MCI Belgium: making the most of virtual meetings

For some associations these days, virtual meetings are a matter of necessity and are viewed as a temporary and less-than-ideal way to stay in contact. Yet some associations are making the most of their digital interactions, using them to meaningfully engage with members and keep the community in good spirits. Such is the case with the Belgium chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI).

How MPI Belgium has kept its members happy and engaged was the topic of ‘MPI Belgium Chapter – Our Experience in Online & Hybrid Education and Networking’. This presentation was given on 3 November at the European Convention Center Luxembourg as part of the 59th ICCA Congress 2020, for which Luxembourg served as regional co-host.

Supporting members and expanding membership

The presenter was Attila Laszlo, Sales Manager at Mondorf Parc Hotel in Luxembourg and a vice-president at MPI Belgium. He says that for MPI Belgium, the initial lockdown earlier this year presented an opportunity to connect in new ways while offering guidance and support in uncertain times. The restrictions on meeting and travelling also afforded them the chance to move their team-building activities online, which they have been doing with great gusto. Their commitment, creativity, and enthusiasm led to a sharp increase in the number of new members, which earned them an award from the parent organisation. What’s the secret of their success?

Webinars: to educate and unite

Soon after Belgium and the rest of Europe began to go into various stages of lockdown earlier this year, MPI Belgium leapt into action, offering a series of highly useful webinars to help members cope. One of their first digital projects was a webinar called ‘Cancel, Postpone, or Transform?’ that was designed to help members deal with the spate of new restrictions. This was followed by webinars on implementing new safety measures, developing pricing for online events, and using insight from neuroscience to create engagement during digital meetings. At the start of the summer, when governments announced that restrictions for live events would soon be lifted, MCI Belgium again helped members prepare, this time with the webinar ‘Destination and City Recovery’.

Don’t forget to have fun

What has also made MPI Belgium exemplary during this challenging time is its equal focus on social and team-building events. Among these offerings were coffee sessions such as ‘Bring Your Mug’ which gave participants a chance to express their personalities while catching up. Another fun online meeting was ‘Let’s Cook Together’, led by a master chef. In this, participants were sent ingredients a week prior and, on the day of the meeting, everyone cooked and sampled the same dishes. One rather unorthodox but very successful concept was learning how to taste two of Belgium’s most well-known treats – beer and chocolate – at the same time. Yet another outside-the-box idea that was well received was a virtual team-building happy hour in which musicians played instruments while other participants played along, wore costumes, and danced in front of their screens.

Key points

  • When live meetings are not possible, associations can use digital tools such as webinars to respond to new developments and deliver useful resources that foster engagement and give valuable support.
  • Virtual meetings don’t always need to be about professional or serious issues. They can be used for team-building activities and simply for having fun.