The annual MPI European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) took place in June, and despite it being virtual only, it didn’t disappoint. As one of Europe’s main conferences for event professionals, the show had a dedicated theme focusing on business development & personal growth and featured a packed selection of inspiring speakers.
The one-day virtual event also focused on creating an attendee experience that was more like a TV production than a Zoom call – with opening titles, a game show, a rap performance before finishing with movie-style closing credits.
From the importance of mental health awareness and collaboration to discussions about sustainability and the changing the role of event data, have a look at our top take-aways from the show:
1) Value Your Life
The opening keynote speaker, Gill Hicks was beamed in live from Adelaide, Australia. Gill Hicks is considered to be one of the most thought provoking, powerful and life affirming speakers in Australia and the UK. She is known globally as a survivor of the London terrorist bombings on July 7, 2005. She survived but suffered severe and permanent injuries, losing both legs from just below the knee.
Gill captivated the virtual audience through her heart-rending memories. A master storyteller, she shared how she defied death and went on to transform her life. The conference’s theme was “Make Your Future” and Gill was the perfect speaker to open it. It wasn’t just her incredible story of survival and transformation that resonated. It was also her perspective on the beauty there is in being alive.
She reminded us that we need to make time for each other, understand our differences and be ready to look at the world in a different way. And then we need to make a contribution that is worthy of our efforts. It was a truly inspirational speech and one that struck a chord with many event professionals, particularly after the year we’ve all just had.
2) Your Event Data is Invaluable
Ian Webb from Eventsforce delivered a masterclass in the value of data and the insights that can be put to good use. He explained that findings from a new research study showed that more than 1 in 2 event professionals are struggling with the volume of data collected from virtual events. That there is a multiplicity of data available today, coming in from different directions. And we need strategies to be able to deal with it.
He emphasised the importance of event teams having someone (or several people) dedicated to looking at data collected from events and making sense of it. Because whilst planners can collect data from webinars, virtual events, hybrid events, in person events, it all has to be brought together to make it meaningful. You need the insights that come from analysis to help you improve your product, service, or whatever else you provide.
Ian reminded us that it is not just about the live data either. On-demand data is also highly significant. For example, EMEC 2021 has on demand content available to all those who registered, for a further three months. People consume content differently and therefore those sponsors and speakers will be seen time and again from now until the middle of September. And that data is worth measuring at the end of the period. More insights for planners will come as a result.
He also went on to talk about the importance of making sure that the data is secure, because hackers have become ever more sophisticated. Ian spoke about the differences in data protection laws around the globe and how a savvy planner has to be on top of changing requirements. The big change for many event planners is that they now need to be even more on top of sensitive information such as health data. There is of course even more of that now, stemming from the need to be Covid safe.
3) Collaboration is Key to Success
One of the most interactive sessions of the day was the “Collaboration Challenge” where a number of contestants appeared live on screen in a live, interactive game show. The contestants were asked questions by the game show host, Euan Graham, who asked about the world in which we live, about MPI, and about issues within Europe. And all of this was against the clock.
What the audience couldn’t see though were the busy teams of helpers behind each contestant. There were no rules as to how that team could help. There were no rules as to what they should or shouldn’t do. The only rules were that the teams had to submit their answers within 10 minutes of the questions being asked.
Whilst this was a game show, it was a collaboration challenge for Europe’s MPI chapter members. It added a certain sparkle, tension and excitement to the day. Attendees watching virtually, were able to cheer their teams on and it was definitely one of the most innovative parts of an original and interesting event.
4) Take an Objective View
The final learning from EMEC is from the “Outside-In” panel. The panellists were chosen because they have an in-depth understanding and practical experience of events. But they also had a little distance from being involved in day-to-day events. They were drawn from the worlds of insurance, retail, healthcare, and learning and development. A nice mix of perspectives. The session was chaired by EventMB editor, Miguel Neves, who led their discussions around the most important issues affecting event professionals today.
Rather than attempting to solve those massive issues in one session, the panel provided us with a variety of views from the different sectors they represented. It can be too easy for event professionals to only look at what’s going on in their own sector. So the variety of perspectives managed to be both interesting and insightful.
The panel questioned some of the established beliefs that event professionals have. They raised sometimes awkward questions about whether organizers can ever be truly sustainable at the same time as encouraging groups to travel the globe. But the key issue they raised was about how relevant and enticing new in-person events will need to be to attract people in a post-pandemic world. The virtual option was attractive for many attendees there. And most agreed that what planners did pre-Covid may no longer be as attractive as it once was.
Conclusion – A Catalyst for Change
Overall, EMEC 2021 demonstrated a truly fresh way in which a virtual production can be put together. It was thought provoking in terms of content and also displayed some truly innovative methods for delivering such content.
Collaboration was one of the key drivers of the event from its inception. And you could see how the Executive Producer, Paul Cook, collaborated with the sponsors, the speakers, the crew and the delegates to make this production into a powerful experience.
But a key takeaway from the day was something that Paul made clear in his session. This event was a catalyst. No single event can provide all the answers, but this catalyst event lived up to its theme. The design, delivery and content in the EMEC 2021 production will continue to help event professionals make their future.
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