The WEC is typically held in the summer, however, due to the impact of COVID, it was converted to a hybrid event and postponed to November 3-6. There were approximately 600 live attendees and 1,100 joining via various forms of technology. WEC was held in Minneapolis in 2014 and hosting this event raised Minneapolis’ profile as a top meetings and event destination.
It wasn’t an easy decision for MPI to conduct its flagship event in a hybrid fashion. There are still legitimate concerns about all aspects of the travel journey and attending live events. However, as one of the premier organizations committed to the success of the live meetings and events industry, MPI took the bold step of producing an event with a live component.
The strong complement of sponsors of the WEC underscored the industry’s desire to support the resumption of in-person meetings and events. WEC sponsors included meeting technology and services firms, destinations and hotel companies.
And it wasn’t enough to simply conduct a hybrid meeting. MPI provided quality educational content that included programming in the areas of:
- Pandemic-era meeting readiness including the rollout of a Pandemic Meeting & Event Certificate
- Self-care in times of increased pressure in personal and professional lives
- New COVID-impacted contractual obligations
- Diversity, equity and inclusion as a way of life
While I was fortunate enough to represent Meet Minneapolis in person at WEC, we also had two of our sales team members participate virtually with direct client appointments. Savannah Fargen and Sue Murray were able to generate leads for future meetings business through these virtual client meetings. Both Sue and Savannah agree with other supplier partners that face-to-face encounters with clients cannot be replaced.
Connect Meetings is a division of Tarsus, a global company with a portfolio of events, publications and digital media assets. Several other Meet Minneapolis team members have personally attended niche hybrid events produced by Connect Meetings in recent weeks that have also yielded promising results. They made similar observations about the limitations of virtual client encounters in a tradeshow setting.
To support reuniting the industry for recovery at the local level, Meet Minneapolis conducted its most recent Downtown Minneapolis Hotel General Manager/Director of Sales (GM/DOS) Meeting in a hybrid format. This gathering had typically taken place in person prior to the start of the pandemic but went totally virtual in March. The Minneapolis Convention Center was the site for the in-person GM/DOS gathering of approximately 60 leaders from our lodging community.
As the organization being held accountable for leading the local hospitality/travel industry efforts to restart live meetings, it was important for Meet Minneapolis to demonstrate leadership in this area. The meeting and event planners we regularly interact with are looking for visual evidence of a destination’s readiness to resume hosting events. We will continue to take steps in that direction.
Current MPI chair Steve O’Malley of Maritz spoke during WEC and summed up the driving sentiment of why MPI chose to have a live component of WEC when he said, “Let’s get this industry back to work.”
Meet Minneapolis joins with its many industry partners to mobilize and reunite for recovery.