MPI World Education Congress (WEC) 2020 is up and running at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center after navigating a perilous pandemic journey that saw its original dates in June postponed to November 3-6, along with a massive reconfiguring of its format and the implementation of strict sanitation and safety protocols for attendees and staff.

At publication time, MPI WEC 2020 had attracted 644 in-person attendees and 1,090 digital participants, with a planner/supplier mix of approximately 60/40 for both. MPI WEC typically attracts between 2,500 and 3,000 in-person attendees.

“This has been an emotional rollercoaster for the past 18 months, and especially emotional the last six months in getting here,” said MPI President & CEO Paul Van Deventer during a November 3 press conference. “I don’t think I would be excited to say this in past years, but we’re absolutely thrilled to have about 700 attendees here in person. This is, from what I know, one of the largest conferences going on so far in the United States.”


Photo: Paul Van Deventer, MPI President & CEO; Credit: Tyler Davidson

Van Deventer also explained how the structure of 2020 WEC was changed to offer two concurrent events in a digital and in-person environment.

“The program itself is going to be a little different than prior years. Most notably, it is two concurrent, simultaneous events—a full in-person experience here in Grapevine and a full, complementary digital experience for those who aren’t attending here in person,” he said. He also emphasized that the digital content will include only live content, and not pre-recorded material.

According to Van Deventer, MPI undertook a variety of Duty of Care efforts to help ensure a safe environment for attendees, including the following:

  • Frequent communication with full transparency.
  • A pre-event attendee kit with supplies such as a mask, registration badge and other elements.
  • Requiring attendees to commit to an onsite personal commitment to safety.
  • Holding the event at the Gaylord Texan, a GBAC STAR facility.
  • Social-distanced spacing throughout the various meeting components and single-serving F&B.

“The intent is to demonstrate that a conference can be held in the ‘new normal,’” Van Deventer said of the association’s decision to move forward with the event.

“It feels, when I walk through the ballroom, there is just a thrill, adrenaline, excitement to see a ballroom setup, to see everyone getting ready for this, and we believe we have the responsibility to take proper care of those 700 people, but we’re also going to encourage and remind those 700 attendees that they have a responsibility to the wellness of everyone else here.”

[Related: Going Hybrid? It’s Essential to Consider These 5 Critical Tips]

Gaylord Texan Atrium
Photo: Gaylord Texan Atrium; Credit: Tyler Davidson

MPI WEC is one of the largest meetings industry events to be held in-person to date, and follows in the steps of a number of in-person events that are related to the industry, including:

After making the decision to postpone the June 2020 WEC, MPI offered risk-free registration for the rescheduled November WEC. According to MPI, there have been 360 cancellations since March, but the revenue from many of those cancellations were converted to digital registration for the 2020 WEC, transferred to WEC 2021 in Las Vegas or applied to membership renewal.

New MPI Study Paints (Somewhat) Positive Picture

MPI released the latest version of its Meetings Outlook quarterly research study, which tracks the opinions from a panel of approximately 2,000 meeting and event planners on the health of the industry.

“Thirty-six percent more now are forecasting positive or favorable business conditions, so now a total of 58% of respondents say they expect favorable business conditions in the next quarter,” said Darren Temple, COO of MPI. “However, many still believe that 2022 will be when most meetings will return to our business, at least in a live format.”

Major findings in the study include the following:

  • 38.1% of respondents don’t expect business to be completely back to pre-pandemic levels until 2022, with 26.4% responding 2023. Almost 20% said that they expect business to be completely back by the third or fourth quarter of 2022.
  • 27% of respondents noted that they expect positive attendance numbers over the next year, with 69% responding “negative” and 4% expecting attendance numbers to be flat through 2022.
  • 36% of respondents predict favorable business conditions by summer 2020, with that number increasing to 58% favorable by fall 2020.
  • 16% were extremely concerned that virtual event technology will “cannibalize” in-person events, with 47% somewhat concerned, 35% not concerned and 2% unsure.

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