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Honorable Mention Chapter Award



Annual Conference




May 19, 2021

Registration Information

WeConnect is our one-day annual innovation conference from the MPI Minnesota Chapter. Come experience innovation across all aspects of the meeting industry—including food and beverage, space, and technology—and connect with people to build your professional network.

Registration is open!


Join us at Canterbury Park as we 'ReConnect at WeConnect' for our fun-filled annual education day of networking, a Diversity & Inclusion panel discussion, and even a bit of horse racing! 

To kick off our day we will be treated to breakfast 'on-the-rails' as we watch the horses and their jockeys train and prepare for the day ahead right on the 'rails.'

Come hear from amazing speakers such as Jessie States, CMP, CMM, with MPI Global as our Opening Keynote Speaker, who will walk us through Coronavirus Reopening Guidelines as we begin to meet again in person. As we continue to adapt and move through what has been the most challenging hurdle in our industry and so many others, Jessie will share recently released guidelines to help organizations make decisions on when and how to begin hosting gatherings. 

Then choose from one of our multiple breakout sessions lead by Lori Kearney and industry veteran, Denise Woods and more!

Take part in an interactive Diversity and Inclusion panel discussion over the lunch hour. Then head back into an afternoon breakout!

And to wrap up the educational part of our day, get excited to listen to our Closing Keynote Speaker, Chris Heeter, a wilderness guide and professional speaker who has been featured on Discovery Channel's National Geographic Today. Combining business expertise with hilarious stories from her sled dog team and from guiding whitewater trips, Chris will challenge and inspire us towards Wild leadership, compassionate presence, and daring authenticity.

As our day comes to an end, stay a bit longer and have fun connecting with your peers as we move into the Wild Horse bar for appetizers, drinks and the chance to watch the horses race right in front of us! 


Please see MPI Preparedness and Precautionsfor details on how we are keeping our attendees safe

Sponsorship Opportunities

Sponsorship opportunities are available.

WeConnect – deadline to claim sponsorship is April 30, 2021

To claim your sponsorship, you may purchase here or email us to discuss these and other opportunities.

Available – 1
Benefits include: 30-second video commercial, introduce keynote speaker, 1 year-long affiliate membership, 4 social media posts, 1 yearlong ad on Chapter website, 1 email distribution to Chapter membership, 2 featured articles in MN Matters, 4 complimentary WeConnect registrations.
Available – 4
Benefits include: 15-second video commercial, introduce breakout speaker, 1 year-long affiliate membership, 3 social media posts, 1 9-month ad on Chapter website, 1 email distribution to Chapter membership, 1 featured article in MN Matters, 3 complimentary WeConnect registrations.
Available – 1
Benefits include: 15 second video commercial, 3 social media posts, 1 6-month ad on Chapter website, 1 featured article in MN Matters, 2 complimentary WeConnect registrations
Available – 2 
Benefits include 2 social media posts, 1 3-month ad on Chapter website, 1 complimentary WeConnect registration
Available – 2
Benefits include 1 social media post, 1 complimentary WeConnect registration
Available – 2
Benefit: Opportunity to design and execute one poll question during the WeConnect closing reception (2:30 – 3:30 PM CT)

Available - 2
Benefit: Featured sponsor in article about scholarship recipients in March MN Matters newsletter.

2021 Speakers

Jessie States (Keynote)

Jessie States, CMP, CMM, is the Director of the MPI Academy for Meeting Professionals International, where she leads and advances MPI’s professional development strategy, developing and managing MPI’s portfolio of educational products delivered through all channels, including live and digital events, educational experiences, professional certificate programs and through educational partnerships.

Jessie received the 2018 Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council, an honor that recognizes emerging leaders and industry supporters who exhibit individual excellence based on innovation, impact, vision, leadership, influence, collaboration, courage, perseverance, and other achievements. In 2017, she earned a place on the list of 25 Most Influential People in Meetings and Events (Successful Meetings magazine) and the title Trendsetter (Meetings Today magazine).

She enhances membership value and experience for the global MPI community and beyond into adjacent spaces (market opportunities), through the development and curation of professional development content and educational partner relationships (e.g. licensing, joint venture, distribution, opportunities), while ensuring profitable monetization of content.

Lori Kearney

Lori Kearney is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and facilitates Employee Health and Wellness workshops. These workshops include education on how to implement better nutrition and life choices to create healthier community members.
She utilizes an interactive, informative, and fun approach to facilitate active learning and individual empowerment. This approach allows participants to engage in discussions and interact with other attendees through various exercises and brainstorming. Participants also receive valuable information to take with them, furthering their knowledge after the workshop.

Chris Heeter

Chris Heeter was selected as a Top Ten Speaker of 2014 by MeetingsNet and was the highest-rated speaker of Meeting Professional International's 2014 World Education Congress. She is out to create a Wild revolution in the workplace.
A wilderness guide since 1984 and professional speaker since 2001, Chris has led and worked with a diverse array of teams, both canine and human!
Featured on The Discovery Channel's “National Geographic Today,” she brings decades of leadership experience indoors, to conferences and offices, working with teams and leaders, helping us recognize that leadership and teamwork doesn't have to be so complicated.
Combining business expertise with hilarious stories from her sled dog team and from guiding whitewater trips, Chris challenges and inspires organizations and individuals toward Wild leadership, compassionate presence, and daring authenticity.

