The MPI WEC (World Education Congress) in Atlantic City this week celebrated all that this seaside gaming city has to offer and gave 2,000 attendees a chance to experience its centerpiece meeting facility, the brand-new Harrah’s Waterfront Convention Center. Caesars Entertainment is leading the way in repositioning Atlantic City as a convention destination, in the hopes that the other major companies will expand their meeting facilities as well to draw large groups from throughout the Northeast corridor.
The event showcased the city’s multifaceted attractions—beach, gaming and entertainment—through its evening events, with an opening night beach party for 2,000 featuring small bites from dozens of local restaurants; The Big Deal, a poker championship that sends one winner each year to the World Series of Poker; and a packed concert by the Grammy Award–winning band, Train. With perfect early-summer weather, attendees got to experience the famed Boardwalk, which has been hosting vacationing families since 1870, and ride in jitneys to its legendary Steel Pier amusement park, which extends out over the Atlantic Ocean and will soon be home to a new 200-ft-high observation wheel.
The meetings industry looks to each year’s MPI WEC for creative planning ideas. This year’s WEC delivered, with touches such as a stages in each corner of the ballroom replacing the traditional center stage and innovative seating—such as sofas and hightop tables—mixed in with the typical rounds. Keynote speaker South by Southwest Executive Director Mike Shea shared his strategies for growing his event and keeping it relevant. General sessions were livestreamed onto the trade show floor, now known as the Market Square, with exhibitors lining the hallways rather than being in a single hall. A Thought Leaders Theater in the adjacent Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City hosted a roster of public speakers for attendees to sample throughout the event—and to choose their favorites.
For fun, there was puppy cuddling on the daily schedule, with local therapy animals brought in for hugs and selfies with the crowd. CSR activities included a waterfront walk to clean up the beach, while green initiatives extended all the way to the recyclable utensils used on the beach at the opening night reception.
MPI has been elevating its educational mission, with President and CEO Paul VanDeventer citing VisitDenmark’s Meetovation program as a model. At the same time, the association is offering specific education and certification for what it calls the “non-titled corporate meeting planner,” those people within corporations for whom meetings are just part of their job description.
WEC 2017 will be held July 9 to 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.