By Michael Pinchera
With nearly 2,000 participants and 149 unique sponsors, the successes of MPI’s World Education Congress (WEC) San Francisco last month underscore the value of – and deep desire for – face-to-face meetings and events.
Since WEC has taken place every year of the pandemic, we can see how numerous industry trends highlighted in MPI’s quarterly Meetings Outlook research are also reflected in the post-WEC data. (Note: Results for WEC San Francisco are preliminary.)
COVID-era WECs, by the numbers
As with many events in 2020, WEC Grapevine was postponed due to the pandemic and the team had to quickly pivot to offer a robust, live virtual program. The result: 1,739 total attendees – 608 in-person and 1,131 virtual/digital.
While still offering a robust virtual component, onsite attendance picked up in 2021 for WEC Las Vegas as more participants were able to travel. The result: 1,816 total attendees – 1,242 in-person and 574 virtual/digital.
Then we get to 2022 and WEC San Francisco. With most pandemic restrictions no longer hindering travel attendance – especially onsite – continued its positive momentum. The result: 1,916 total attendees – 1,652 in-person and 264 virtual/digital.
In-person satisfaction rate
2020 – Grapevine, Texas – 93%
2021 – Las Vegas – 94%
2022 – San Francisco – 93%
In addition to that overall satisfaction rate for this year’s WEC, 93% of the event’s sponsors also say they were satisfied with their sponsorship experience. Meanwhile, 86% of planners say attendance at WEC positively influenced their decision to purchase within the next 12 months from a supplier who was also in attendance. Such a great response with the person-to-person experience really highlights the desire for networking. In fact, 94% of participants reported being satisfied with the networking at WEC San Francisco (this number has been consistently in the mid-90s for each pandemic-era WEC).
Hosted buyer/MPI Exchange appointments
2020 – Grapevine, Texas – 720
2021 – Las Vegas – 1,520
2022 – San Francisco – 1,575
It’s outstanding to see the year-over-year growth and enduring strength of WEC during the pandemic, but it’s also curious to compare some metrics to the last pre-pandemic WEC. While attendance numbers were higher in 2019, many other important metrics are essentially on par. For instance, overall satisfaction for WEC Toronto (2019) was 95%, whereas it’s been 93%-94% for the past three years.
Some additional highlights that help show successes of this year’s WEC in relation to pre-pandemic:
- The most attendees ever at the Presidents Dinner (750, compared to 450 in 2019).
- Year-over-year retention saw 27% of 2021 WEC attendees return for the 2022 show. In comparison, the rate for WEC Toronto in 2019 was 28%.
- 80% of registrants this year were MPI members prior to the event; in 2019, 71% of registrants were MPI members prior to the event.
Corporate sponsorship and investment are flooding back into the space. This year’s WEC saw numerous record highs related to sponsorship, such as the total number of unique sponsors, hosted buyer participant numbers, Presidents Dinner sponsors and more.
Throughout the pandemic, the MPI Foundation’s fundraising totals related to WEC have increased year over year. In fact, for WEC San Francisco, the amount raised surpassed the 2022 goal by 67%, totaling $200,000.
Don’t miss the next evolution of the meeting and event industry at MPI’s 2023 WEC Mexican Caribbean in June!
As seen in Meetings Outlook
Overall projected business conditions, per the spring 2022 edition of Meetings Outlook, is the second highest it’s ever been, with 90% of respondents anticipating a favorable landscape over the next 12 months. That data point is 10% greater than the previous quarter and 14% greater than in fall 2021.
Additional data from Meetings Outlook share an equally optimistic near future. For instance, in-person attendance forecasts are the most positive they’ve ever been, with 85% of respondents projecting growth in live attendance. Since fall 2021, this data point has grown approximately 10% each quarter.
Looking from a big-picture standpoint, 76% of respondents say their business has already returned to pre-pandemic levels or expect it to do so by the end of 2023.
About the Author
Michael Pinchera is an award-winning writer and editor for The Meeting Professional as well as a speaker, technologist and contributor to business, academic and pop culture publications since 1997. Read more of his work at www.whatmemeworry.com.