Denise Woods

Denise Woods, CMP has been a member of MPI Minnesota since 1993 and has served in a variety of leadership roles, including chapter president (2002-2003). Over the course of her career, she has held positions as a meeting and event planner in the corporate, nonprofit, and association arenas. For the past 15 years, Denise has been the facilitator of the chapter's CMP Boot Camp and has worked with more than 100 successful CMP candidates.

Derek Francis

Derek Francis is a passionate school counselor with years of experience focusing on a proactive, equity-based, and proactive approach. He currently serves as the Manager of Counseling Services for Minneapolis Public Schools. Derek specializes in helping students and staff build trusting cross-cultural relationships and has presented at state and national conferences. Recently, Derek lead a webinar for over 25,000 counselors and educators on “Proactive School Counseling After a Major Racial Incident.” Some of Derek’s published work includes contributions to Contemporary Case Studies in School Counseling, published blog “This Is Not A Fire Drill – Supporting students after George Floyd” and July/August publication articles for American School Counselors Association and American School Board Journal. Derek was quoted in a recent Time Magazine article titled “You Can’t Be Silent, Brace for Presidential Election.” Spending time with his daughter and traveling are Derek’s favorite hobbies. Derek also serves on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team for ASCA and as a professional Development Specialist for Hatching Results.

Julie Richards

Julie Richards brings over 20 years of leadership, curriculum design, staff training/development, and program implementation through evaluation to conversations rooted in equitable family and youth development. Professional experiences across juvenile justice, children’s mental health, and public and private education have given Julie the comprehensive lens necessary to help organizations create equitable and sustainable programming. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Howard University in English and Secondary Education. Julie also has a Master’s degree in Education Policy, Organization, and Leadership with a focus on Diversity and Equity from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana.

Currently, Julie is the Youth and Community Initiatives Coordinator with the Brooklyn Bridge Alliance for Youth, while also running her own consulting business, Inquire, Decipher, Progress LLC. Clients requesting organizational development focused on inclusion and anti-racist systemic change include Saint Paul Public Schools, Metropolitan Alliance of Connected Communities, Minnesota Alliance on Crime, YMCA, Ramsey County, and others. She is also a partner in a behavior Intervention business, SELBI LLC.

Justin Bieganek

Justin is your strategy and facilitation guru. He is a master at working rooms of stakeholders with a variety of opinions to drive alignment. Justin leads boards large and small to spur creative discussions, challenge stakeholders to steer away from the traditional path, and bring naysayers to advocates. He has done this time and time again through facilitation methods, the ability to read a room, and creative problem-solving techniques.

Justin is as comfortable emceeing a large event as he is facilitating a day-long strategy session. His charisma and passion spur engagement and action. He shines in his ability to truly partner with organizations and become a strategic consultant offering creative, brand-focused suggestions that lead to awareness, engagement, and growth.

Anthony Molina

Anthony Molino has been in the hospitality industry for nearly two decades. As the Director of Hotel Sales for Choose Chicago, he is a results-driven, enthusiastic leader with a successful background in business development, teamwork, and employee relations.

He has an extensive history of industry volunteerism. Anthony is currently serving as the Immediate Past President of the MPI Potomac Chapter, chair of the Government and Advocacy committee for the PCMA Capital Chapter, member of the Conventional Sales and Services Innovation committee for Destinations International, and is a sitting Board Director on the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association. He is also MPI International RISE Award Winner for Industry Advocate due to his work with Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion.

Anthony graduated with his Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications Sales and Management from Ball State University and with a Master of Education from DePaul University. He has also been a guest lecturer at Kendall College, Ball State University, and Northwestern University speaking with a focus on hospitality sales. Anthony has completed 8 Olympic distance triathlons, raising over $10k for the Chicago Aids Foundation teaming up with the Team 2 End Aids.

Troy Parkinson (Break-out Speaker)

As a speaker and facilitator, Troy shares his down-to-earth approach with clients throughout the United States and internationally. In his 20 years in the film industry, he has produced television series for Discovery Health and the History Channel and also served as Director of Production for the Minnesota Film Commission, promoting Minnesota cities and venues to companies like Disney, HBO, and Netflix.

During his tenure with SagePresence, Troy has coached and trained companies to over $4 Billion in project wins, helping individuals and teams increase their confidence and networking skills for both live and virtual sales presentations. For more information visit www.sagepresence.com

2021 Agenda

08:30 amRegistration, Continental Breakfast & Networking 
09:30 amProgram Begins
10:00 amOpening Keynote
11:15 amMorning Education Sessions
12:15 pmLunch and DEI Panel Discussion 
01:30 pmAfternoon Education Sessions
02:45 pmClosing Keynote & Closing Remarks 
04:00 pmNetworking/cocktail hour and Pre-racing programing
05:00 pmRacing begins


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