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Time to RE-THINK your meeting

By: MPI Toronto Chapter Board of Directors | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter | Aug 16, 2019

Re-ImagineIn today’s rapidly changing world, business events are continuously challenged to do more with less; adopt new ideas while remaining relevant. This is no different for association meetings. 

Whether as an association for basic science or professional services, we’ve seen common challenges such as tightening budgets, declining attendee numbers, and reduced sponsorship dollars across all sectors over the years. As an event/meeting professional, we know how much value these meetings can create, so the question is, what should we do?

There are many articles, books, webinars, and conferences out there which all offer excellent tips and tools, but what I’d like to discuss here are some simple mindset changes we can implement. For me, these changes help me reimagine the meetings I planned.

Before you make a change, ask and listen

Why is registration declining? It may be as simple as the audience is not engaged in the type of traditional meeting we are offering. Are we relevant? Who is attending? Who was attending but is no longer? Why?

Before applying fresh and “innovative” ideas, make sure we take a step back and ask ourselves, “Is this what my attendees are looking for?”

Your meeting is not just your meeting anymore

One critical reason why association’s host meetings is so their members can exchange knowledge and ideas. For example, an international pediatric congress will host thousands of pediatricians under one roof to discuss global health issues. At an international ornithological congress, an ornithologist from Australia can present his findings on the evolution of birds in Sahul to his colleagues around the world. 

When we have a group of intellects like this in one place, why not amplify it? Engage the grassroots organization from the early stages and develop a programme that can create a dialogue between delegates and the public. Maybe invite the public to join elements of the programme, include a public parade or march, enhance advocacy efforts, or dedicate a day during the meeting that the exhibit floor is open to the public.

Ask ourselves, ‘how can we expand the reach of the knowledge exchange and leave a legacy for the destination and the local community?’

The evolution of sponsorship to partnership

As an industry, we need to stop asking for sponsorship dollars and look to invite key organizations to partner with us. Identify who they are and listen carefully to what they want to achieve. Then create a bespoke solution that will be aligned with their objectives.

The tier system still works. People always like to see their logo on the screen as Diamond or Gold, but that is not enough anymore.

We all know that business as usual is not going to work anymore. What have you done to respond to these challenges? Do you have success stories or lessons learned you could share? How do you re-imagine the way you plan your meeting?

Shawn ChengShawn Cheng, CMP DES is Senior Project Coordinator at MCI Group Canada Inc., and currently served as chapter president for PCMA Canada West chapter. He can be reached at or via twitter account @ShawnCEvent. 


MPI Toronto Chapter Board of Directors | Published by MPI Toronto Chapter

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