Event Recap: Storytelling Takes Center Stage at MPINCC Annual Conference & Expo

March 5, 2018

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) is the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide. The association’s mission statement is to provide the best education, experiences and relationships to help members produce the best meetings and events.

MPI Chapters provide an education and networking link between members in a specific locality, including newsletters, directories, and monthly educational programs. Many chapters also host a yearly educational event designed to bring together local members.

The largest chapter within MPI is the Northern California Chapter (NCC), with more than 800 members. On Feb. 27, 2018, MPINCC hosted its 30th Annual Conference and Expo (ACE) at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco.  

The theme for the 2018 MPINCC ACE was “Innovate Together,” and that dedication to innovation and bringing people together drove the event design and programming for this one-day event.

CrowdCompass by Cvent provided a mobile app that helped attendees find their way around Moscone West and connect with other attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. It was one of the most informative and intuitive event apps that I’ve used, and I found myself referring to it frequently.

The app was multi-purpose: some of the speakers had uploaded conference materials and information in advance, others leveraged the built-in polling ability to conduct in-session polls. Session surveys were also submitted through the app.

As this was a chapter event, albeit a very large one, the organizers were cognizant of the fact that many people were commuting in vs. staying nearby. Rather than an opening keynote, the day started with educational breakout sessions labeled as “Sunrise Sessions.”

These early morning sessions included topics such as a certified meeting professional (CMP) exam recertification primer, tips on making the most out of chapter membership, and the inaugural MPI Foundation Wellness Event, which was a guided meditation. Donations (tax-deductible) were encouraged, with all proceeds benefitting the MPI Foundation to support scholarships, education and more.

The entire morning was focused on education, with a choice of workshop breakout sessions in the two timeslots before lunch. There were subjects of interest for the full spectrum of attendees, from students eager to learn more about the industry to jaded former long-term B2B technology event marketers like myself.

Workshops covered diverse topics including:

  • Innovation in Events
  • Crisis Communications Planning
  • Millennials in the Workforce
  • Unique Learning Formats
  • Green Meetings
  • Ways to Elevate Brand Experiences

MPINCC did an excellent job at selecting interesting, dynamic, and relevant speakers for the workshops. The unspoken theme throughout the day was storytelling: the best sessions were those where the presenters called upon the power of storytelling, and encouraged attendees to do the same, to help them deliver their messages.

I attended one session on using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality to elevate brand experiences and another on crisis communications that were well-thought out, timely topics presented with panache – both of will be covered in future Corporate Event News articles.

The general session was held during lunch. While I am not particularly a fan of having to eat and listen at the same time (it was a challenge passing food around and trying to figure out the difference between the unlabeled barbecue sauces without trying to pay attention to the speakers at the same time), the session was well-structured from the perspective of having the MPI speakers on first, so most of the dining was done by the time Matthew Luhn took the stage.

Luhn is an accomplished storyteller who has parlayed his experience and skills into the speaking and executive training arena. His claims to fame include being the youngest animator on The Simpsons (season three) and being one of the writers at Pixar who has brought us such heartwarming stories as Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Up, and Finding Nemo.

I was excited to hear Luhn’s presentation, and he did not disappoint. Using his own stories as well as examples of others who have done it well, he showed the importance of storytelling to evoke emotion and shared plot planning devices that can be extrapolated out for use in event design and marketing.

The luncheon concluded with some selected MPINCC members telling their stories of how they became involved with the association, and how it has changed their lives – which was a nice way to tie the storytelling aspect back to the event.

The remainder of the afternoon was dedicated to the expo hall – and it really did take several hours to get around to see all of the exhibitors. A wide variety of venues and industry suppliers were represented. The hall also featured a “Tech Playground” area which gave attendees a chance to try out some new technologies for ourselves.

During lunch, Visit Oakland randomly selected a winner for two free tickets to anywhere Norwegian air flies and promised another winner would be drawn later, giving everyone great incentive to get their expo passports stamped (sadly, I did not win).

The event closed out with a reception on the expo floor, which was a nice way to give the attendees and sponsors some extra networking time.

While the industry has changed quite a bit over the 30 years since the inaugural MPINCC ACE was held, the spirit of cooperation, education and support that the association prides itself on has remained a constant. I look forward to seeing the event continue to evolve while keeping that same spirit for the next three decades.

MPI holds a number of events each year, open to both members and non-members. The largest of these is the annual World Education Conference (WEC), which this year will be held June 2-5 in Indianapolis.

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