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MPI warms up for its long-awaited Brighton edition

MPI warms up for its long-awaited Brighton edition

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Paula Rey
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Probably never before has a conference of MPI been so eagerly awaited. The yearly conference of MPI Europe, the European Meetings and Events Conference, had to take place in Brighton in 2020, was cancelled for reasons you might guess… an was reprogrammed to 2021, then to 2022, and will finally take place in 2023 (26-28 March). We talk to Kim Myhre from xdesigned and Richard Allchild from IMEX Exhibitions, from the local organising committee, about how the market has changed and the value a conference like EMEC can / will bring in this post-pandemic context.

A conference like EMEC brings many different values to participants but if you had to summarise it, what would that be?

A clear value is education, but the other one, essential in today’s context, is to bring the community back together, a MPI European community which has not met for 3 years (since our event in Sevilla). Our focus has shifted since then: education was probably the lead reason to attend, then during covid it was pure networking, and now it would be a mix. Networking is still key, but the education needs to be very strong, in a market in permanent change.

Vista de Brighton

Is anyone going to a conference to listen to a speaker? We have been consuming brilliant talks online for the last few years… We have been consuming brilliant talks online for the last few years…

There was a time when content programmes in events was like broadcast media: people came and sat in the room and listened. Technology has brought better, more efficient ways of doing this, with greater reach and a higher production quality. But people still want to come together. The opportunity now is to make sure live events really focus on the “live” dimension: what do people do when they come together? How do we enhance this with better designed live experiences. The question is not whether live events will come back (of course they will, people want to meet), but how will live events change? ? We now have new event technologies, and an audience that is technology-enabled; we have important issues facing event professionals (accessibility, sustainability, engagement…), and so we have to look at new ways of better sharing knowledge and enhancing the live experience. “You are either a victim of the future, or an architect of it”, let’s let MPI members be architects of the future by embracing change and applying it in whys that enhance the experiences they offer to their guests.

If we take the design and time breakdown of an event like this, is it different?

Yes. A key objective is to experience the city, so people come on Sunday, enjoy the opening session, the opening party, and on Monday afternoon they go around Sussex to experience the area. Also in education, formats will be more dynamic, we have a lot of panels, open discussions with groups, to maximise engagement and participation. If you get people together, magic happens and ideas come out.

Isn’t effective participation terribly difficult?

When we talk about “events”, we have a traditional view of what we mean: a speaker with a podium. When we think of “creating experiences”, we think differently. We think “how will we take advantage of the fact people are here live to create something that can’t happen online”, and make sure we craft experiences people find fun, exciting, interesting, motivational, and actionable. We want to support our audience as they move from event planners to become experience designers. In this event, the sessions will be short, there will be a lot happening between sessions, there will be fun hospitality, workshop formats where people participate. Also, we change the design of rooms, creating opportunities for people to talk and work together. We have to get smarter to engage young people, they are tech-enabled, they access any knowledge they need with a click… The event must bring them something else.

And it is essential to engage. I was in events in the financial crisis and people were cancelling events for economic pressures. And if we see the same pressure now, companies will question events and wonder if it is really necessary to attend (time commitment, budget, emissions…). It will be necessary to ensure experiences are worthwhile and engaging, and can not be substituted by online formats. One thing which will help is the magical, serendipity of events, chance encounters in which ideas and synergies come up.

When we talk about “events”, we think of a speaker with a podium, when we think of “creating experiences”, we think differently

Are we (events) more necessary than we used to be?

Yes, we are definitely seeing the importance of meetings. But there has to be self-appraisal, within our industry thinking “what business are we really in?”. Are we in the business of networking, of bringing buyers and sellers together, in content dissemination… and are there are other ways of achieving that. Are these other tools part of events or not? Is an event a once-a-year affair or it should be a continuous communication and community? Focusing on the value we have to bring and using new tools to do that, is essential.

One of the learnings during the pandemic is how online events increased audience size, with young people happy to connect online … so they saw the opportunity to be both physical and online to reach more people and provide more value.

Will EMEC be hybrid?

No. Some sessions will be recorded but we want to make sure people come to Brighton and fully experience the event.

Summarising: what value will the experience and the content bring?

That people can embrace change, they can innovate and there are different ways to do things. There has never been a better time to be in the experience business. We see companies investing ever more in experiences, in stores, on the street or in venues. The difference is we have to reconsider the traditional event formats and start to make them more accessible, environmentally friendly, making the most of technology. Delegates will learn more about the potential to change and the ways to do so. Technology, data, inclusiveness, sustainability are things people need to understand and apply because they will help them transition for the future.

EMEC takes place in Brighton in 26-28th March. More information: More information:

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