European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC) 2019


Basic Event Information

Date: 9 – 12, February 2019
Location: The Hague, The Netherlands
Organizer: The Netherlands Chapter, Meeting Professionals International
Client: N/A for EMEC19
Event type: Education and networking conference

EVENT CATEGORY: B2C – Best Association Conference, Congress

Event description and key objectives

MPI is the world’s largest professional association in the meetings and events industry. For EMEC 2019 the local MPI The Netherlands Chapter was responsible for the design, programming, planning, and execution of the event, instead of MPI Headquarters based in Dallas. With the idea that an event does not have objectives since it is a tool and not a goal, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) mapped objectives of the main event stakeholders using the Event Design Canvas methodology. Stakeholder empathy maps were created and translated into design principles that as of that moment, were fundamental for the event theme, narrative, delegate experience and overall production of EMEC19. Every new idea was measured against these design principles. If it didn’t match at least 80% of these principles, it would not end up in EMEC19.

Design Principles for EMEC19 ‘Changing the Game’

  • Change the way you MEET
  • Feel welcome and maximize precious networking time
  • Designed for attendees to build true and deeper connections
  • Time to bond with peers
  • Change the way you EXPERIENCE
  • 50% of the event should take place outside the conference room
  • Cross-industry innovations
  • Ineffable experiences
  • Change the way you LEARN
  • Learning journeys
  • Education that catered to various learning styles
  • Mutual & Empirical Learning

Over 330 international event professionals joined EMEC19 during a five-day program that was incomparable to previous editions in its design, programming, and execution


Key challenges

  • Organizing an event for a very experienced and sometimes spoiled audience who’ve seen it all and are very critical towards events from a design, experience and production perspective.
  • Skepticism from potential delegates based on previous EMECs and whether the MPI NL Chapter could deliver the ‘Changing the Game’ promise.
  • Avoiding the boredom of limited interaction and delegate involvement typical of conferences and keeping them involved at the end of the multi-day event.
  • Managing expectations for the MPI volunteers serving as part of the boards or committees through an EMEC staff of just 18. As a nonprofit organization, MPI depends heavily on time-constrained volunteers.
  • Limitations on financial resources, yet a need to convince the supplier community to join and benefit from this unique event.
  • The need to incorporate and showcase sponsors organically on stage to enhance the attendee experience.
  • Establish the right way to balance MPI HQ’s experience with the new EMEC19 team and vision, all the while, being the first EMEC edition that is fully organized by a local European chapt

Although we’re all one MPI family, officially we’re different organizations. Therefore, GDPR law applied and making sure we were marketing the global/European/national community properly turned out to be a challenge.



Change the way you meet
Based on one of the design principles, EMEC19 facilitated meeting new people. There was a personal pick up when attendees arrived, and valuable networking time. The setting at the Louwman Museum was unique and people could meet based on country, order at food stations based on language, color, etc. and play games with other delegates. On Sunday people could meet each other based on personal preference. They would also meet like-minded people during learning journeys based on program topics. There was an escape room for 330 delegates, where content and networking were key to the escape.

Change the way you learn
Two design principles facilitated various learning methods that were interactive and energizing. 50% of the event took place outside of the ballroom. There were no long plenary sessions without interaction or ‘board room’ updates. High-quality content was delivered in original formats and in unique settings.

Change the way you experience
Based on one of the design principles, we wanted to move people on a personal base, rather than showing off with the biggest screens, largest historical special venues or over-the-top entertainment. Delegate involvement and an element of surprise was key and that’s what we designed for. Whether it was 80 local young artists welcoming delegates after hiding behind chairs for a while or a hidden bar during the party, it was all planned to bring joy and newness to the attendee experience

An unconventional part of the conference, for example, was a walking workshop with Slovak speed walker, and current Olympic champion in the 50 km walk, Matej Toth. The workshop was called “Walk with your GP” and took place in the early morning hours together with the participation of the Slovak public. It was a health-friendly and ecological meeting which fulfilled the main theme of the conference.



By using the event design canvas, we designed literally every part of the event. By sticking to the design and its principles, we were able to design every single step of the delegate journey.

