It was often hard to stay focused while snaking through rows of glittering slot machines and awestruck tourists, but I knew I had to keep going. Following the white, circular signs held by encouraging volunteers, I made my way through the MGM Grand Las Vegas’ glitzy casino to my ultimate destination: MPI World Education Congress (WEC) 2017, held at the MGM Grand on June 19–22.
From the beginning, it was clear that MPI had no plans to hold back. Sunday’s opening reception began with a mise-en-scène — a woman playing a meeting planner onstage at Monte Carlo’s Park Theater, going through the process of vetting elements for her next big meeting as Elvis impersonators, showgirls, dancing chefs, and other colorful characters capered around her for consideration. Who would she choose? What would create the biggest impact? Her existential monologue neatly led into WEC 2017’s tagline: “Stop planning meetings. Start designing experiences.”
I squinted a bit as more characters emerged onstage. I had to make sure what I was seeing was clear. Was that really the Blue Man Group? It was. (Spoiler: This wasn’t the only time I would see them at WEC. They weaved in and out of the conference, making surprise cameos in videos, and even delivered a lunchtime performance.)
It was an unseasonably hot week, even for Las Vegas. Temperatures climbed, and kept climbing. On Tuesday, June 20 — on the way back to Caesars Palace, where I was being graciously hosted by Caesars Entertainment — a cab driver informed me it was 116 degrees. As we passed by the hazy, looming buildings along the famous Las Vegas Strip, I found myself suddenly grateful for air conditioning.
One word I would use to describe my experience: “flashy.” Another might be “hot” — and not just in reference to the temperature. WEC was dedicated to MPI’s mandate to design experiences and delivered on that promise through a variety of sessions (escape rooms! puppy-cuddling sessions!), attention-grabbing performances (from The Jabbawockeez to Joan Jett), and nightly after-parties.
I stopped by the MPI Foundation’s The Big Deal, one of those after-parties. It was held at Caesars, which made things convenient for me, but I would have showed up anyway. I kept hearing “experience” in the back of my mind — the slogan was working. I knew I had to get out there more. Live a little. This was Vegas, after all. It was time to try something new! I approached the gambling area in the Caesars Ballroom, then buckled. I grabbed an hors d’oeuvres instead and popped it into my mouth.
Safe, but delicious.