CHANGING THE GAME OF EVENTS
There’s no doubt in my mind that this year’s EMEC conference will go down in history as one of the best ones. Everything, what everyone working in the event industry and meeting design dreams of, was put into reality by the Dutch colleagues. My hat goes off to them, and I am sorry for everyone that couldn’t make it to Hague.
EMEC (European Meetings Industry Conference) has been a source of inspiration for me ever since 2007, when I attended the congress for the first time. From a meeting professional’s standpoint, EMEC definitely is impressive. Especially the 2016 edition in Copengahen and this year’s edition in Hague speak of that. Both were connected by the same theme: a very strong wish to change the meetings industry, personified by their slogan – Changing the Game.
Meeting organisers from MPI Netherlands chapter had done it properly. A new way of organising events, where the entire event production is put into the hands of local chapter, proved to be the winning formula. They connected the key meeting designers from the Netherlands and created an interactive programme that suited all the participants. The customer journey was well thought out, efficient, fun and very useful as a good practice case for everyone involved with events. At the same time, EMEC provided a strong source of inspiration for all aspects of organising events, from the catering to every little brilliant detail that made the show so interesting.
Okay, first things first. The main goal of the organisers was to “Change the way you meet”. Everybody who expected classic boring lectures must had been disappointed, as there were none. Even if they were, they were part of a wider experience. The first obstacle that many event organisers come across, are boring congress halls, which were at EMEC turned upside down. They were turned into living rooms, playrooms, participants were sitting on a stage instead of in front of it. They also showed us some really interesting special venues nearby the main conference venue. Exploring every hidden secret that Hague has to offer was accepted with excitement. This allowed us to make a more authentic connection with the local environment and feel the true vibe of Holland. Interesting stories were tied into the event’s programme, subtly giving out the message of who they are and what they are trying to change with the event. The boring meeting trap was avoided in a playful and interactive way.
The second goal of the organisers was to “Change the way you experience”. Imagine going to 7 different cleverly planned trips across Hague instead of sitting at 7 different lectures in the same lecture hall. That’s exactly what happened on the first day. After some hard consideration, as all of them were really appealing, I decided to set off into the heart of Dutch agriculture, to the innovative growers of watercress (Koppert Cress), who are making a wholehearted effort to turn vegetables into medicine, change our diet, so that vegetables make up 80% of the food we eat, help the agricultural region of Hague become one of the most healthy in Europe, make over 50 varieties of cress known to the world, and promote their facilities as a special venue for organising events. Throughout the trip we were constantly learning and kept being reminded, in a fun way, of how to use meeting design in new ways, as well as given some outlandish prototypes for promoting the 80:20 diet concept (80% vegetables, 20% meat).
The third goal of the conference was to “Change the way you learn”. An array of methods and techniques was shown, one of the most interesting ones being a teambuilding game for over 400 people. Through a fun game, we had to build a giant QR code with which we could escape from the Fokker terminal, a former aircraft hangar turned into an event space. It was probably the biggest escape room game ever. Through personal workshop formats, practical lectures and fun games, networking had been made easy, and all of a sudden everyone had something to discuss with one another.
One of the things I learned and will keep in my mind is that the brain needs quality fuel. Healthy fats, antioxidants and just the right dose of carbohydrates. All of the food served at the conference followed that blueprint. I probably don’t even have to mention the emphasis put on sustainability.
The success of the conference is illustrated by all the positive comments on social media. I think everyone who attended EMEC can agree that special, genuine energy flowed among the organisers and participants. The moment, when the positive energy and the organisers’ authenticity touching the participants form the true chemistry, certainly happened in Hague. As CEO of MPI, Paul VanDeventer said: “The growth of MPI relies on European trends, from which it sources its values and builds the brand.”
We can’t wait for the next one, which will be in Seville in 2020.