Emphasizing Change and Innovative Thinking at EMEC19

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Emphasizing Change and Innovative Thinking at EMEC19

By Rich Luna | Feb 10, 2019

The game changed for the better at the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) 2019.

The annual education and networking event in Europe from Meeting Professionals International began Sunday in The Hague in earnest as organizers promised a program of “Changing the Game.”

They delivered on the first full day with a unique education program around seven different learning journeys, a thought-provoking keynote from Daan Roosegaarde and an engaging escape room exercise.

Roosegaarde, the Dutch artist and innovator, delivered his presentation in the Fokker Terminal, which in itself reflected “changing the game.” The building, located in an industrial area, was a former school for aerospace engineering that was redeveloped nearly 10 years ago as a meeting and event location. The building has maintained its framework as a hanger where airplanes were set up for students to work in.

But Sunday, it became a learning environment for meeting and event professionals from across the world, some of whom have attended more than 20 EMEC conferences over time. This year’s EMEC was organized by the MPI Netherlands Chapter and Sunday’s opening general session was moderated by Samme Allen and Roderik van Grieken.

Roosegaarde took attendees through a visual journey that emphasized change and innovative thinking, challenging them to “change their perspective, think like an artist.”

He said that as technology changes the workforce, new skills will be essential as he shared with the audience the top 10 skills that will be needed in 2020. They include complex problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, people management, coordinating with others, emotional intelligence, judgment and decision making, service orientation, negotiation and cognitive flexibility.

The theme of “changing the game” was carried out earlier in the day when attendees had the option of seven different learning journeys on four education tracks—risk management, leadership, meeting perspective and design thinking.

Roosegaarde’s session was followed by a timed exercise in which attendees broke into groups to solve a complex puzzle using boxes and photo grids—the photos were of attendees but without their names—with an end result of creating a QR code. It was an ideal ice-breaker that fit the theme of the event.

Attendees selected sessions at venues such as TNO, a leading Dutch innovation lab, a wargaming room at Scenarios4Summits, the Rotterdam Zoo and the historic concert hall Stadsgehoorzaal.

At the Rotterdam Zoo, for example, behavioral biologist Patrick van Veen walked delegates through a discussion around social actions among monkeys and apes and how we can better understand leadership by observing their relationships.

“In change and innovation, the challenge is always the more you have to lose, the more afraid you are,” he said. “The big risk is losing influence. Looking to the outside (of our norms) could offer solutions.”

The tone for “changing the game” started at Saturday night’s opening reception at the impressive Loumann Museum, a mecca of automotive history where attendees engaged in networking designed to bring people together: they had to match up with new people in order to get food from stands throughout the hall. It led to many new friendships throughout the night.

Paul Van Deventer, CEO and president of MPI, told attendees Sunday that MPI, the world’s largest meeting and event association, is investing more resources in Europe. He announced the appointment to the global MPI team of Angeles Moreno, MPI Germany Chapter, to the position of strategic development, senior advisor in Europe, beginning March 1. This will enable MPI to have additional staff in Europe.

“We’ve been trying to change our game, adapting what we do,” he said. “But we can’t do it on our own. We need your voice.”

He said Pieter Allaerts will lead the European Advisory Council in 2019, following in Moreno’s footsteps, and will continue to look to the group for guidance in aligning with member needs—and member growth—in Europe.

He said MPI’s commitment will include more investment in branding, human resources and content along with increased presence and support from the International Board of Directors. Steve O’Malley, current board president, was joined in The Hague by 2018 president Amanda Armstrong and 2020 president Annette Gregg.

The event planners created a program in which 50 percent of the tracks are interactive and more than half take place outside the World Forum’s conference center in The Hague.

The city is the home of the Dutch Parliament, the Royal Family and the second-largest U.N. city, and is known as the International City of Peace and Justice, with the Peace Palace, the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration located here.



Rich Luna

Rich Luna is Director of Publishing for MPI and Editor-in-chief of The Meeting Professional.