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by Sarah J.F. Braley | September 01, 2011

At Meeting Pro­fes­sionals Inter­national's World Edu­cation Con­gress, attended by about 2,500 people in Orlando in July, the organization's trade show was replaced by a hosted-buyer format for the first time.

Opinions on the change varied. Jeff Hewitt, vice president of business development for Visit Savannah (Ga.), loved the new format, feeling he made much more meaningful connections with the planners he and his colleagues met with during the 16 appointments his organization had purchased. (Hewitt talks about the program here: bit.ly/qtrS7v.)  

Hosted planners, such as Orlando-based Cheri Nichol, global project and conference manager for third-party firm ConferenceDir­ect, also favored the change. "I would travel next year to do it again in a heartbeat," she said.

For planners who were not hosted buyers, MPI created Buyer Connect, an online process to schedule appointments with suppliers before the convention. But two nonhosted planners told M&C they missed the trade show.

Charlene C. Richard, CMM, global events manager for Coppell, Texas-based Mannatech, makers of nutrition and wellness products, wanted to learn about international venues and meetings software, a need that went unfulfilled.

And a planner who preferred to remain anonymous said, "For me, they've reduced the value of the WEC." The planner understood that the expo had been eliminated because IMEX America, to be held in Las Vegas in October, would be offering that opportunity -- as well as a full slate of education sessions provided by MPI. Nevertheless, the planner said, "We cannot go to two events. I'm going to have to look at that next year to see where my dollars are best spent. I'm thinking that next year I will definitely try IMEX and forego the WEC."