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Blog article 13 min read

Key Takeaways from GMID 2023

Preslea Jane

Written on

Embracing Change in the Event Industry

Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) 2023, a 12-hour international online event, showcased the power of in-person events.

Industry experts from across the globe explained why meetings matter, through insightful panels and interviews.

Throughout the day, there was a wide range of topics covered. Everything from negotiation techniques, to mental health, event design tips, sustainability, and more. All highlighted the importance of investing in small meetings, and connecting face-to-face.

If you weren’t able to attend, here’s our recap of the key take aways from MPI’s GMID. Read on for tips and strategies for event professionals to create stellar events.

Negotiation techniques

A sales strategist with both corporate and entrepreneurial experience, Ciara Feely started off the day with a segment on Selling the Business of the Meeting. Event planners know the struggle of cost v. creating experience. Feely says the solution lies in communicating the ‘why’ behind the meetings.

She warns against conversations centred around costs turning events into a commodity. Instead, she advises event planners, to talk about what they do in a different way:

“I help create new business leads, find upscale opportunities by building strong customer communities, and build strong relationships between partners and the organization.”

Everything comes down to the ROI of events. What creates the ROI is the community, connection, and serious engagement at events. As Feely puts it: “Conversations create CASH as well as Connection.”

Key questions to ask when creating an event:

What is the goal or purpose of the event?
What do you want people doing and thinking differently after the event?
How will success be measured?

Ciara Feely’s 7 Steps to Win with value-creation conversation skills

  1. Stand out and sound different
  2. Killer questions, strategic conversations
  3. Proposals that win
  4. Build a healthy sales funnel
  5. ‘Wow’ product experience
  6. Build better sales tools
  7. Referral marketing

Create meaningful, effective events that drive business growth and success with these strategies.

Designing for engagement

A recent study evaluated people's willingness to converse with strangers. The finding was that we often misjudge people's desire to be alone. In actuality, we all crave connection, conversation, and interaction.

A representative of the MPI Chicago chapter spoke to the impact of the misunderstanding. "The gap became a giant canyon with Covid."

The solution: the need to design for engagement. All too often, they explained, the human elements are forgotten in event planning, and it becomes very logistics based.

Low-cost, highly-effective strategies to engage people at your next in-person event:

  1. High-five people at doorways when they break for intermissions.
  2. Ask people their names in the parking lot, radio the info to workers at the entrance who can then greet them by name.
  3. Conversation starters on name tags, such as:
    1. ‘before I die I want to…’
    2. ‘the thing I want most to be known for is…’
    3. ‘the worst piece of advice I’ve ever received is…’
  4. Paper covering mirrors in the washroom saying “There’s no strangers here, just friends you haven’t met yet.”
  5. Post-it notes on a wall with the prompt: “What would you tell your 15-year-old self?”

Their alternative approaches were so simple they come off as silly. And yet, they were highly impactful at in-person events.

Note: the speaker suggested referring to people as participants, rather than attendees.

The crucial element is to design for engagement with and for everyone, maintains the MPI Chicago Chapter.

Creating sustainable events

Sustainability is a key factor in choosing a venue for 75% of event planners.

At Marriott Hotels, they’ve been measuring footprints for over a decade. More and more, customers are using that data in their decision-making process.

Denise Naguib, GVP of Sustainability & Supplier Diversity, and Petr Raba, GVP of Meetings & Events at Marriott, explained the goals and approaches the company takes toward sustainability.

For themselves, and for other organizations looking to prioritize sustainability, they explained the importance of prioritizing elements out of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Their advice: start with what you know, have efforts be coordinated, involve and communicate with stakeholders, prioritize sustainability goals, and consider what is most impactful and feasible.

