MPI WEC 2024 takeaways

Takeaways from MPI WEC 2024 in Louisville

Crafting experiences — it’s essential to one of the emerging trends in the meetings industry: personalization. Planners want customized offerings for their attendees, and destination organizations need to show them how they can provide them. But crafting experiences goes way beyond that. How is your destination organization crafting marketing and selling points to showcase how you meet other planner needs? How are you crafting your experience with artificial intelligence (AI)?

“Craft Your Experience” was the theme of this year’s Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress (WEC), the association’s signature event. The May 20-22, 2024, event at the Kentucky International Convention Center had an attendance of nearly 1,900, including 700 meeting planners, making it the largest since WEC 2019 in Toronto and an increase of 33% from WEC 2023 in the Mexican Caribbean, according to Smart Meetings

MPI WEC is a great opportunity for destination organization sales team members to network with their meeting prof clients, and it’s a great opportunity for Digital Edge to get a big take-home bag of the latest industry insights. 

Here are our biggest takeaways for you from MPI WEC 2024.

mya surrency and jaimie hart standing by a human size logo of MPI

AI for Travel & Tourism Leadership and More

Of course, AI continues to take focus at industry events, from the 2023 Connect eTourism Summit (eTS) to PCMA Convening Leaders (CL) 2024. Not only can it help sales & marketing teams (more on this in a second), but travel & tourism leaders can take advantage of it, too. At MPI WEC’s CEO Summit session, HIVE Interactive CEO Mitch Mitchem described generative AI programs, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, as a leader in your pocket. Ask it for help. AI will humble and challenge your assumptions as a leader. It can also save you time by writing scripts from past transcripts for upcoming presentations or webinars. Take the transcript from your past presentation (AI can also transcribe it if you don’t have the full transcript and even translate it into different languages!) and ask the AI bot to isolate all the reasons the presentation works and then build a training module or new presentation from the content. 

Yes, everyone at your travel & tourism organization can take advantage of AI. Before the sales team heads to a trade show, take a video of your booth, upload it to AI and ask it to evaluate the booth and give feedback on how to make it better and ways to enhance it. Also, at shows, sales team members can take pictures of business cards and have AI format them into a table. 
Meeting planners are also using AI, so it’s important for travel & tourism teams to see what AI is suggesting when event profs are using it for destination research to gather information and build itineraries. What is AI missing that you know as a local and a destination insider? The marketing team can identify the gaps to build up authoritative content marketing on your destination organization’s website, and the sales team can use these gaps to showcase their value and the importance of human touch when working with planners.

Medical Meetings

The AI discussions at MPI WEC didn’t stop there. Tech and AI tools were also a hot topic at the Everything, Everywhere, All at Once for Medical Meetings session. The panel of speakers, including Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) PHL Life Sciences Executive Director Bonnie Grant, advised using AI to help write letters and other correspondence to save time, as well as for reviewing survey data. 

Beyond AI, medical meeting planners need adaptability for their programs and timelines — nothing is the usual. 

In addition, planners like to see that your destination organization’s sales team members with a dedicated focus on the medical market have their Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate (HMCC) from MPI. The panel says this shows your sales team is committing to helping medical meeting planners and their understanding. Philadelphia’s CVB has a salesperson who also sponsors a medical planner certificate to assist with compliance, showing how the CVB is a true extension of the planner’s team. 

Another growing trend in the meetings industry, wellness, is especially important for the medical segment. Meeting attendees are suffering from stress and burnout and need work-life balance. Philadelphia’s CVB sees a lot of requests for mental health and wellness, so it would be beneficial for your destination organization to create a database and list of resources for these topics if you don’t already have them. This will also allow your sales team to share wellness activity suggestions easily. The CVB is also seeing a need for programs around stress on spouses. Make sure your sales team points out how planners can incorporate spaces for walking groups and breaks into their meeting agendas.

Destination Safety & Security 

At Digital Edge, we continue to hear from planners that safety and security are priorities in the destination selection process, so you don’t want to shy away from it! How should your destination organization address safety and security? At the MPI WEC Risk Management… for EVERY Program session, Travel and Meeting Risk Skills Trainer Kevin Coffey, a retired Los Angeles Police Department detective, provided advice for destinations, including finding a liaison with your local law enforcement agency with whom a dedicated member of the sales team can work with for all group needs. Your destination organization can also promote how fast emergency services can reach your meeting venues. This is a good tip for larger destinations, but small ones with longer response times should not use it as a major selling point. Another suggestion is to take MPI’s Emergency Preparedness for Events certificate program. Scholarships are available, and the sales team can promote this certification.

What Planners Want You to Know

MPI WEC’s Hey Suppliers, Come Ask a Planner! interactive session answered questions that your destination organization needs to know. Has your sales team ever wondered why meeting planners don’t bring requests for proposals (RFPs) to appointment-based shows and hosted buyer events? Often, they’re just attending for fact-finding and learning about a destination, and the timing of the shows doesn’t always align with the RFP needs. Continue to create a personal touch following the show by emailing the planners to ask for more information. Another helpful tidbit for appointment shows: Schedule one to two appointments with people you already know. This gives you time to decompress. 

Another topic discussed was the importance of sponsorship opportunities and branding for associations. This is where their money is made. It’s big for corporate events. Your destination organization should share branding opportunities and new, innovative ideas with planners, who may be tapped out on creativity. 

Convention centers also get a bad rep for not being flexible and making planners pay meeting room rental fees. How can your destination organization combat this? You can provide support to cover these rental fees.

Supplier Diversity

How can organizations more effectively look at metrics that matter for supplier diversity programs? This was discussed during the MPI WEC session 8 Best Practices for Developing a Supplier Diversity Initiative. A proactive business strategy intentionally procures, fosters, influences and invests in collaborative opportunities with companies led by underrepresented business owners that provide goods and services necessary for internal operation and external client offerings with the intent of achieving a diverse supply chain and inclusive strategy. 

Some practices that your destination can follow include looking at how much time you’ve spent with these businesses and how often for supplier diversity metrics and reporting, creating supplier diversity pre-qualification programs and onboarding toolkits, and thinking about sponsoring local minority-owned businesses to attend industry events — not just bringing them in for activations.
For inspiration, take a look at ATL Airport District’s and Los Angeles’ supplier diversity programs that connect planners with minority, LGBTQ+ and women-owned businesses for impactful, socially-inclusive events.

Utilize our insights for your travel & tourism organization’s B2B marketing — from the latest industry trends to our knowledge of established networks within the meetings & events community.

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