Ask anyone in the industry and they’ll confirm: Planning an event is no small feat. The same is true of our M&IW Summit. This annual event brings together our valued customers, trusted suppliers, and talented team members to network, share best practices, showcase M&IW’s offerings, and advance the events industry.
Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS, served as the Executive Producer of the 2022 M&IW Summit. She recently shared some behind-the-scenes details of all the planning and preparation that goes into our signature event. But first, let’s explore the history of the Summit.
The History of the M&IW Summit
Originally called Campus Week, the Summit started as a way to annually bring the entire M&IW team together at our Wisconsin headquarters. As the company grew, Campus Week moved off-site, and customers and suppliers were eventually invited as well.
Campus Week continued to grow each year until it was renamed the M&IW Summit in 2017. The new name better reflected what the event had evolved to become: industry professionals and M&IW customers coming together with our team to network, learn, and shape the future of events. And of course, have fun while we’re at it!
Planning Our Signature Event
The 2022 Summit took place in early August, which means planning for 2023 is happening now. In fact, discussions started before the 2022 event even ended!
Securing a Venue
Especially with the nature of the industry now—high demand coupled with limited space—securing a hotel partnership is a top priority. Not only do we look for a venue that can meet our program needs and properly host our many attendees, but our hotel is also one of our biggest sponsors, so Nicole and her planning team start the sourcing and contracting process early.
“The more M&IW Summits I help plan, the more informed and experienced I’ve become,” said Nicole. “And one big lesson is crystal clear: Planning is easier the earlier you start.”
Once a venue is secured and dates set, marketing enters the picture with theming and branding.
Theme and Branding
Historically, the M&IW Summit theme has changed every year. The theme impacts the entire look and feel of the event, and it also influences the content. An early gauge on its development can help us start planning what topics to cover during the educational sessions.
“The theme is the brainchild of our CEO, Tina Madden, and the marketing team,” said Nicole. “They look at M&IW’s corporate goals for the next year, the objectives we have as a company, and the state of the industry as a whole, then translate all that into one inspiring message.”
In 2019, for example, the events industry was expanding at a rapid pace with so many new innovations, so the theme was “See the Impossible.” The theme of 2020’s virtual Summit, “Lead the Way,” reflected M&IW’s role as a leader in setting the standard for events during the pandemic. By 2021, the industry was being reinvented as we began to bounce back from the pandemic, so the theme was “Events Reimagined.” In 2022, events of all kinds were back and thriving, and we reinvested in our commitment to excellence through our “Journey to World Class.”
The theme is also reflected in each year’s branding, from the ethereal look of “See the Impossible” to the futuristic look of “Events Reimagined” to the adventurous look of “Journey to World Class,” all pictured below from left to right.
Two planning committees take the M&IW Summit from idea to reality: the logistics committee and the content committee. “The logistics committee is focused on the tactical operation of the program,” said Nicole, “while the content committee is focused on what ideas and innovations we want to share during the event.”
The logistics committee has representatives from all areas of M&IW: group travel, attendee experience, event technology, marketing, event experience, and more. While the committee starts relatively small with only a few key players making initial decisions like date, location, and theme, more people get added as we get closer to the event in tune with the natural planning lifecycle.
In contrast, the content committee is comprised of executives and senior leaders from across M&IW and keeps the same members throughout the planning process. They determine the flow of the program and featured subject matter. They are also responsible for identifying customers and internal subject matter experts to present or participate in panels. Sometimes the content is chosen first and sometimes the speaker, but either way, the goal is always to share educational, timely, and inspiring content.
Nicole, who is on both committees, enjoys working with people she otherwise wouldn’t interact with on a daily basis due to their different everyday roles in the company. “Both committees are comprised of extremely talented individuals, and they are experts at what they do,” she said. “The best part of bringing all these different team members together is that we are allowed to use the Summit planning process to be really creative and innovative. We can come up with ideas, including many we’ve never tried before, and work together to make them a reality.”
The Day of the Summit
When the day of the Summit finally arrives, the excitement is high for everyone on the planning committees, but the real challenge is always staying on time. “There is never enough time to do everything we want!” said Nicole. “And as much as you rehearse and practice, it always takes longer than anticipated. Maybe not every session, but all it takes is one speaker going over, one technical glitch adding a delay. There’s no way to control it, so you have to build extra time in when planning and roll with it day of.”
All the stress and hard work is worth it once the vision comes to life and attendees are reacting in real time exactly how we hoped they would. After all, that’s what the M&IW Summit is about at its heart: bringing people together.
The Executive Producer’s Experience
Having been involved in planning the M&IW Summit in various capacities for the past five years, 2022 was Nicole Raudabaugh’s first year as the Executive Producer.
“I’m passionate about the M&IW Summit because I believe in M&IW,” said Nicole. “I believe in the culture and the leadership team and the vision, and it’s an honor to be the Summit’s Executive Producer and be part this event that showcases something so near and dear to me.”
Nicole is especially proud that the M&IW Summit has developed into a testing ground for the latest and greatest in events.
New and Improved
“Our goal is always to try something new—new concepts, food and beverage, technology, you name it—so we’re continually learning and adapting and reprioritizing during the event planning lifecycle,” said Nicole. “This is the event to showcase all that is good about M&IW! We’re the guinea pigs to ensure our customers, suppliers, and employees experience and see everything we can bring to the table.”
Two of her favorite parts of the M&IW Summit started as beta tests, so to speak: Peer-to-Peer Discussions and the Summit Walk.
“Peer-to-Peer Discussions are a time for customers to get together and talk about the current event environment,” said Nicole. “There are moderators from the M&IW team to get the discussions started, but after that, it’s really about customers connecting with each other, with people who understand their unique point of view and can help drive solutions or identify best practices. In our post-event surveys, it’s consistently ranked as one of the customers’ favorite parts of the day.”
“The Summit Walk is a street fair-esque experiential space that features new, cool trends and ideas as well as offerings from M&IW,” Nicole continued. “The goal is to allow attendees time to explore the ever-evolving and ever-growing world of M&IW. While our suppliers have the spotlight during the Supplier Showcase tradeshow in the afternoon, the Summit walk is the opportunity to put the spotlight on M&IW. When we first tried it in 2021, it was good, but we knew we could make it even better. Then in 2022, we continued to improve, and now for 2023, we need to step it up one more time!”
Planning is already underway for 2023! Until then, click here to watch the on-demand recordings from 2022 and learn more about our event and program management services. Our talented team is ready to help transform your organization through the power of human energy.
Interested in working with M&IW? Contact us.
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Nicole Raudabaugh, CMP, CIS
Customer Success Manager
Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.