by Alex Palmer | August 03, 2017
The Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress this year saw thousands of planners and suppliers descend on Las Vegas for four days of education, networking, and entertainment. While the conference itself was held at the MGM Grand Conference Center, Caesars Entertainment had many opportunities to show off its own event space. This ranged from MPI Foundation's The Big Deal fundraiser (which converted Caesars Palace's Palace Ballroom into a full-scale casino) to the MPI President's Dinner honoring the work and career of IMEX Group Chairman and Founder Ray Bloom (where the Palace Ballroom's craps tables from the night before gave way to sponsored tables filled with industry luminaries) to the closing night celebration at Brooklyn Bowl at The LINQ, where Joan Jett and the Blackhearts closed out the show with a hard-rocking performance.

In the midst of many Caesars-based events, Successful Meetings caught up with Michael Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment, as well as an MPI board member, to find out what's on the horizon for the organization more broadly.

Q: As you're speaking to planners at the show, what have you been hearing and what's on your mind?
 The way we journey through this world is all experiential and our business is a great example of that. There's nothing better for us than having 2,000 meeting professionals here experiencing our products and services. We can talk until we're blue in the face about what it's like, but here they can see what it's like.

In terms of what things we're interested in talking to meeting planners about, it's the same since the beginning of time: How can we make your life easier? How can we help you plan, design, and execute better meetings and events? How can we help your company execute their objectives for meetings and events that they are having?

Q: Something that does seem different in Las Vegas is the number of outdoor spaces. Could the city really become an outdoor destination?
 The connectivity between inside and outside was almost nonexistent, and still is quite low. But you are just recently seeing with The LINQ and The Park and Giada's restaurant, you are just starting to see this invitation to go outside. Whatever we do from a meeting space standpoint on the east side will have a massive outdoor component. You're just starting to see that happen, and this is a market that should have that. I can think of a half dozen markets where the weather is cloudy most of the year and it rains constantly, but they have a lot more outdoor space.

Q: Outside of Vegas, how are things going with Caesars' Atlantic City meetings offerings?
 It's exceeded even our wildest expectations, and last year's MPI [held at Harrah's just-opened Waterfront Conference Center in 2016] was a big part of that. Having MPI there really put it on the map. Bookings have been remarkably strong -- we expected them to do 40,000 room nights in the first year, and they did 100,000 room nights So it's been very nice for us, a good story.

Q: Where do you see making the case for meetings, through Meetings Mean Business and your own Caesars Means Business efforts, going in the coming year?
A: I'll tell you where I want it to head, and where I think that it can, as long as we don't forget the past: I want to see us as a consolidated industry with a clear voice and a platform of issues that it works on, with broad agreement about what that platform looks like. That's a tall order, given our history, but today we have a path to that, thanks to the Meetings Mean Business coalition. I'm quite optimistic that for the first time in our industry's history, we have a roadmap to get to where we speak with a single voice and have a unified platform. I'm glad to be a founding participant of that, and hopefully five or 10 years from now we will be saying, "This is an industry that people broadly understand, they get the benefits and the positives of the industry, and we have an avenue to get to the people we need to communicate with." I'm more hopeful than I've ever been in my career.

This was born out of a crisis, so there is a risk that as that recedes farther in the rearview mirror, the pain of that recedes with it. I worry that as the pain recedes the need to continue on with this work will as well. When times are good, you have to have some forethought.