Meeting Professionals International

How MPI is leading the industry through innovative hybrid event experiences


attendees across three hybrid conferences


leads generated at WEC San Francisco 2022


total Attendee Hub logins for WEC San Francisco 2022

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is the largest meeting and event industry association in the world. Over the last several years, MPI has remained committed to serving its community of over 90,000 industry professionals. MPI stayed at the forefront of the industry throughout the pandemic by continuously creating innovative hybrid event experiences for their attendees.

In late 2020, MPI was one of the first organizations to host a fully live hybrid event in the midst of the pandemic. They wanted to prove it was still possible to meet when a large number of events were being canceled throughout the industry. “It was extremely important for MPI to move forward and be bold in that commitment to show that you could meet and meet safely,” notes Melinda Burdette, Senior Director, Events. They wanted to bring attendees together physically but also needed to provide a means of attendance for those unable to join onsite. Ultimately, MPI hosted a hybrid World Education Congress (WEC) conference in Grapevine, Texas. The 100% live event included 28 total sessions for 1,700 total attendees with access to education, industry insights, networking, a Hosted Buyer Program, Digital Connections for business appointments, and a Thought Leaders Summit.

Creating safe spaces with Cvent’s Diagramming and Seating solution

To ensure a safe onsite experience for attendees at a time when social distancing mandates were still very much in effect, MPI relied on Cvent’s Diagramming and Seating solution to meet all health and safety requirements. They continued to rely on the solution to manage diagramming needs for their WEC Las Vegas conference in 2021 and WEC San Francisco in 2022. “I’m a huge fan and it’s a beautiful product,” says Melinda. During the pandemic, new functionality meant the MPI team could ensure floor plans met changing social distancing requirements, all without having to manually configure diagrams. The diagramming feature allows the MPI team to envision an accurate depiction of the space with furniture and other elements included. Importantly, collaborative capabilities within the tool let different users work on floor plans simultaneously, even when their offices were fully remote.

Whenever new or updated health and safety requirements were introduced, the MPI team was able to make quick adjustments without needing to start from scratch. The solution featured detailed illustrations and accurate diagrams, from the overall layout to furniture and even specific colors. For their 2020 conference, they were able to diagram ingress and egress pathways in education spaces and create color-coded zones for a controlled exit strategy. They were also able to run diagram checks to ensure layouts met all health and safety guidelines.

Melinda believes the advances in the tool during this time ultimately helped push the development of event technology forward in the industry. “The newest additions that happened in that platform, knowing the location settings for your event so you could trust that everything was six feet apart and abiding by those guidelines, I think was one of the most innovative opportunities that came about during the pandemic from an event planning standpoint,” she says. “I don’t know how we ever lived without the Diagramming and Seating solution before.”

An integrated Cvent solution suite to support hybrid event success

MPI also utilized Cvent’s Registration, OnArrival, and Mobile Event App solutions to manage their hybrid events. The registration tool ensures all virtual and in-person attendee data is automatically synced in the backend for data accuracy. “We always start with Registration, and it’s really great working with Cvent to find the right solutions given the complexities of our event,” notes Drew Holmgreen, Chief Brand Officer. Having used the tool for several years, he appreciates the flexibility and consistency the platform provides their in-house development team.

The mobile app offered onsite attendees a means of managing their required health and safety checks. They could also use the app to engage with content, speakers, and each other throughout the event. Melinda notes, “With the mobile app, it goes back to metrics and how we communicate with everyone. We got a 90% app download rate and it doesn’t surprise me because it really is the go-to for the entire event.” The MPI team could also provide critical communications to attendees via push notifications, which they used as daily reminders to complete required health checks in the app.

The one-stop-shop housed all needed information for attendees across the conference. Melinda explains, “Everyone knows that the app is going to have everything they need.” Drew agrees, adding that the app is used across several MPI events to drive engagement. “We get extraordinary engagement levels with the app,” he insists. “We use the app to make sure that we were enforcing our duty of care, as well, when the pandemic was at its height.”

Automating efficiencies for WEC Las Vegas

As MPI’s hybrid events evolved year after year, they applied learnings from each previous event to enhance the attendee experience. For WEC Las Vegas in 2021, they up-leveled both the virtual and in-person experience. The changing attendee mix was important in terms of developing their programming strategy. Melinda explains, “We had about 1,200 attendees digitally and the remaining in-person in Grapevine, and then in Vegas it almost the exact opposite, with 1,200 in-person and about 600 online.” The Las Vegas event included a mix of general sessions, concurrent education sessions, industry insights, networking, hosted buyer appointments, a Presidents Dinner, and more.

Here, they once again relied on the Cvent Registration solution to ensure a seamless dataflow between all platforms. “We obviously use Registration to gather all the information you need to have a successful program,” notes Melinda. Ensuring ease of registration reduced friction for attendees and eliminated untold hours of manual labor for the MPI team. With all their registration data seamlessly flowing from the event website to the registration site, any changes in the backend were automatically updated. This meant the team didn’t have to waste valuable time updating attendee information, modifying registrations, or syncing attendee lists.

In fact, attendees could self-modify their registrations with ease. From a marketing perspective, Drew spearheaded new efforts to drive attendance particularly for the in-person experience. He shares, “We did an influencer campaign, implemented a geo marketing strategy, and tailored the messaging around those areas to drive in-person registrations in particular.” They also enhanced the virtual experience by capturing all session content for the digital audience, whether offered live or on-demand. They gave virtual attendees access to exclusive behind the scenes content and digital interviews, as well as created sponsored opportunities to drive additional engagement with sponsors and exhibitors.

