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Leadership Corner

 

Allyson Wagner, CMP and Dorie Wirtz - WEC In-Person and Virtual - November 2020

By: MPI Georgia | Dec 8, 2020

 Wagner, Allyson3 - headshot 2020   Allyson Wagner, CMP
MPI Georgia President 2020- 2021 

Our esteemed MPI Georgia President, Allyson Wagner, represented our MPI chapter at WEC held at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine TX in early November.  She happily reported that the MPI Global team worked tirelessly along with the city of Grapevine, the Gaylord Texan Hotel & Convention Center, and numerous other suppliers to produce a safe and responsible event for over 600 in person attendees. 

Their mission was not only to provide education and networking, both in-person and virtually, but to also show the world how we can move towards creating exciting and engaging events for our clients using new protocols and technology in the face of health-related challenges.

HOW was it done?

Pre-Arrival Communication:  MPI crafted a Duty of Care document specifically outlining their commitment to processes and protocols with on-site safety as their top priority. 

Personal Accountability Commitment:  All attendees were asked to abide by and engage in health and safety conduct during WEC.

Badge Kit:  Our badge kit was delivered to our homes a week prior to departure containing helpful items, including a conference branded mask and hand sanitizer. Wow, was it ever convenient NOT have to go pick up your badge before going to your first session!

Signage, Signage EVERYWHERE: – Reminders to wear your mask, social distance, and get your daily temperature check was posted throughout the hotel and convention center, along with volunteers holding lollipop signs and a virtual live concierge to answer questions.

COVID -19 Health Screening: – Attendees were required to answer daily COVID questions before a temperature check.  A reminder with a link was sent through the conference app each day, as well as signage posted with QR codes as attendees approached the convention center. Once cleared, attendees were given a colored wrist band for that particular day.

Physical Distancing:  Plexi dividers, draping, and spacing of seating and tables were used to keep attendees safe and comfortable at registration, info desks, 1:1 career coaching sessions, pre-function areas, general and breakout sessions.  The 49,000 square foot General Session ballroom allowed for attendees to be spaced out very well.

Food & Beverage:  Dining areas were set with 4 people to a round with multiple serving areas.  All meals were either pre-packaged or served from behind a Plexi by hotel staff.  Attendants handed pre-packaged meals and snacks to each attendee to minimize contact in the food areas.   A huge compliment to the Gaylord as the quality of the food was in no way diminished…in fact the menus were all amazing, creative, and delicious!
There were plated meals served with glass cloches for smaller, private events along with covers for beverages and individual settings for coffee condiments. One of my favorite discoveries was a touchless coffee dispenser “gadget” that can be added to any coffee urn (they’re available on Amazon).

Technology and Production:  The conference app, along with a gamification feature, provided opportunities to not only connect with others but also to submit photos of so many interesting and innovative elements at the Congress.  

And, if you’re not familiar with “Weframe”, think whiteboard, flip chart, projector, screen ALL IN ONE with collaboration from all types of devices!  No more shared markers or groups standing around a flip chart.  This was used in smaller breakout sessions and is definitely high on my list of cool new things.

Of course, the best part of attending WEC was seeing old friends and meeting new ones.  The organic networking that happens when you’re walking down the hall is hard to replace in the virtual world.  I believe hybrid is here to stay.  The best of the best is that attendees now have a choice!   I am anxiously looking forward to that time when we are all together again!


 

Wirtz, Dorie - Headshot3 Dorie Wirtz
Director of Strategic Partnerships
MPI Georgia

 

As a first time WEC attendee, I did the Digital Experience this year and found it informative, interesting, and “engaging”-(that challenging word used often when talking about a successful virtual experience. 

Was it the same as being there, face to face, networking whenever the opportunity arose?  No, not at all, but it allowed me to attend, learn, and gain further knowledge of how virtual meetings can be produced well and made me realize firsthand how fortunate we are in having this technology at our fingertips.

MPI truly exhibited how to “pivot” (another challenging word) and rallied with a format and content that was a mix of face to face and virtual.  Most of us have come to realize that pivoting into virtual was, and is inevitable, allowing meetings and events to often increase attendance while others are able to attend face to face.

One of the highlights for me came from The Engagement Enigma presented by J. Damany Daniel of The Event Nerd on doing virtual events.  J. Damany presented virtually just for the digital attendees with topics such as how to engage your audience through forums for connection, embracing the awkward, and telling great stories. He practiced what he preached and made me, as a virtual attendee, feel very much a part of WEC and showed how virtual, when done well, can be very engaging.

While MPI did some mid-day broadcasts with short interviews done outside the main meeting hall, it still did not replace that feeling of being there, talking, and meeting people. There were also virtual forums to connect that seemed more focused on meeting with suppliers rather than other attendees which decreased the networking opportunity.  However, I did connect with some attendees whose comments, during the sessions, were posted in chat.  I learned the importance of chat as one of the good ways to keep the attendees connected.

While virtual is not as personally engaging as being face to face, it provided me a way to experience the virtual evolvement our meeting and event world has taken during 2020

 

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