To say the meetings and hospitality industry has suffered a catastrophic 2020 is not an understatement, with hotels closing, convention and conference facilities shuttered, and meeting planners and suppliers furloughed or laid off.

As we head into the final stretch of the year, MPI gathered nearly 650 of the faithful in Grapevine, Texas, for its 2020 World Education Congress (WEC) and signed up more than 1,000 for its concurrent digital program. Carrying the theme “Reunite for Recovery,” the socially distanced and sanitized proceedings have been as emotional as a homecoming—but also forward-thinking, with industry experts gathering to give advice on how to weather the storm and plan for a still-uncertain future.

WEC’s November 4 Morning General Session, titled “The Road to Recovery: A Discussion with Meeting Industry Leaders,” saw Annette Gregg, MPI’s Senior Vice President of Experience, moderate a panel of industry leaders who shared their inspiration with a properly spaced audience that certainly was in need of a lift.

Following are some key bits of observation, advice and inspiration from the panelists.

Amy CalvertAmy Calvert, CEO, Events Industry Council

  • “I think this crisis presented us with some opportunities to reflect on some things we took for granted.”
  • “Perhaps we are asking ourselves and others some tough questions: What was that return on investment? The opportunity you create with a live/hybrid meeting is really our future.”
  • “I don’t look at it as a binary answer. I think that the crisis [provides an opportunity] to learn, evolve, grow and become stronger, to be committed to what we do and our values.”

Jason Dunn Sr.Jason Dunn Sr., Chair, National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals

  • “I was furloughed for five months. The human part of this is what has been affecting me mentally. Watching your friends and watching your colleagues....watching the transition of that is very difficult. What I’ve learned is without that balance, you’re frankly a soulless person. Empathy, empowerment and the ability to show people that they have worth outside what they thought they did [is critical].”
  • “Friendship is essential to all of us. Just stand up. The water’s not that deep. Stand up, keep your back straight, keep your head up, and now with purpose you will get through this. And with perseverance you will bring people with you. Just stand up.”

Nan Marchand BeauvoisNan Marchand Beauvois, Senior Vice President, Membership and Industry Relations, U.S. Travel Association

  • “There’s definitely a lot more work to do. In Washington, D.C., on a national level, we all feel it’s better to have more voices speak. We need to be in unison and say the same thing. If we’re not consistent with our messaging, we can do more harm than be helpful.”
  • “In order to have that consistent messaging, we must communicate together and be completely transparent....The elected officials need to get that message. They are not the experts on our industry.”

Paul Van DeventerPaul Van Deventer, President and CEO, MPI

  • “We need to put the safety and wellness of our attendees at the forefront of everything we do now.”
  • “Until we get to therapeutics and a vaccine, we’re going to have to put that in all our communications. Take this event and document it to show others how we can all put a safe event on.”
  • “Everyone in this room has a shared responsibility to execute that duty of care and wellness, and call each other out. What we’re doing here this week is being watched, and we need to demonstrate how we can [hold safe meetings].”

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