“Diversity is imperative as the world searches for solutions to the current pandemic” Image 1


“Diversity is imperative as the world searches for solutions to the current pandemic”

Jessie States, CMP, CMM Director, MPI Academy, Meeting Professionals International, about workforce equity, the Coronavirus Dialogue Series, the need to discuss the industry’s reaction to contagious disease and planning digital experiences.

tw: You moderated the session She Means Business on 11 May 2020 along with the first virtual IMEX. Please tell us about your three learnings.
Jessie States: My greatest takeaway from the She Means Business virtual summit and other recent online summits is the importance of our community during this crisis. We need each other, and there is so much hunger amongst us all to meet, share new practices and solve challenges. We know we will meet again in person, but for now we utilize these virtual spaces and events to connect with one another. We had three strong female leaders join us for a She Means Business virtual panel on IMEX EduMonday: Gabriela Suhoschi of World Water Week, Heike Mahmoud of Congress Center Hamburg and Carina Bauer of IMEX. Carina iterated her focus on her sphere of control, which I love. Focusing on the crisis and all of the challenges that come with it can leave us feeling helpless and alone. Instead, we should spend our time and energy creating positive impact in the ways that we can and do have influence, whether it is at work or home - it’s empowering. Both Heike and Gabriela reminded me to also reach out to friends, colleagues and our community members with messages of unity and togetherness. #wewillmeetagain

The coronavirus has turned our (business) lives upside down. Some issues like diversity and gender equality seem to fall behind. What do you think about that?
It has never been more important for us to focus on diversity, gender equality and the roles they both play in solving current world challenges and radical recovery. Diversity of thought is imperative as the world searches for solutions to the current pandemic and the economic and social recovery of all peoples. The UN Sustainable Development Goals of no poverty, zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, quality education, gender equality and reduced inequality - decent work and economic growth - all rely so critically upon one another that solutions to each dramatically impact the others. And embracing diversity and equality is part of the equation that reverses economic slowdown, reinvents communities and societies and promotes workforce parity and growth moving forward.

Home Schooling is a big issue all over the world. With 80 percent female workforce in the events industry, women are hit hard. How can we support them?
We must continue to support primary caregivers, especially given current circumstance, while children school from home and while there is even greater demand for older-adult support from familial units. Support for flexible work environments and hours, childcare support and livable wages all feed into workforce equity. MPI Academy opened our entire on-demand webinar library to the non-member community for free to enable professional development for everyone.

MPI Academy offers a series of virtual sessions on coronavirus for free. Which topics are most popular?
In all, we’re hosting more than 20 conversations as part of our Coronavirus Dialogue Series, which is and will remain free for everyone. Thousands of people are registering - we’ve never seen this level of engagement. Our most popular topics have been related to crisis communication, event risk management, contracts and force majeure, virtual event design and – overwhelmingly – revenue generation.

On your website it reads: “COVID-19 has challenged our profession. But we have been tested many times before. Each time, we’ve proved our resiliency.” For many event professionals this crisis is without equal. How can we prove resiliency?
Our focus must continue to be problem-solving, organisational value and how meetings and events can be a tool that businesses use to fuel recovery post-crisis.

The corona crisis is developing dramatically in the USA. Could you describe briefly the situation for meeting professionals?
Many of our friends, colleagues and community members are out of work or on furlough. Others are overwhelmed with the weight and speed of business, postponements and the pivot to virtual in the near-term and hybrid in the mid- and long-term. We are eager to meet again – but only when it is safe to do so. Many organizations and venues are actively creating new practices for safely meeting and traveling. MPI is working with the Events Industry Council, which is leading the collation of these practices even as we look to create standards – which is a far lengthier process.

On 28 April 2020 you postponed your World Education Congress 2020 with 2.500+ delegates in Grapevine, Texas with a news theme. Please tell us more.
We have postponed our World Education Congress Grapevine (Texas) event to 3 to 6 November 2020 with a new theme: Reunite for Recovery. Our goal is to provide a safe place for industry professionals to come together to discuss lessons learned from Covid-19 response, and the implications that response has on the future of meetings and events. We’ll host sessions with experts and industry leaders as well as conversations and discussions on who responded and how. In 2009, MPI galvanized the industry with critical conversations about the business of meetings in the face of the Great Recession at our Meet Different event in Atlanta – proving that we are not afraid to find solutions global threats to the business of meetings. This year’s World Education Congress will be no different. It has never been more important to discuss our industry’s reaction to contagious disease - and how our lessons from past incidents like SARS and Zika informed our responses, what net-new lessons we learned from COVID-19 and how we as an industry can be even more prepared for next time – because there will be another crisis; there always is. We also plan to offer a fully customized digital experience for those who cannot join us, and we will welcome our global virtual community into our event in unique ways so that they too can benefit from the conversations and dialogue on the future of our world.
“Diversity is imperative as the world searches for solutions to the current pandemic” Image 2
Jessie States: We have postponed our World Education Congress 2020 with a new theme: Reunite for Recovery.


Jessie States, CMP, CMM, is Director of the MPI Academy for Meeting Professionals International, where she leads and advances MPI’s professional development strategy. Jessie received the 2018 Pacesetter Award from the Events Industry Council, an honor that recognizes emerging leaders and industry supporters. Founded in 1972, MPI provides education, networking opportunities and business exchanges, and acts as a voice for the promotion and growth of the industry. MPI has a global community of 60,000 meeting and event professionals including more than 17,000 members in more than 90 chapters and clubs in 19 countries. www.mpiweb.org

On 14 April, on the Global Meetings Industry Day 2020 (GMID) Meeting Professionals International offered 12 hours of content for free. Why?
Our team has hosted a virtual broadcast on Global Meetings Industry day for the past several years, bringing in feeds from live celebrations around the world – from Tokyo to Copenhagen. About a month and a half before GMID, we began to see signs that there would be no live events being held … anywhere. So, we had to quickly pivot, from an aggregator of content to the provider of it. The incredible Lori Pugh Marcum, our head of meeting innovation here at MPI, led this effort, curating education that our community needed most and creating one moment in time when our industry’s family could come together to support each other.

You are very experienced in digitizing content. What should meeting professionals know when planning a webinar?
Planning any digital experience, regardless of length, follows the same process as planning an in-person event - understand your objectives and purpose, set measurable metrics, design a right-fit experience, find the right venue (in this case a webinar platform) and execute your design. Meeting organisers already know this process well, it is truly its reapplication in a new space. What is new to many is the “venue.” And there are a lot of different platforms out there with a lot of different features. Your event’s purpose is the filter through which you determine which platform best fits your needs and the needs of your business and community. Then too, digital engagement best practices and strategies come into play, as well as virtual learning methodologies, gamification and application post-event - which all may require net-new skills or knowledge for meeting organisers. But the process remains the same!
“My greatest takeaway from the She Means Business virtual summit and other recent online summits is the importance of our community during this crisis.”
Jessie States
“Many of our friends, colleagues and community members are out of work or on furlough.”
Jessie States