The power of the integrated Cvent platform

Since vaccines were becoming widely available at this time, emphasis on duty of care for the in-person audience was paramount. MPI provided onsite physicians and testing, as well as utilized OnArrival 360 to ensure a contactless first touchpoint for attendees. They offered kiosk mode in OnArrival, meaning attendees were able to check themselves in for a more expedient process. They also pre-printed hundreds of badges using OnArrival and included them in pre-mailed kits along with lanyards, hand sanitizer, masks, and other safety items.

Melinda insists the process was seamless “because we had pure and true data coming out of the Cvent platform.” Cvent’s OnArrival 360 services team supported MPI from the initial badge design to managing the hardware shipment and onsite support coordination. They also configured all equipment, trained staff, were able to troubleshoot instantaneously, and managed equipment teardown post-event.

In addition, the MPI team decided to migrate their abstract process to Cvent’s Abstract Management solution. Here, people could submit session abstracts via a secure portal and the MPI team could review and score abstracts directly in the system. For their 2022 San Francisco event, they also used the Speaker Resource Center. This integrated tool allowed MPI to coordinate speaker activities within a single portal, automating speaker tasks with the ability to send key notifications directly from the system. Not only did this mean the team saved valuable time, but they maintained full visibility into all content and reporting.

Powering WEC San Francisco with the Cvent Attendee Hub and Mobile Event App

For their 2022 WEC San Francisco conference, MPI hosted nearly 2,000 registrants and 149 unique sponsors, with a heavy emphasis on the in-person experience. They adopted the Cvent Attendee Hub to bring their event into one cohesive platform, using both the desktop and native Mobile Event App, which is the mobile counterpart of the Attendee Hub.

In the Attendee Hub, all attendees could self-manage their schedule, use integrated engagement tools, and access exhibitor virtual booths. They also could view custom cards and pages, complete surveys, manage their appointments, and participate in networking. All sessions included session details and speaker information, as well as relevant documents and links. MPI also used push notifications in both the desktop and mobile app versions to communicate with their attendees across the event. Attendees could connect with one another through one-to-one messaging within the platform. Embedded Q&A and polling also helped drive engagement across sessions. Event and session-level surveys allowed for deeper insights into attendee sentiment, while quantifiable engagement metrics were available via on-demand reports more targeted follow up.

Event organizers also used the integrated Appointments tool to manage pre–scheduled meetings for both the in-person and virtual attendees. The Appointments tool allowed organizers to set, edit, or cancel appointments directly within the platform. Appointments could be synced with attendees’ personal calendars for full visibility. Importantly, custom questions helped organizers drive deeper conversations for more qualified leads. The MPI staff also had retained full access to the master calendar to ensure better staff alignment.

Virtual sponsors and exhibitors could easily reach more attendees by leveraging virtual booths that featured embedded videos and collateral. Here, attendees could join instant video chat to speak with booth staff face-to-face. Exhibitors could also drive inbound leads through contact forms and embedded social media links. Moreover, sponsored sessions gave exhibitors more visibility in front of attendees, with sessions being featured on the homepage of the Attendee Hub. Exhibitors were then able to access detailed reports via the Exhibitor Portal to track leads and measure engagement. 

In total, MPI saw 1,444 total app downloads and over 2,000 total logins into Attendee Hub. The digital platform offered key insights into attendee behavior, including session views and engagement across speakers, pages, and exhibitors. Over 570 attendees viewed a virtual booth and more than 370 viewed the exhibitor and sponsor lists. They also tracked 1,575 appointments across the event with an impressive 93% satisfaction rate.

Crafting in-person experiences that drive value and engagement

Onsite, MPI used OnArrival to guarantee a fully contactless check-in experience. Attendees could quickly check in and receive their badge in a matter of seconds, which helped eliminate lengthy queues. Once again, kiosk mode meant attendees could self-manage check-in if desired. The MPI team also received support from an onsite Cvent technician who helped manage setup and teardown, training, and day-of support for OnArrival software and hardware. In total, they saw 1,664 total check-ins, with an impressive attendance rate of nearly 88%.

 MPI could also easily track session attendance through session scanning. On-demand reports through OnArrival gave the team full visibility into onsite attendance in real-time. Attendees could be checked into sessions so MPI could not only capture attendance, but monitor capacity and even track attendance for continuing education credits. The data provided within OnArrival means MPI can now identify peak attendance windows and assess session popularity for data-driven decision making when planning the next year’s conference.

MPI also adopted Cvent’s LeadCapture solution for their exhibitors. Exhibitors could easily scan, qualify, and rate leads in real time, collecting key information for more accurate targeting. Using LeadCapture ensured exhibitors could qualify their leads for quicker, more efficient follow up. They were also able to export leads directly from the Exhibitor Portal in seconds, giving them a clearer picture of their ROI. In total, exhibitors generated 1,147 leads throughout the conference.

Scaling MPI’s hybrid events for the future

As Melinda and Drew start planning their next several events, they are excited about the possibilities afforded to them through the advances in hybrid events. For example, their WEC conference typically includes important fundraising initiatives directed towards benefiting the MPI Foundation, which gave back more than $1.3 million over the past two years, directly benefiting MPI members and the industry in general. In 2020, they garnered more than $62,000 in donations through various initiatives during WEC Grapevine. At WEC San Francisco, they surpassed their 2022 goal by 67%, raising more than $200,000 for the MPI Foundation by reaching both in-person and virtual audiences.

By using event technology, MPI is able to streamline internal processes and create innovative hybrid event experiences for their attendees. They can also measure the impact of those events through data housed in a single source of truth. This means they can continue to efficiently scale their program for the future through data-backed strategies. “We’re not slowing down and we’ve got a lot of events, webinars, and smaller meetings coming up throughout the year,” Melinda says. “It’s a busy time, and we’re looking forward to the data that we’ll be getting out of those engagements.” 

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