Take your time and keep an open mind. According to Miranda, they started by looking at the speaker recommendations and improvement areas from last year, as well as survey results and satisfaction scores of the last 10 years of this conference. Another input was the debriefing with the past host committee. (Now be frank: don’t you rush to organize your next event rather than taking that time to interpret the learnings from past editions?).
Besides these inputs, they involved a lot the host committee to analyze the public and define the objective. “In Copenhagen, we took four days with the local committee for a Meetovation training. This year we went to Granada for a two day design session with the local committee with no pre-conceived idea. We thought with them about what was the real objective of the conference.” This is a learning: keep an open ear, rather than close a briefing too early and start rushing to design the event.
Localize your event. Some things stay the same in MPI’s conferences: as the association’s mission is to get the global m&e community to learn, innovate, collaborate and advocate, these objectives have to come to life in the conference. But you have probably noticed that events are getting ever more “localized.” Miranda tells us an event like this is increasingly an opportunity for the destination to showcase itself and for delegates to experience its local flavour. “We wanted to get delegates to experience the destination.”
Education: use a variety of inputs. MPI looked at topics and speakers recommendations which came from the association’s international advisory group and its local host committee. This committee reviewed the conference feedback surveys, and also asked people who haven’t gone to EMEC for several years and those who have never attended for a one-to-one conversation to understand what value they would get from such a conference. “We had huge input from the host committee,” says Miranda.
Define a narrative. “The conference follows a story which changes every year,” says Miranda. “It is not so much what people will see in our marketing efforts, but it serves as a great compass to help make the decisions during the planning process.” The narrative this year? “the human side of meetings” which as Miranda says, really fits Granada: a city full of passion, where senses are delighted, where human connections are natural and easy, your soul is filled with possibilities. “Granada is a special place, and we want to capture that spirit and passion. We want people to learn, laugh, and fall in love.” This is where the facilitator Sean Blair, steps in, with an objective to make the story come to life. All speakers are related to this concept, in various ways (business, emotional, etc.). The association is keen to walk the talk as it comes to experiencing the destination, and has re-designed what education can look like. Instead of staying inside the congress center for learning, delegates will find themselves in the heart of the city for a culinary scavenger hunt learning and networking experience.
A conference conception method. Last year MPI used the Danish method Meetovation and its whole team is now certified as meetovators. This year they worked with Roel Frissen from the Event Model Generation, “and that was a really great experience; it probes you to go deep to get to the core of the event.”
You are not alone! Involve the right set of professionals. The event was defined with a meeting designer (Roel) along the whole process. The facilitator, Sean, was involved very soon after so he could still be part of the creation of the story too. The whole host committee, including the city, was very involved, as was the core team of MPI (business owner, meeting manager, education manager, as well as marketing and sales people).
A great experience. Miranda reminds us that planning an event with an open mind, with passion and with a great team, is highly rewarding. “We were not only planning a meeting, we were learning together. You gather with a group of people you don’t know, and this is very stimulating.” So this would be the last advice: enjoy it and learn a lot!
EMEC, Europe’s main meetings and events conference, will take place in Granada, Spain, 5th to 7th of March. http://www.mpiweb.org/events/emec-2017/home