  • Delegates experienced ongoing networking opportunities including the opening night at the Louwman Museum, to education offerings, to raising funds for the MPI Foundation.
  • Learning Journeys gave delegates the opportunity to choose from seven different cross-industry innovation routes. Four main topics were offered: Leadership, Risk Management, Design Thinking, and Meeting Perspectives.
  • Keynote speaker and innovator Daan Roosegaarde was followed by an unexpected mega escape room with 330 people. The tasks of the escape room were based on the content of the learning journeys to anchor what people learned and to make sure they shared their experiences.
  • The entire conference was designed in four tracks and showcased the largest theatre room of the partnering venue although we had a relatively small group of 330 people. EMEC19 also offered free time with opportunities for activities including yoga, running, and sightseeing on Sunday morning.
  • Keynotes Steve O’Malley, Chair of MPI’s International Board of Directors and Irfan van Ewijk, founder of ID&T closed the event in a special setting. The costumes and props were intentionally white to represent the blank canvas for your new ideas, learnings, and experiences on.
  • People left the event invigorated and ready for Spain in 2020.


This was the first time a local MPI chapter was responsible for an event belonging to the MPI event portfolio and that meant there was a lot of project management and eleven months of preparation that included partner and volunteer engagement, purposefully designed experiences, and eighteen different venues to manage – all based on partnerships (no commercial rates).

Measurable results

MPI The Netherlands Chapter events offer event professionals a safe testing ground to experience experiments with new formats without having the risk of experimenting with these ideas in their actual jobs. They can tweak and tune concepts that can later be implemented in their actual working environment. EMEC19 was based on the same thought – to experiment with the current format and try to stimulate our industry friends to be creative and take risks to further develop their meetings. Based on the feedback we received we feel we certainly achieved this. The second evaluation that takes place 6 months after the event will confirm this. We delivered an event that aligned with the design principles of changing the way people meet, experience, and learn. Here are highlights from the EMEC19 survey results:

  • Scored a 9,3 on the networking events
  • Scored an 8,9 on the logistics
  • Scored an 8,9 for the overall EMEC19 experience
  • Scored an 8,2 for the connection value
  • Scored a +64 Net Promoter Score (NPS) score
  • +20% growth of membership for the MPI NL Chapter within 4 months
  • There was an average knowledge growth of 22% for attendees for defined topics (from 63% before attending to 85% after attending EMEC19)
  • 85% of the respondents made a minimum of 6 strong new business connections
  • Delivered on business exchange with over 360 planned meetings of 28 international qualified buyers joining the hosted buyer program
  • 71% of EMEC19 attendees intend to join EMEC20


In the marketing stage before the event, EMEC19 made use of the local hero story by involving chapter leaders from other countries to tell our story in their local language to their local community by video messages. We added and posted a total of 32 short, personalized videos in different languages. The videos were also used to explain the program, and were created by the emcees of EMEC19, allowing delegates to become familiar with them.

Every European chapter received a Marketing and Communications tool kit including different types of information. They were essential information and promotional tools including drafted messages, pricing, logos, videos, photos and other material. European chapters are important partners for EMEC and helped in Sales, promoting and selling tickets, partnerships and the hosted buyer program.

Communications reflected a positive image and attitude concerning the MPI Netherlands and the MPI EU community, recognizing the strength of MPI’s grassroots communities to deliver on an industry-leading promise of changing the way we meet, learn, and experience.

The EMEC19 story was covered by all major international MICE industry press, resulting in approximately fifty different articles. Social media exploded during and after EMEC19. Delegates posted an enormous amount of event related content, which resulted in thousands of views, likes and other forms of engagement. Pre- and post-event webinars had a remarkably high amount of attendees

The use of sustainable practices

Sustainability and CSR were part of EMEC19’s DNA. All suppliers were up to the challenge to make the event as future-proof as possible.
Examples include:

  • F&B
    o No single-use plastic as in cups, straws, etc.
    o Instead of providing single-use water bottles, delegates received a reusable water bottle from the company ‘Join the Pipe’. The company’s bottles are made out of recycled plastic and they use a percentage of their income to develop water taps in Africa.
    o Use of high quality, locally grown products for catering.
    o All catering was based on healthy fats, anti-oxidants and a low carb blueprint to stimulate the mind and keep people activated even after lunch.
  • Furniture, decoration and signage
    o Use of modular furniture in order to reduce dimensions and number of trucks used for transportation.
    o Usage of recycled pallets for stage design in the opening venue.
    o Limited use of printed materials, alternatively using the mobile event website…
    o Use of screens for signage within the venues instead of banners.
  • Waste Management
    o No goodie bags, so no waste of resources and no waste after the event.
    o 100% waste management to stimulate reuse and recycling.
  • Plus
    o Rideshare or public transportation was encouraged. Airport pick up by local attendees provided.
    o Investment in young local musical talent by adding cultural performances to the program.
    o Koppert Cress, an organization concerned with tomorrow’s food future was a part of the educational programming.

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