WEC Vegas: A Conversation with Presenters About the First Big In-Person Event in 15 Months!

June 24, 2021
Encore Research

Last week, Encore team members attended and participated in MPI’s WEC Las Vegas! It is one of the first big events in the past 15 months, and we couldn’t be happier to see each other face-to-face! We had the opportunity to catch up with our presenters and ask them a few questions about their experiences.

This is one of the first large in-person events in the past 15 months. How is an in-person event different now than it was before?

John Kirby, National Account Manager: The hugging was egregious, and I’m a hugger! Just kidding! I would say that it was incredible to feel the excitement of walking into a room again, to see a team working, even if it wasn’t OUR team, to be in a space full of people that were just as excited as you were.  You could see on the event staff’s faces how happy they were to be working again. I felt charged up on  dopamine every time I met someone new, hugged a friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years or interfaced with someone I had not met before. I could feel it in the way I walked the floor, talked to people and embraced the opportunity to learn that I was given. I wanted to be as present as possible to soak up what I had been missing so badly for all these months.

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John Rissi, SVP, Customer and Industry Relations: The enthusiasm to be live again was palpable, with everyone sharing their stories of Zoom exhaustion. We will quickly return to normal based on what I saw here and the desire to be together and in person has never been stronger.

Tom Andrika, Director, Customer Engagement, Concise: Temperature checks provided safety and security to attendees. Spaces and seating are still more spread out, but the energy of human connection still brings people closer! It’s never felt better to hug!

Debra Mategrano, Regional Sales Director: It felt amazing to attend an event in-person! I appreciated the health screening form each attendee filled out daily before entering the convention, and the daily temperature checks provided a sense of security. The ribbons offered to attendees to wear as a way of expressing their comfort level with physical interaction was quite useful, and the overall exhilaration coursing through the veins of the conference made the entire experience feel remarkably unique and powerful!

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 What are your positive takeaways from WEC?

John Rissi: We are an industry of huggers! The passion of those involved in MPI and this industry is stronger than ever.

Ron Nicynski, VP, Strategy and Development, Hargrove: People are SO happy to be LIVE again. This industry is PROUD to have made it through this, together, and we’re ready for what is to come.

Ben Erwin, President and CEO: Live events are back! People in our industry are ready to leverage the silver linings of the past year, like digital tools and increased conversations on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to build back better than we ever were before.

Tom Andrika: Based on my observations and conversations with fellow attendees, as long as we continue on the upward track of coming out of the pandemic, in-person events are going to come back heavy and hard. Virtual and hybrid events will still be part of the ecosystem and will be advantageous solutions for specific types of events and certain business goals. Understanding audience journeys and effectively planning and executing audience engagement moments in order to change behavior or drive change is critical.

Debra Mategrano: People are ready for in-person events. The networking capabilities that WEC provides in-person are instrumental to us as a supplier to this industry, and for all customers in the industry!

Did you see any areas where we have the opportunity to improve the attendee experience at in-person events?

Ron Nicysnki: People seem anxious that they don’t know how to really engage a virtual audience AND a live audience equally, simultaneously.

Ben Erwin: I felt a little restless sitting in a large audience watching a speaker without my computer in hand. Educational sessions in dark rooms after having plenty of these on Zoom were less satisfying than meeting people one-on-one to truly connect.

Matt Harvey, VP, Virtual and Hybrid: The opportunity for hybrid to be part of building back better is real.  But there are key gaps around complexity and cost that need to be solved. 

Debra Mategrano: More engagement elements could have boosted the take-away experience for breakout attendees.

John Rissi: As an industry we still have a long way to go to be as diverse and inclusive as we should be, but the will to make change is strong! 

Are there any presentations you particularly enjoyed? Any key insights gained?

John Kirby: In particular, there was a session I attended on Busy Bosses: Leadership Lessons for Those That Don’t Have Time, and it talked a lot about strategies for engaging your teams when time is at such a premium to get the best results and build culture while doing it! I was also reminded at several points in different sessions how important the concept of self-care is. I need to employ more of that for myself so I can show up for my team members and customers the way they deserve each day!

Ben Erwin: I really liked Rich Bracken’s presentation about investing in your mental health and Michael Bush’s presentation on creating great workplaces.

John Rissi: I enjoyed the session with Michael Bush from Great Place to Work. He really inspired me with his discussion about inclusive leadership. I loved his description of the best leaders as those that listen, think and speak with purpose!

Debra Mategrano: Beyond the Badge with Zoe Moore was great. This breakout was incredibly engaging and relevant without being over the top!

Tom Andrika: Food packaging is different and feels like a reversal on sustainability goals, which is an area we will need to improve on.

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