Beyond Inspiration. Into Action.

    So one of the cool things I get to do here at MPI is tell stories. I do my best to do so at the right time, to the right people in the right way.

    I work with a wickedly creative team and even though our laundry list of tasks might be daunting some days, we always perk up when it's time to write a new story.  But honestly? It can also be a challenge when you're writing an story about an event that happens every year for the same target audience. 

    I'll admit, I now have a small dent in my forhead from hitting the wall on how to best balance feedback from all areas of MPI on how to best tell the story of WEC 2011.  We're doing so many things differently, but you don't want to scare away people who love WEC, and you want to entice people who have not attended before, but you also want to intrigue, and you also want to inform, but you also want to speak real words - and not corporate gobbledygook.  Thankfully, this isn't just my story to tell, and that wickedly creative team I mentioned earlier? Yeah, they kicked in some creative juice. As we gear up and launch registration, I think we're set with a pretty solid story.

    And heck, it's just the foreward of greater things to come.  So without further ado, once upon a time and all that jazz...


    WEC 2011 - When we meet, we change the world.

    Exceptional performance is inspirational; whether in the entertainment or professional world. But complete confidence in knowing that you have the business intelligence to be exceptional is rare. A pro who really wants to succeed seeks out the skills to change that rarity into reality.

    What can really change your world? An event that not only inspires, but also empowers you to succeed; that coaches you and provides you with strong strategies and business connections. That event is priceless – because it’s actionable and empowers change.
    It’s time to turn inspiration into action, and MPI’s 2011 World Education Congress in Orlando will show you how. You will be empowered through knowledge and networking to create amazing events that deliver real business value—every time.

    Whether you learn on your own or by collaborating, have been in the industry for 20 years or for two, WEC is an immersion in the event industry. Customize your personal learning path while being surrounded by the industry’s greatest experts and success stories. Know that you will have the opportunity to take your career to a level that will surprise your peers, your boss and most importantly you.

    Join the best of the best in Orlando, where business is booming, strategy is the order of the day, and ideas for great events are everywhere. It’s time to go beyond inspiration and get into action- so you can perform and deliver events that are exceptional.


  • How does hosted buyer measure up?

    I promise this post won’t be riddled with official mumbo jumbo.

    ::insert  grin here::

    That being said I do want to talk with one of my MPI colleagues who manages our expanding hosted buyer program, and our efforts to make sure that it measures up to our member standards and to the expected ROI of participants.  And when it comes to hosted buyer the official party line here at MPI is:

    “MPI encourages members and industry professionals evaluating their 2011 live events opportunities, and whether to participate in hosted buyer programs, to take a strategic approach to what's best for their business and suits their needs now and in the future. “

    And we really do.  Business is picking up and budgets are tight.  At the same time we hope that all the hard work going into planning for our hosted buyer program with our World Education Congress (WEC) really pays off and we impress our members.

    I think I’ve lost count of the planning meetings, versions of package plans, room layouts, budget reviews and drafts of communications pieces, brochures and just general “stuff” you need to get a program like this off the ground.  But I think we all can feel that way some times. Right?

    Veleisa (Leisa) Patton on our team here at HQ in Dallas, recently sat down with Meaghan Ferrazza, events manager for the WEC Hosted Buyer Program.  Meaghan (pronounce mee-ann), explains what makes the MPI program unique in the industry and a leader in developing business strategies for our members.


    Leisa:  Most people know by now that the traditional WEC tradeshow is gone, and is being replaced in part by the Hosted Buyer Program. What are the advantages of the Hosted Buyer Program?
    Meaghan: Our Hosted Buyer Program has the specialized attention needed for those who focus on North American business and beyond.

    Leisa: And by specialized attention, what do you mean?
    Meaghan: I mean you get my undivided attention and all the support of the MPI events team.  In this program, buyers are pre-qualified to bring business from various markets directly to eager suppliers who are ready to discuss business. The Program also speaks to individual ROI.

    Leisa:  ROI is a popular buzz word nowadays.  How is this program delivering greater ROI than before?
    Meaghan: For suppliers, primarily because there is no longer a tradeshow tethered to the HB Program. So we’re delivering qualified planner/buyers who we know need your services without all the costs that go into designing, building and staffing a tradeshow booth.

    Leisa:  Okay, so what sets the MPI program apart from other association programs?
    Meaghan:  The main thing is that you don’t have the expense of a tradeshow in order to participate in our hosted buyer program.  That frees up supplier participants to invest in other networking areas of WEC to expand their presence and brand recognition.
    Now the difference for planners is that buyers are pre-qualified, and must bring at least two (2) pieces of business to discuss during their appointments. Pre-show communication allows both planners and suppliers to view profiles and create a schedule of appointments based on mutual business needs.

    Leisa:  So what if someone is hesitant about going the hosted buyer route? I’m talking about the skeptics. Are there other opportunities to meet qualified planners?
    Meaghan:  When a participant looks at their overall WEC experience, they should see that participating in any of the 12 other networking opportunities being hosted by MPI, the MPI Foundation or event sponsors allows them to meet talented professionals.  The Hosted Buyer program goes the extra step by creating a space in which one-on-one conversations happen that lead to real business with someone you know is already matched to your business objectives.


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