Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

Welcome to WEC and the Return of Major Meeting Industry Gatherings

Jun 14, 2021, 20:42 PM by Blair Potter
More than 1,000 meeting professionals come together for MPI’s World Education Congress in Las Vegas.

Hello friends. It’s so good to see you.

That refrain will be repeated over and over when more than 1,200 meeting professionals come together, face to face, for the first major gathering this year in the meeting event industry, MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC), which begins in earnest on Tuesday at CAESARS FORUM in Las Vegas.

While MPI was able to host a hybrid event last November in Grapevine, Texas, this year’s WEC has added significance, as COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have mostly been lifted—paving the way for the vital business event industry to forge ahead with not just a much-needed recovery, but a recasting the future of meetings.

“This is such an exciting time for our industry,” says Annette Gregg, senior vice president for experience at MPI. “We are seeing colleagues rehired as destinations open up. WEC will feel like a family reunion. The in-person attendance rates are showing that people are ready to be together and plan our future together.”

MPI’s signature education event will not only mark a social milestone, but the conference also offers high-octane education and networking aligning with the theme, “Make Your Future”

The meeting is the first major event inside CAESARS FORUM, the 550,000-square-foot conference center that was supposed to have a grand opening in March 2020. Instead, the facility, featuring 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and the two largest pillarless ballrooms in the world (each more than 110,000 square feet) was essentially locked down due to the pandemic. Caesars Entertainment is the host committee for WEC.

WEC Vegas, June 15-17, 2021. Learn more and sign up for in-person or digital attendance.

“This week has been years in the making. We are so excited to be welcoming everyone to CAESARS FORUM and Las Vegas,” says Michael Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment and co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition. “The Caesars Entertainment team is ready to provide an extraordinary experience. Chef Eric Vaughn has created an amazing selection of restaurant-quality food and beverage. Our teams couldn’t be happier to be here to provide you with the hospitality you’ve come to expect from us.

“Everyone is excited to be back to in-person events. With more than 1,200 in-person attendees, Clearly everyone is ready to get back to meeting in person.”

The conference center will be in the spotlight just as much as the powerful lineup of keynotes that includes Rich Bracken on emotional intelligence; Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, on trends in the workplace; entertainer Usher on post-pandemic entertainment; and an appearance from the comedy and magic team Penn & Teller.

But the depth and scope of content is further reflected in general session panels such as “Critical Next Steps from Influential Leaders,” “Champions for Change” and “The Superwomen of Vegas: Rising Up”—featuring influential industry leaders such as Cleo Battle, Janet Dell, Mike Gamble, Stephen Revetria, Tammy Routh, Amy Calvert, Julie Coker, Jason Dunn Sr., Elliott Ferguson, Melvin Tennant, Michelle Allgauer, Chandra Allison, Devin Lewis, Lisa Messina, Stephanie Glanzer and more. The main stage will be emceed by Christine Cashen and Tami Evans.

Off the main stage, education will center on four learning pathways—technology, business strategy, meeting design and professional development—along with topical issues such as human trafficking and diversity, equity and inclusion.

MPI’s Career Center is primed to help meeting professionals impacted by the pandemic—the meeting, event and hospitality industry lost 5.6 million travel-related jobs in 2020, according to new research from the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics.

“This is such an exciting time for our industry. WEC will feel like a family reunion.”

MPI’s Hosted Buyer Program, in its 12th edition, has been redesigned to offer participants more than traditional appointments by experiencing WEC Vegas like a true VIP with engaging and interactive networking activities to deepen business relationships.

The state of Nevada and Clark County began allowing businesses to operate at full capacity, with no COVID-19 restrictions, on June 1, but MPI will continue a duty of care program that includes a daily health/temperature check before attendees can enter the conference center.

MPI announced recently that attendees who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 and who are not immunocompromised will not be required to wear a mask indoors, while those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised and who are more comfortable wearing a mask are encouraged to do so.

The move came after the organization surveyed attendees, with 89 percent saying they were comfortable with MPI evolving its WEC Vegas duty of care to mirror changes in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask and social distancing guidance and updated protocols in Clark County.

Attendees will also be able to select from one of three ribbons to signal their comfort level with social distancing: Red - I need distance, Yellow - Elbow bump or Green - Hugs will do.

Still, expect the two most trending questions to be asked—are you vaccinated and are you Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson?

“I’m extremely proud of our Caesars Entertainment team for the perseverance they exhibited and for keeping the excitement alive in anticipation of the opening of CAESARS FORUM.”

WEC’s networking opportunities are equally impressive, with an opening celebration at the new Allegiant Stadium, the President’s Dinner honoring outgoing volunteer chapter leaders and industry icon Terri Breining at the new Virgin Hotels Las Vegas and a closing night celebration and MPI Foundation Rendezvous party at the new pool deck at the Venetian Resort.

The Chapter Leaders Lounge and Community Meet-Up areas will offer attendees additional education and networking.

Many of the sessions will provide clock hours applicable toward CMP or CMP recertification. All sessions have been reviewed by the Events Industry Council and WEC has been approved for 13 eligible clock hours for in-person attendees, with access to up to 50 hours of approved education on demand after the conference.

For those unable to attend WEC in person, there is a digital experience filled with education, a daily broadcast and a Digital Business Exchange (Hosted Buyer) program.

Industry leaders and advocacy organizations will be in Las Vegas, too, with the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, chaired by Massari and Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company, conducting a board meeting, while the U.S. Travel Association will hold a press conference.

MPI’s conference will mark another milestone for Las Vegas and its effort to reboot business events. Just last week, World of Concrete became the first large-scale trade show to return to the U.S. market since the COVID-19 pandemic brought businesses to a halt and was the first event in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall expansion. Virgin Hotels Las Vegas followed World of Concrete by unveiling its multimillion-dollar rebrand of the former Hard Rock property, with Sir Richard Branson in town to open the doors with a three-day celebration.

Las Vegas was hit hard by the pandemic. The city welcomed more than 6.6 million business travelers in 2019, and spending by visitors attending conventions directly supported 43,500 jobs, generating more than $11.4 billion in overall economic impact.

All that came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic, but that did not stop Las Vegas from expansions and renovations. In addition to the West Hall expansion, which added 1.4 million square feet of space to the existing 3.2 million-square-foot campus, development continued on major projects totaling more than 2 million square feet of new meeting space, bringing the citywide total to more than 14 million square feet. Some of the new additions besides CAESARS FORUM included Allegiant Stadium and AREA15, with expansions at MGM properties Mandalay Bay, ARIA and Park MGM, including the MGM Grand Conference Center, the Stella Studio at The Venetian Resort and new indoor and outdoor space at Wynn Las Vegas. Two new resorts opened, Circa Resort & Casino and Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, and a third, Resorts World, will open June 24.

The Venetian Resort has reportedly sold out its convention space for the last seven months of this year, a time frame in which events such as the National Mining Expo, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive aftermarket show and, of course, the Consumer Electronics Show 2022 will all be in the city.

“I’m extremely proud of our Caesars Entertainment team for the perseverance they exhibited and for keeping the excitement alive in anticipation of the opening of CAESARS FORUM,” says Lisa Messina, vice president of sales at Caesars Entertainment. “The resilience they showed through the shutdown and restrictions was nothing short of amazing. They remained positive and focused, which just supports their passion to serve. We are thrilled and thankful to have MPI WEC here to showcase this beautiful and highly functional facility.”

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