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 at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Conference Center. 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 Event Diagramming 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 Event Diagramming 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 Event Diagramming 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, held at Caesars Forum, 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.