LAS VEGAS – The overwhelming sentiment at Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress (MPI WEC), held June 15-17, 2021, was gratitude for the opportunity to meet in person. The three-day gathering, dubbed Make the Future, attracted 1,229 in-person attendees with an additional 568 who tuned in remotely.
“Last year the world was given an invaluable lesson about our industry. Granted, it was a painful and costly lesson, but the world learned what it is like to live without face-to-face interactions. And the world did not like it,” Paul Van Deventer, President and CEO of MPI, said. “The value of face-to-face meetings has never been clearer, and the desire to gather in person has never been stronger.”
MPI WEC is the first major event held at Caesars Forum located in the center of the Las Vegas Strip and which features the world’s two largest pillarless ballrooms, each measuring more than 110,000 square feet. Caesars Forum also boasts 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, more than 100 breakout rooms and a 100,000-square-foot outdoor plaza.
This wasn’t the only first accomplished by the WEC. The opening night reception has held on the field at Allegiant Stadium, becoming the first-large scale event to be held in the impressive facility. The next evening’s President’s Dinner honoring industry icon Terri Breining was the first large-scale event to be held at the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas; and the closing night celebration and MPI Foundation Rendezvous party was a splash on the Venetian Resort’s new pool deck – the first celebration held here.
“It was amazing to see so many happy faces. There is truly nothing that replaces in-person interaction and face-to-face meetings. There were more than 1,200 attendees here not counting a couple of hundred CAESARS FORUM staff,” Michael Massari, Chief Sales Officer, Caesars Entertainment, said. “MPI WEC marked the beginning of our industry coming back in full force. It shows the confidence everyone is starting to have about attending conferences.”
The conference wasn’t short on star power. Worldwide entertainment icon Usher had a conversation with Van Deventer during the opening general session about the post-pandemic world of live entertainment and events. The eight-time Grammy Award winner who will have a residency at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace.
“As a mentor I’d always advise my subjects play to the back of the house, not just play to the audience that’s right there with you, understanding that there is a deeper connection,” Usher explained. “There is something far more significant in this moment than just what you’re offering.
Although COVID-19 restrictions in Las Vegas had been reduced on June 1, MPI continued its duty of care program during WEC with daily health/temperature checks upon entering CAESARS FORUM. Nevada was fully reopened, but Caesars kept ample space between chairs with social distance in mind.
The attendees who are vaccinated against COVID-19, the overwhelming majority, didn’t have to wear face coverings. For many, this was the first conference they have attended in more than a year where they could go maskless. Color-coded ribbons were available to declare one’s comfort level with physical interactions.
Some of the most prolific women leaders of the industry were featured in a panel discussion called: “The Superwomen of Vegas: Rising Up and Empowering Others.” Stephanie Glanzer, MGM Resorts International; Devin Lewis, LVCVA; Rebecca DeLuca, Caesars; and Chandra Allison, Venetian offered their insights into ways they have been empowered by other women.
“Step out into the moment like you are meant to be there,” Lewis declared. That is exactly what MPI WEC did, and the rest of the industry is taking note.
San Francisco will host next year’s WEC from June 21-23, when MPI will celebrate its 50th anniversary. For more information, go to www.mpiweb.org