“Our education and professional development efforts are designed to inspire, challenge, and provide new ways of thinking,” said Meeting Professionals International’s new president and CEO Paul Van Deventer at a press conference during the 2013 World Education Congress, which was held July 20–23 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. He added, “The meetings and event industry is changing. We want to transform to serve our members as well as to serve the industry. By developing and offering new tools, techniques, and learning experiences, we want to help meeting planners evolve as well.”

At this year’s WEC, this meant offering educational tracks designed for different types of learners led by subject matter experts both within the events community and brought in from other industries. It also meant special workshops for those with different experience levels, such as a core skills workshop and a Certified Meeting Professional master class. There also was a special area set aside to learn about new technology—The Hive, which featured a “tech concierge” to answer specific questions, along with presentations, and stations where attendees could charge their phones and tablets. There was another area set aside for professional advancement called The Knowledge Hub, where attendees could polish their resumes, learn how to manage the media, and participate in intimate peer-to-peer “campfire” sessions.

General session presenters and Flashpoint speakers—who were limited to just 15-minute presentations—generally hailed from outside the meetings industry but brought lessons that hit home for meeting professionals. For example, opening general session speaker and TED Fellow Candy Chang, an artist who seeks to empower and connect communities and individuals through the public spaces they share, ended up inspiring MPI to add large boards where WEC attendees could share their hopes and dreams. Closing speaker and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman shared how she learned through the challenges she faced in her career that “it’s still all about relationships. The better that some of us do, the better all of us do.”

As community activist and Flashpoint presenter Jason Roberts added, “Change is going to be scary and chaotic. You have to embrace the chaos, and your community will rise up to help.” All messages that appeared to be well received by the meetings and hospitality professionals in the audience, a community that has experienced its own share of chaos and change over the past several years caused by several corporate and governmental meeting scandals, economic doldrums, and technological advances.