8 Words Heard: European Meetings & Events Conference 2016

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Willkommen! Pardon moi. Bellissimo! Blimey. For three days, I heard foreign phrases in elevators, in lines for lunch and inside breakout rooms as I gathered with about 400 meeting professionals and members of MPI Europe from Italy, Denmark, Belgium, France, U.K., Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Poland, Germany and more. (Wait, who am I leaving out?) Oh, and the United States. About 13 percent of European Meetings & Events Conference attendees were my fellow North Americans. We gathered at Radisson Blu Scandinavia Hotel and Conference Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss the state of meetings and events in Europe. Event manager Andrew Walker took us on a wild ride filled with brain food, indoor snowball fights, Meetovation (read more on the concept here) and plenty of hygge. Below are the eight words and ideas that stuck out the most: 1. Hygge This fantastic Danish word—pronounced “hue-gah”—was one of the local themes woven throughout EMEC. It is an intangible Danish feeling of togetherness and warmth that can be hard to define outside the country. In the tangible, hygge involves throw pillows, blankets, warm socks, stories around a fireplace and baked items like Danish buns to create the experience. While you may never be as hygge as the Danish, you can give people a feeling of warmth and coziness with small touches at your meeting. Walker displayed this full screen image of warm socks near a fireplace on both ends of the general session space.   2. Hang At EMEC, I experienced a hang (pronounced han) firsthand. Although I did hang out and hang around, this hang was a musical instrument that appears ancient (and a bit like a UFO), but was invented in 2000 by a Swiss musician. Accomplished Dutch musician Joshua Sampson brought the instrument to EMEC to demonstrate the power of incorporating music into events. Music relaxes, calms and allows people to bond, he says—especially when you bring 200 instruments to one conference for everyone to play together as Sampson did. Main photo credit: Jonathan Grevsen 3. Live One of my favorite elements at EMEC was live illustrator Mie Norgaard of Learning by Sketching drawing an oversize storybook about the conference onstage while keynotes presented general sessions. The enormous pages of the story were then hung each day in the back of the room for everyone to read during free time. It’s a great example of incorporating a live event within the event. Photo credit: Jonathan Grevsen 4. Safety The recent terrorist attacks in Paris and a growing refugee problem in southern Europe made security a top issue for attendees. In one session called “Safety & Security Forum,” European delegates were vocal about nervousness that attendees from North America, China and Japan will stop traveling to Europe for conferences. Several planners mentioned experiencing cancellations or moving meetings to avoid fears. While many admitted a lack of risk management planning, delegates from the Netherlands shared their security experiences when Russian President Vladimir Putin made a last-minute visit to Holland Heineken House for a sporting event, as well as lessons from One Direction’s arena security team. 5. Flexibility The MPI team, including president and CEO Paul Van Deventer, discussed their openness to changing the session schedule on the fly. If attendees discover a topic that’s becoming important on day one through networking and chatter, MPI leaves room to throw a new session on that topic by day three and pushes it out on the app. This creates a fluid schedule that meets the needs of the attendees over concrete scheduling. Photo credit: Jonathan Grevsen 6. Multihub Multihub meetings are the next big thing, according to Maarten Vanneste, CMM, founder of The Fresh Conference and Meeting Design Institute in Belgium (that's the back of his head you're seeing). The idea is “one man and a suitcase,” and Vanneste has created a team of experts who can deliver a co-meeting that takes place simultaneously in say, Buenos Aires, Argentina; London; and Shanghai. Multihub video and audio are in real time so someone in London can host the meeting; attendees in Buenos Aires and Shanghai can see the presentation; and everyone can ask questions and vote with results delivered instantly. 7. Brain Food While Denmark’s brain food experiment began in 2011, the Danes have kept it up and grown it to much more. Radisson Blu in Copenhagen was the first to create the concept with meetings and conferences in mind. The F&B array of fish, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables was all sourced locally, minimally processed and contained less than 10 percent fat. If something contained sweeteners, they were predominantly natural. This concept helps maintain attendee concentration and energy. 8. Psychology “When humans shake hands and hug, we release oxytocin,” said Janet Sperstad, CMP, program director of Madison Area Technical College in her “Psychology of Physical Meeting Environments” keynote. Sperstad used data and human nature to point out mistakes planners make when setting up a conference. Sperstad says the human brain takes in 11 million bits of information per second, but only processes 40 of them. “The brain hates disorganization,” she said, “As a recovering planner, this is double for me.” She urged planners to use logistics like levers: Wayfinding, signage, seating, etc., is better when it’s organized, and it helps attendees feel more comfortable. Main photo credit: Jonathan Grevsen