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First-Timers Proliferate MPI’s World Education Congress

Concergoers cheering a band on stage while holding drinks at the Louisville Waterfront

Skift Take

More than half of the 700 planners attending MPI’s World Education Congress in Louisville were first-timers, which coincides with the industry's trend of being flooded by newbies.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has wrapped up its annual World Education Congress (WEC) at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville, KY. This is the organization’s first meeting in this up-and-coming meeting destination.

Approximately 1,900 people were in attendance, 700 of whom were meeting planners. Of those planners, 50 percent were attending WEC for the first time.

This is a trend the entire industry is seeing, as many left the meetings and event industry during the pandemic and didn’t return. Thus, younger and more inexperienced planners have replaced them, and the opportunity to learn the nuances of the industry that MPI offers enthralls.

This year’s gathering of 1,900 was the largest since WEC in Toronto in 2019. In addition, there was a 33% increase over last year’s WEC in the Mexican Caribbean.

MPI has the most members since April 2021, with nearly 12,500. Nearly every region has experienced significant growth, including 4% in North America and 13% in EMEA. Latin America’s members increased by 7% to more than 500 for the first time. 

The membership consists of nearly 6,500 planners, including corporate, independent and small business owners and associations. More than 4,500 new members fueled MPI’s membership growth last year.

What made this year’s congress unique was its “Craft Your Experience” focus. This was the first time in WEC’s history that attendees could personalize their experience. Nearly 150 speakers and 115 sessions were available within eight educational tracks. Tracks included a feature track with keynote speakers, a senior professionals track, a tech/AI track, a business-games track, a back-to-basics track, a wellness and sustainability track, a medical meetings track, and a partners and communities track.

WEC Louisville also brought back its digital experience in which digital attendees could earn 13 CEUs. 

The opening reception at the new Churchill Downs First Turn Club allowed attendees to get a feel for Louisville. Churchill Downs staged the 150th edition of the Kentucky Derby earlier this month.

The President’s Dinner was held at the Melwood Arts Center. Industry leader Steve O’Malley, COO of Maritz, was honored.

Sneak Peek of Industry Research

MPI president and CEO Paul Van Deventer shared a sneak peek from the Meetings Outlook Spring 2024 report, set to be released in early June. It reveals a dip in optimism. Only 68% of respondents anticipate positive conditions, marking the lowest confidence level since Q1 2022. This shift suggests a normalization in business expectations, aligning more closely with pre-pandemic levels following the initial surge in optimism for in-person events. Additionally, there is a slight decrease in full-time hiring alongside a small uptick in part-time hiring.

Regarding the financial outlook, 66% of respondents expect budget growth over the next year, but fewer anticipate significant increases. Only 34% predict budget growth of at least 6%, down by 7% from the previous quarter and significantly less than nearly half of respondents a year ago. Furthermore, most respondents are seeking new meeting destinations.

In addition, Michelle Allgauer, senior vice president of education and engagement at the Financial Services Institute, is the first female from an association to serve as MPI chair. Together with Susie Townsend, chief destination experience officer at Visit Indy and MPI Foundation chair, the two are the third pair of female chairs to serve together in 50 years. Townsend is the first DMO leader to serve as MPI Foundation Board Chair.

MPI WEC 2025 is scheduled to take place in St. Louis from June 18-20, 2025. Following that, WEC will be hosted in San Antonio, TX, from June 2-4, 2026.