Changing the conference game at EMEC 19

Europe Features
Changing the conference game at EMEC 19

CMW’s Stuart Wood hurried to The Hague in February, host city of MPI’s 2019 European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC). It was a conference that took a healthy dose of inspiration from the festival industry.


The tagline of EMEC 19 was ‘Changing the game’, and organisers – the MPI Netherlands Chapter – made a concerted effort to break down traditional conference formats over the course of the five-day event.

The spirit of festivalisation ran strongly through all activities on offer, from the opening networking dinner on 9 February to the closing ceremony on 12 February.

At the dinner, themed food trucks each provided a different stipulation. One required delegates to order food in rhyme, while another required delegates to be in the company of somebody from a certain country to order, encouraging the seek out of new connections.

On the Sunday, delegates were taken on one of many ‘learning journeys’ around The Hague. These had been pre-selected upon registration.

CMW attended a crisis management wargame, which put us in the shoes of an imaginary company which had been hacked by Anonymous. We played out a scripted storyline which forced us to adapt to an escalating crisis on the fly, exercising our diplomatic and persuasive skills to the fullest.

Sunday evening saw all delegates – which numbered around 500 – attending the opening keynote by Dutch artist and environmentalist Daan Roosegarde. We were then locked into a surprise ‘escape the room’ game, where we had to split into teams of three, each solving a small piece of a larger puzzle, before being released back to our hotels.

The event officially opened on the Monday morning, with a flash mob choir performance in the main auditorium of the World Forum. Performers in technicolour dress streamed in through each entrance of the hall as delegates gathered on the stage, before launching into song.

Following this, the talks themselves began.

Highlights of those CMW attended were Kim Myhre, MD at MCI Experience, discussing design thinking and how we can think events past being a ‘broadcast medium’. 

Juup Laarman also delivered an interesting talk about how events can learn to better accommodate introverts.

On Monday evening, delegates were rounded up for a tropical beach-themed party in The Hague’s Hotel van Oranje. There were rapids, giant inflatable flamingos and plenty of cocktails.

Any hangovers were quickly erased the next morning, however, by a fascinating final keynote, delivered by ID&T’s Irfan Van Ewijk. Van Ewijk founded storied Dutch festival Mysteryland, and offered insights into how festivalisation can be utilised broadly in events.

It was a fitting close to an event with a heavy focus on festivalisation, and getting delegates outside the convention centre. EMEC 19 did a fantastic job of bringing its attendees together through a series of wider, social activities, without sacrificing education.

In that sense, it provided an exciting example of how conference organisers can ‘change the game’ by offering an experience that is more flexible and – dare I say it – more fun. 

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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