At Marriott Hotels, they have four categories of focus areas:

Nurture our world, supporting communities we operate in, volunteering, being there in times of disasters, planting trees, cleaning up beaches, mitigating climate change

Sustainability efforts, reducing impacts through operations, designing in the most sustainable way,

Understand role and responsibility, making sure we are addressing everything we can

Empower through opportunity, supporting diverse suppliers, educating associates, awareness of tough situations, being welcoming, understanding cultures and ways of being accepting

As for customer-facing elements of sustainability:

Food: reduce food waste with intentional menu planning and attention to attendance, using local ingredients, partner with organizations to donate leftover food

Water: water carafes with glassware instead of plastic, low-flow water system, irrigation

Paper: digitize whatever we can

Temperature: keeping the temperature right, mitigate energy usage

Naguib and Raba from Marriott emphasized the way that meetings and events provide an opportunity to be part of the community. They approach this opportunity intentionally with elements such as having coffee breaks catered by women-owned businesses.

Notably, they acknowledged the important role that technology plays in sustainability going forward in meetings and events.

Small meetings matter, too

Small meetings have massive values, which skyrockets when they are executed well.

In a conversation with Casandra Matej (CEO, Visit Orlando) and Amanda Armstrong (SVP, Brand and Community Engagement, Encore), they discussed the power of community that comes through in small meetings.

From their perspective, “Meeting professionals can elevate themselves as community builders and leaders in their organizations.”

As they noted, small meetings are still too often dismissed as a nice-to-have. Their significance was made clear in their absence with the pandemic.

The turbulence demanded everyone to not only reopen but “reimagine gathering.”

The two women discussed the importance of engagement, regrowing attendance, and increasing awareness of the value of getting together — for its importance to the M&E industry, the economy at large, and “everything else that is accomplished at these events.”

The power of small meetings, they noted, was that “each moment has the potential to create a community — which might be critical to your organization’s success.”

They suggested moving away from defending budgets, and moving toward seeing meetings as vital investments.

This year is the year to capitalize on the opportunities of meetings, according to Matej and Armstrong.

Changes in events & non-traditional venues

Shelli Winter is the Vice President of Customer Experience at Questex. In this segment, she shared her take on how the industry has changed.

The emerging and prominent behavioral trends:

Emphasis on work-life balance
Mindfulness and wellness
Sober curious
Advanced technology and AI
Elements of surprise and delight
Equality and inclusivity

Winter went into what this means for events.

"Connection at events has always been important, now it’s number one. Create memories, that only happen at in-person events."

Ways she suggests doing so include:

  • stirring up healthy teamwork and competition
  • having simple conversation starters
  • and selecting experiences that will delight specific attendee groups.

As well, a popular theme has been creating separate spaces for people to have a moment of quiet. Elevate these spaces with intentional food and beverages, charging stations, or yoga rooms.

A key focus is on diversity, equity, inclusion, and social responsibility. People more than ever want to invest in products that support their social values. "Give me something I can believe in," says Winter.

When it comes to marketing, Winter's words of advice are "Talk to me like you know me. Personalization is expected."

  • Don't blast emails.
  • Know your data.
  • Build target groups.
  • Research for pain points.
  • Customize messaging with detailed personas.

And now, the ultimate experience. Increasingly, this is being created by exploring non-traditional venues.

A panel at the Southern California chapter of MPI talked about the value of these venues. Having events at golf ranges and museums, even the Super Bowl Stadium or Disneyland, elevates event experiences.

One thing to keep in mind is the potential misconceptions when it comes to non-traditional venues. Some may perceive the event to be less professional, or inaccessible financially. The key is to communicate with the venue owners to see how it could be adapted to your event needs.

As for food and beverage, the speaker from the sports stadium explained how they have both ends of the spectrum. Whether you want hot dogs and beers or well-catered options with local ingredients, these venues cater to what the client wants.

While there is fear of the unknown from certain stakeholders, they suggest crafting a strong 'why' statement about the choice of venue.

Final thoughts

Overall, GMID 2023 was an impactful twelve hours of insights from experts around the world. This wealth of knowledge will be key in reimagining and redesigning the events industry as it rises up again.

The main takeaways:

  • connecting face-to-face has no equal counterpart
  • events have the potential to drive business growth
  • quality engagement and experience are essential
  • designing for engagement can be simple and effective
  • prioritize certain sustainability goals to make progress
  • small meetings matter, too
  • connection is now number one
  • quiet spaces at events benefit everyone
  • consider non-traditional venues to up the experience