Building a New Policy Summit

We designed a marketing plan to generate awareness among key groups of prospective attendees with targeted, sophisticated communications.

Results:

  • The summit drew more than 1,000 participants — 14% more than our client’s goal — from a variety of backgrounds, political persuasions, and industries.

Breaking Out of the Trade-Show Model

Working with key volunteer leaders, MCI USA’s executive team reviewed possible solutions, eventually opting for the complete transformation of the event’s traditional trade-show model, the sale of the asset after the makeover helped increase market value, and the creation of a new business plan for both revenue replacement and staff and program realignment and improvement.

Results:

  • MCI USA launched a transformed event with new education, show design, industry partners, and personalization.
  • MCI USA worked to broker and sell the show to a partner that worked with the association for three years during transition.
  • The transition led to enhanced education programs, executive advisory boards in sales and marketing, new executive roundtables for sales and revenue management, and new online programs in revenue management.

Blowing Out the Room Block

MCI USA helped the association reinforce the importance of booking within the room block by engaging the top 100 exhibitors immediately before and after they secured their booth space in the exhibit sales office. Housing was opened for the following year at the current show, and MCI USA was able to shut down most housing poachers.

Results:

  • The association’s room block grew from 4,600 rooms to 12,000+ rooms on peak.

Tapping into Technology for Hassle-free Hotel Bookings

The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 is the largest equestrian event in the world, taking place in Normandy, France. The quality and organisation of the accommodation is a critical success factor for all large international sporting events, and the organisers were determined to ensure that accommodation services for all accredited populations ran smoothly.

Due to our global buying power and expertise in handling accommodation for large international events, MCI was appointed as the Official Accommodation Agency. Tasked with numerous key responsibilities, MCI successfully negotiated, marketed and managed over 40,000 hotel nights across 65 hotels; delivering seamless solutions and enabling the organisers to focus their time and energy on other aspects of the event.

Hosting MCI USA’s first post-COVID in-person client event​

After COVID forced the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) to cancel its 2020 annual trade show, the organization was determined to not let that happen again in 2021. MCI USA worked with TAA to create a safe and seamless in-person event — providing registration, lead retrieval, housing, and sales services. Our team required guests to fill out a liability form upon registration, enforced new cleaning protocols, and required PPE for staff members. Even with enhanced health and safety requirements on behalf of the convention center where the event was hosted, the event went extremely smoothly, and attendee behavior was quite normal compared with the same event in 2019.

Results:

  • More than 1,400 people attended – exceeding the goal by 40 percent
  • Lead service sales achieved 85 percent of budgeted goal
  • The client was extremely pleased with all aspects of the event

Reimagining the NABA 2020 Convention

The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) was three months out from the 2020 NABA National Convention & Expo in Indianapolis when COVID-19 made the in-person event impossible — and MCI USA transitioned from full-service event management partner to full-service virtual event producer. In the ensuing 90 days, we identified a virtual event platform that fit the convention’s high-energy mix of continuing professional education (CPE), networking and recruiting, and exhibitions; worked with NABA to streamline the original four-day agenda into two days; and tailored the program to the virtual environment. In addition to designing and producing the show, MCI USA provided speaker management, digital and AV support, and help-desk functionality, and monitored live chats, which allowed us to respond to any immediate problems.


Results:

  • The NABA Virtual Convention had nearly 1,900 registrations and more than 1,500 unique attendees.
  • The agenda included three plenary sessions, eight CPE sessions, and five on-demand sessions.
  • According to an NABA representative: “MCI USA enabled us to innovate, helping us create an online event which met the moment while raising our profile as a highly relevant, progressive, and nimble organization.”

Incentive Trip to Key Largo

Challenge: MCI USA was tasked with creating a celebratory event for a company’s top producers and their guests — 60 people total — at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Florida. 

To start, MCI USA created a website to build excitement during the qualifying period that later served as an online registration portal. When the four-day trip began, guests were greeted with a welcome tote bag filled with Florida treats and beach amenities before gathering for a “Welcome to Margaritaville”themed dinner, featuring an open bar, Caribbean cuisine, and a Jimmy Buffettstyle band.  

