WEC Speaker Mark Valenziano on Inclusivity Knowledge

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WEC Speaker Mark Valenziano on Inclusivity Knowledge

By Rowland Stiteler | Apr 9, 2019

Those who attend Mark Valenziano's “Open Your Eyes to Blindness" session, 2:15-3:15 p.m. on June 16 at MPI's 2019 World Education Congress (WEC) in Toronto, will be able to plan, create and produce events that are more inclusive and welcoming to the visually impaired community. Sponsored by Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB. Learn more at mpi.org/wec19.

It is axiomatic that to be a good communicator one must first be a good listener, and those who attend Mark Valenziano’s presentation at MPI’s 2019 World Education Congress (WEC), June 15-18 in Toronto, will likely never hear a speaker with better developed listening skills.

For the vast majority of his life, every word, every fact, every name, every date, every new concept that has made its way into Valenziano’s brain has been listened to—not read.

That’s because at age 15 he developed a condition that would leave him blind. That was a tough challenge at first, he says, but making the transition from being a sighted person to a blind person was not an insurmountable hurdle—he went on to become a successful entrepreneur, founding a company specializing in indoor air quality improvement systems.

Mark Valenziano

And as those who have heard Valenziano’s educational sessions, including a good number of corporate groups, will attest, the fact that he is not sighted does not mean that he does not have great vision in the big-picture sense of that word. His strength as a speaker is that he can enable his audiences to learn—and profit—from his own experiences.

“Because I weave through a lot of stories from my own life and all the changes that I’ve had to go through and because of the uncertainty that I have had to face, it’s going to hopefully cause each individual in the audience to walk away thinking a little bit differently about their future,” he says.

One of the themes that Valenziano has addressed in other speeches is that life itself is uncertain. His signature speech is called “Get Uncomfortable! Grab Your Uncertainty and Flourish!” and his WEC presentation—“Open Your Eyes to Blindness”—will include thoughts on that concept.

“There’s a section of the WEC speech in which I will talk about all the challenges of blindness and then deep dive into the audience members’ lives,” he says. “I will offer a challenge to them about something I will reveal at the time of the speech. That will enable them to do their work better. They will walk away with the ability be better meeting planners because I will relate to them the challenges that blind people have as meeting attendees and how they, as planners, can address those challenges.”

Meeting planners and suppliers who can offer events and services that are more accessible to the blind and visually impaired will not only have the satisfaction of doing something good for their fellow human beings, but could grow their businesses as well. Currently there are more than 1 million blind people in the U.S. alone, with more than 3 million being visually impaired. Worldwide, that number jumps to 36 million blind and more than a billion with at least some form of visual impairment, according to a study by the World Health Organization.

What potential attendees for Valenziano’s WEC speech should know is that he’s not just a person who can relate to this topic from his personal experience. He is truly a man on a mission. Because of life experiences that have nothing to do with blindness, he is driven to help make the world more accessible for the blind and visually impaired, one educational presentation at a time.

“I have had some life-changing things occur that made me say to myself, ‘You’ve got to be doing what’s really important to you—right now,’” he says. “I had two family members die and it was just a real wake-up call. And while I loved my [air quality] company, it was just more and more a conflict with what I want to do with the rest of my life, and the public speaking was just more and more in concert with who I really am. And so I sold my company very successfully in 2016 and made public speaking my career.”

The fact that Valenziano is gifted both at talking and listening offers a payoff for attendees at his WEC presentation in the form of an attentive, detailed Q&A segment.

“I make sure everyone has a chance to get their questions answered and understand how the information being presented relates to their own concerns and to their own businesses,” he says.

Valenziano does not want to give away the specifics of the interactive nature of his presentation, but he will say that it involves giving his audience a chance to see what a blind person’s life experience is like. And one doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that a simple blindfold can accomplish that. The details of what Valenziano has in store will be rolled out during his presentation.

Valenziano considers his presentation at WEC a great opportunity for him as an advocate of inclusivity for the blind and visually impaired because of the nature of an MPI member audience.

“Life will be better for the tens of millions of blind and visually impaired people out there when assistance technology is more widespread and also when the spirit of inclusivity is more widespread among people that are not visually impaired,” he says.

“That’s why MPI is so important—because your industry touches so many lives, so many companies, so many people, so many events. If members of MPI can enhance their own knowledge and awareness about inclusivity when it comes to non-sighted people, that will go a long way toward helping create a ripple of knowledge and awareness that goes further and further as time passes. That’s why I think MPI is a really important organization for advancing that message of accessibility in inclusivity.”

At WEC19

Mark Valenziano will be speaking at the following WEC sessions this year:

  • Sunday, June 16th: Open Your Eyes to Blindness
  • Monday, June 17th: Get Uncomfortable! Grab Your Uncertainty and Flourish

Click here to see more sessions.



Rowland Stiteler
Rowland Stiteler

Rowland Stiteler, a veteran meeting industry journalist, is a writer and editor for The Meeting Professional.