‘It’s all about the relationships’: WEC 2022 OGS highlights

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‘It’s all about the relationships’: WEC 2022 OGS highlights

By Michael Pinchera | Jun 21, 2022

While the majority of this year’s WEC is a face-to-face experience, some aspects are being livestreamed—at no cost—most notably, each day’s general session. The first piece streaming from the Moscone Center: WEC San Francisco Act I: New World, New Perspectives, the Opening General Session.

MPI President and CEO Paul Van Deventer graciously welcomed the meeting professionals assembled from around the world. The genuine nature of his expression of appreciation for everyone’s involvement in the community, not just during his tenure at MPI, but throughout the association’s 50-year history, could be felt—even via stream—noting to the audience that “you’re the reason we’re all here and the reason we’ll be here for another 50 years.”

“Moving forward, we’ll continue to invest and strengthen our community groups—and we’ll continue to invest in your personal advancement,” he said during this introduction. “Being part of a community like MPI is more important than ever.”


Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel then came onstage, cheering the newly crowned NBA champions the Golden State Warriors, then passed the torch to San Francisco Mayor London Breed who called the city a Phoenix that rises and glows with resilience. I quickly noted that this is a suitable parallel to the meeting industry’s ongoing recovery—how very appropriate that WEC 2022, 2.5 years into the pandemic, is taking place in the Bay Area.

Secrets of the event technology marketplace

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An important panel, “Tech Talks - Secrets of the Event Technology Marketplace,” featuring important players in the virtual and hybrid meetings world was next. Moderated by Laurie Sharp, vice president, events and experiences, New Relic Inc., this was one of the  highest-profile representations of virtual/hybrid industry partners ever at a WEC.

Asked about impacts from the pandemic, Ben Chodor, president or Notified, an Intrado Business, said because there were less than, perhaps, a dozen virtual event providers in 2019 and the industry now boasts hundreds, we should expect to see a lot of consolidation and mergers in the near future.

To the same question, Leonard Chung, senior director and GM, Webex Events advised industry pros to “keep that curiosity you had coming into the pandemic.”

“It’s never going to back to the way it was 100%,” Chodor said. “Embrace it, don’t shy away from it.” Doing that, he said will help make you indispensable at your company.

Chodor and others on stage also noted due to many issues, including the potential recession and anticipated consolidation in the space, organizations should closely vet their tech vendors when making longer-term agreements to ensure they’re in sufficient financial health to be around in a year.

Asked how to prepare for the unknowable business and economic landscape in the year to come, Chuck Ghoorah, co-founder and president of worldwide sales and marketing, Cvent, underscored the fact that it’s really all about the relationships you build and develop.

As for hints about the future of event tech, Chung said planners should seek to “solve for uncertainty”—and that planners shouldn’t have to worry about the “plumbing” of the technology, that’s the job of tech vendors; planners should just be able to focus on crafting the event experience.

Chodor advised that the future of event tech is 365, always-on, continuing on the value of establishing long-term agreements with vendors so that when organizations need to put on an event quickly, whether virtual or hybrid, you’ll already be beyond dealing with the basics of finding a vendor.

“The future is bright,” Ghoorah said. “I’d say the future is hybrid.” He elaborated on the idea that many event professionals will be like TV producers due to the vast growth and interest in video/streaming production for virtual and hybrid.

Making conversations count

Then came the keynote: Riaz Meghji, a human connection expert and author of “Every Conversation Counts.”

“Real connection isn’t about perfection, it’s about our ability to open up and admit imperfection,” Meghji said.

The importance of conversation led to breakouts at each table throughout the vast meeting space in Moscone West, asking the small groups to share their “defining conversation”—one conversation in their life that was especially impactful.

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Coming back from that, Annette Gregg, MPI’s senior vice president of Experience, joined Meghji on stage and shared her defining conversation, in which she asked her father what he’d change about his life and he said, “Nothing, then I might not have met your mother.” The result of that, she says, was to really focus and invest in her relationships/family.

Assertively empathetic. That’s what Meghji wants people to become: masters of eliciting positive emotion. To do that, you need real conversations—you need to ask real questions about peoples’ stories.

He said what inspired him as he entered the meeting space—and the opportunity that meeting professionals have—is to ask how we can help people say and give thanks.

“I saw the stars on the Walk of Fame…the Brian Stevens Leadership Award with the quote that ‘generosity always wins,’” he said.

“We will have an infinite number of conversations with the people we care about the most,” he said, pointing out that “we’ve already talked about the most important conversation you’ve ever had… But what’s the most important conversation you’ve never had?”

With that, he challenged everyone in the room and watching online to have one of those conversations in the next 24 hours.

“That connection can make, change or even save someone’s life,” he said. “Let’s go out there and make our conversations count.”


The Opening General Session was sponsored by Visit California in partnership with Speakers’ Spotlight

To catch the entire show, the entire Opening General Session should be available to stream on MPI.org in the coming weeks.



Michael Pinchera

Michael Pinchera, MPI's managing editor, is an award-winning writer and editor as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997.