Over the following two days, guests could have meals at their leisure and were treated to their choice of activities, including a rejuvenating spa visit, golfing at two different courses, snorkeling onAmerica’s largest coral reef, and deep-sea fishing. A Floridian soiree was held on the third day, with a mixologist, ice bar serving the bounty of the sea, fashion illustrator, and Latin-style percussion entertainment. Guests departed on the fourth day.

Learn more about this dynamic incentive program.

Maximizing Profit from a Virtual Event

When COVID-19 forced a large nonprofit organization to postpone its annual conference, MCI USA moved quickly to organize a new virtual event that would provide opportunities for learning, engagement, and networkingThe half-day event included education sessions with expert speakers, moderated discussion group sessions, and open networking time. It was held on an interactive platform that allowed for breakout tables, group chat, private messaging, and direct interaction with speakers, moderators, and the MCI USA team.

With timing designed to accommodate multiple time 
zones, the event was a huge success, with more than 300 registrants across four continents. The event also helped MCI USA better understand the behavior and interests of members in relation to virtual events and technology usage, which will aid in planning the rescheduled conference.

Results:

  •     In addition to bringing in sponsors and registration revenue with a profittoexpense ratio of 5:1, MCI USA also leveraged the event to attract new members.
  •     More than 40 renewals were received to gain access to the program.
  •     Following the event, 92% of survey respondents said they would recommend the organization’s next virtual event.

Growing an incentive program for a corporate client

Over the seven years that MCI USA has designed and produced incentive events for a healthcare companywe’ve partnered with the client to use the program not just to recognize and motivate employees but also to build community and collaboration. We started out creating incentive trips for individual divisions within the company, then expanded to bring multiple divisions together for a single unified experience — hosted in the United States as well as in international locations. This has helped break down institutional and operational barriersbetter assimilate employees of acquired companies, and foster a greater sense of identity and engagement among high-performing teams.

Results:

  •     Attendance ranges from 100 to 500 award-winning team achievers depending on the divisions involved.
  •     Unified program integrates the diverse needs and goals of multiple division presidents to create a cohesive experience.
  •     CEO testimonial: “Every year we think you can’t top the lastand you blow us away every year!

5 Topics Event Strategists Need to Have on Their Radar

Earlier this year, I participated in two events at the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) Convening Leaders conference in Las Vegas. The organization asked me to create a workshop on its “7 Change Actions” learning experience and to moderate the sessions that took place on the 7 Change Actions Stage. To do this, I first had to learn this innovative framework.

Developed by PCMA, the 7 Change Actions is a seven-module learning experience, designed to help event leaders navigate the challenging times we are living in. The course is comprised of amazing content that helps you think differently and/or use frameworks to help redesign your event or business.

For my workshop, I did a deep dive into three of the Change Actions — and what a learning experience it was! I also moderated five sessions on the stage, getting the opportunity to participate in thought-provoking conversations on topics that impact how all business-event strategists operate today.

These are the five topics that resonated with me the most during my experience at the event.

1. Collaboration

One of the 7 Change Actions I covered in my workshop was collaboration. I love and have studied this topic for years, so it was fun to bring some of my insights into the workshops.

As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So, as part of looking to change business models, event strategies, etc., we need to first look at collaboration in new ways to help us get there. To start, we must determine how to fix the issues that inhibit collaboration and innovation. These issues include:

  • Functional goals superseding shared outcomes from the collaboration project
  • Unclear decision-making processes
  • Lack of effective rhythm for communicating, collaborating, and learning
  • Lack of understanding concerning the function of other team members

There are several ways to fix these, but let’s focus on the difference between coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. Coordination involves looking at the structure and architecture; alignment of activities and information; and mechanics of the project, team, and meetings. Cooperation, on the other hand, focuses on creating a collaborative environment, aligning goals and human behavior, and creating motivation. And, finally, collaboration is working together to create something new in support of a shared vision. Both elements of coordination and cooperation need to be considered to ensure the collaboration can be successful.

2. Measurement

On the 7 Change Actions Stage, Nicole Moreo, EVP, head of U.S. Analytics at Ketchum, presented “The Return on Events: Measuring and Reporting Your Value.” Measurement is about counting or documenting the results of a campaign, but the real magic happens by producing knowledge and insights that support real-time optimizations, future strategy, and creative executions. Don’t fall for vanity metrics such as the number of butts in seats. You need to ask why you are tracking something in the first place — what is your “so what?” Start with the end in mind. What or who are you trying to influence? That is when you get into asking the right questions that can help you drive your event or business.

