Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
combined virtual and in-person attendees
engagement points across 46,500 minutes spent in mobile event app
raised for charity through hybrid event
As the largest meeting and event industry association in the world, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) understands the value of providing powerful in-person experiences for attendees. With a community of over 60,000 industry professionals and 70 different chapters and clubs around the globe, the industry-leading organisation has been at the forefront of the changing events landscape during the global health crisis.
Leading the Industry through Hybrid Events
After seeing the swift pivot to virtual across the industry during the global health crisis, MPI leadership knew they needed an innovative approach for their WEC Grapevine conference in late 2020. With the goal of leading the industry to return to safe in-person experiences, they decided to host a hybrid event in early November. “We knew we wanted to go hybrid because we needed to be able to connect with our constituents and be able to move forward,” says Melinda Burdette, Director of Events. “We were bold in our commitment to move forward with an in-person and a fully live, digital event.”
Safely executing the hybrid event meant crafting a strategic plan for both the digital and in-person experiences. “You’re planning two events, essentially, not just one,” explains Jessie States, Director of MPI Academy. MPI needed to track and measure data points across both audiences using a centralised platform. They used Cvent’s Event Management solution to ensure a seamless registration process, allowing attendees to choose the right experience for their comfort level and education needs. MPI knew the flexibility of the system could field changing attendee needs as the global situation evolved. For example, the registration system could easily manage cancellations or conversions to digital with unique price points and other mitigating factors. “We also implemented a risk-free registration opportunity because so many of our attendees were experiencing hardships due to the pandemic,” explains Melinda. MPI integrated the registration tool with the Freeman virtual platform to ensure a seamless data flow between systems. This gave their team on-demand reporting to help prove event ROI.
WEC Grapevine included 23 concurrent sessions and five general sessions attended by 1,739 total attendees. Of those, 1,131 attended digitally and the other 608 attended in-person. In addition to both general sessions and concurrent education sessions, the event included onsite food and beverage as well as offsite receptions and fundraisers. The programme also consisted of a Hosted Buyer Programme, live Digital Connections for business appointments, and a Thought Leaders Summit. Digital attendees accessed a special live broadcast while in-person sessions followed all designated safety protocols.
Ensuring Duty of Care for Attendees
The MPI team faced significant challenges in ensuring the safety of onsite attendees. “Certainly, the safety of our attendees, the vendors, and the staff at the hotel meant we all had to figure out the common denominator of how we were going to move forward to minimise the exposure you would typically see at a conference,” explains Melinda. They worked closely with the venue and their technology providers to ensure the proper duty of care for all attendees. Attendees had to agree to a personal accountability statement during the registration process in order to mitigate against risk. The same information was communicated diligently throughout the event lifecycle. “We put together an entire digital experience around duty of care for our attendees,” explains Drew Holmgreen, VP of Brand Engagement. “We created a web experience and video that reinforced and demonstrated acutely how we would be ensuring duty of care for onsite attendees.” Branded signage and other marketing materials helped underscore onsite best practices to ensure attendee safety throughout the event.
The MPI team worked closely with the Gaylord Texan throughout the planning process to create a detailed strategy for the in-person experience. “Having a fully transparent relationship with your venue is key, and we certainly had that with every member of the staff at the Gaylord Texan,” says Melinda. The venue worked closely with the MPI team to mitigate risk by providing ample hand sanitising stations, wiping stations, advanced cleaning protocols, temperature checks for hotel staff, contact tracing, and much more. Deep cleaning after sessions and each night helped create fully sanitised spaces. Following the CDC guidelines, MPI included additional protocols for such as a personal attestation from attendees that they were in good health. They also partnered with InHouse Physicians to create a full-service clinic. Branded signage with reminders to “Mask Up” were placed throughout the space, as were social distancing markers. Masks were required at all times unless actively eating or drinking, and all meals were “grab and go” or pre-plated with plexiglass barriers between staff and attendees.
Creating a Safe Onsite Experience with Social Tables and OnArrival
MPI used Cvent's Social Tables solution to manage seating and diagramming requirements in line with designated safety protocols. “We were able to use Social Tables to plan out the entire room set for this hybrid event,” says Melinda. They were able to collaboratively design all spaces to meet safety requirements, such as implementing 72-inch rounds with four at a table, rather than the usual eight. They also diagrammed ingress and egress pathways in education spaces and created colour-coded General Session zones for a controlled exit strategy. For hosted buyer appointments, the team created one-way lanes and used plexiglass barriers between suppliers and planners. Equally important, the added social distancing measures meant the MPI team needed to optimise the space as efficiently as possible. Real-time edits allowed the team to adjust as needed based on changing registration numbers and safety requirements. This eliminated the cumbersome back-and-forth with the hotel, creating a truly streamlined process. They were also able to run diagram checks to ensure layouts met all health and safety guidelines.
To create a risk-free first touchpoint for onsite attendees, MPI used Cvent’s OnArrival 360 solution to pre-print over 600 badges. These were mailed in advance in designated safety kits that included masks, sponsor gifts, and more. This created a controlled access point to enter the conference through fully contactless check-in. “We needed to avoid touchpoints for contact or queue lines,” explains Melinda. With the onsite tools, they could print new badges as needed and were able to track session attendance through contactless session scanning. This ensured staff and attendee safety while allowing the team to capture key data points.