It helps to have talk show host Ellen DeGeneres as your special guest, but ultimately it was the strategic decision-making of Seattle-based Washington Mutual's planners that won the company the highest honor in the meeting industry — MPI's Global Paragon Award — for its restructured “State of the Group” meeting.

MPI's judges applauded WaMu's ability to articulate company content and messages and to reach budgetary goals. Three criteria were developed to measure post-meeting ROI: retention, action, and customer experience results. A post-meeting employee survey found that 96.7 percent of employees could correctly identify the new core values stated at the meeting. Opts Ideas, New York, produced the content, while CRG Events, Seattle, handled meetings management for the WaMu event.

Where did DeGeneres fit in? The popular comedienne/talk show host made a surprise appearance, hosting a custom talk show around the concept of “Everyday People” — the Washington Mutual customer base.