As Moreo says, “As problem-solvers, we are very eager to give the business/our boss/the client the right key we believe will fix their issue and cause the change they want to see. Every key in our toolbox is useless if we don’t find which lock we need to put it in first — the one that is ultimately responsible for changing the situation [or] behavior.”

As you know, there is an infinite number of things you can measure. The following framework from Ketchum is a great example of how you should think about what you should measure and why.


KPI Framework/Measurement Plan developed by Ketchum

Moreo, who is on the board of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), said during her presentation that AMEC has free resources that provide additional frameworks to help you decide how you can and should be measuring your events. Check it out and see if you can use any of these tools to look like a rockstar!


Framework developed by the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC)

3. Focus on Storytelling

The second session I moderated on the stage, “Making More with Less: Content Hacks to Drive Engagement and ROI,” was led by Bob Hitchcock, senior director of content marketing at LegalZoom. First and foremost, Hitchcock is a storyteller, and he stressed that storytelling is really all about creating emotion. (He worked for Disney for 11 years in PR and content marketing, after all, so he knows what he is talking about.)

During the session, he told a story about how to make meaningful content using video. LegalZoom wanted to showcase how easy it is to start a business with the service, and they wanted to launch a video in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. Once they found a successful entrepreneur from the Latino community, Hitchcock went to work. This example showed how easy it was to create content that costs nothing, other than time to create some questions and to film and edit (using free software) the video. Think about how you can easily create something that can evoke emotion without having a hefty expense hitting your P&L!

4. Skillsets and Ingenious Thinking

This session titled “Build the Event Team of the Future by Unlocking Cross-Functional Collaboration” was pretty fun and featured an engaging panel with Michael Guillory and Nicole O’Leary from The Expo Group and Jay Weintraub of Connectiv. In addition to the power of collaboration, they focused on the skillsets of the team and ingenious thinking:

  • Skillsets: Project management, along with strategy and execution skills, will be in high demand. Hiring managers should look for talent who can work in the gray area (which we have been living in for the past two years) and are intuitive and diverse. Ask yourself: Are we hiring using those criteria, or are we just filling in the gaps left by the pandemic? Determine what your future looks like and hire for that need.
  • Ingenious thinking: Look for exponential versus incremental changes and growth. Lean into your partners. Use the “kill or keep” exercise to clean your slate of events. Determine what your clients/attendees need now and only keep those who meet the new need.

Part of the ingenious thinking discussion was discipline and focus. In my personal experience, if you have more than three to five KPIs or headline metrics, you have too many. Take the time to figure out what you are really trying to accomplish and focus only on those things. There are only so many resources to go around, so make sure they are focused on the right things.

Lastly, Weintraub said that one of the things that have made him successful in starting, building, and selling events was “making everyone feel special” on his team. How cool is that? Is that a core value or mandate in your organization?

5. Delivering Value

One of the other 7 Change Actions I went over during my workshop was value delivery and creation. PCMA worked with Mark Payne of Fahrenheit 212 to help determine how to deliver value to your customers while serving the needs of the business (aka generating revenue).

As event leaders, we are good at brainstorming ideas on all the things we could do to make things more fun or engaging or easy, or…you get my point. What is generally missing is, how do you tie those new, innovative ideas into revenue-generating opportunities? The following framework is a good start. It looks at the needs of the consumer (or event attendee, exhibitor, etc.) and the needs of the business (or association/organization).


Make sure you are looking at both sides of this two-sided solution. You can check out this YouTube video to see some frameworks Payne created that you could use to help solve this problem.

The world is very different from what it was two years ago, and we need to look at new ways to learn about, and serve, our audiences or customers. The 7 Change Actions framework was built specifically for event professionals but can also apply to most business problems. It is a great resource if you want a methodology that can help you and your team think differently. But don’t forget to coordinate and cooperate before you collaborate and do your best to make people feel special!

By: Heidi (Voorhees) Haneberg, CAE, is the senior vice president of strategic projects at MCI USA.