Ever since Meeting Professionals International's President and CEO Ed Griffin announced his resignation a few weeks ago, there has been a lot of talk about the pros and cons of merging MPI with the Professional Convention Management Association. Does an opportunity exist for a shared mission and vision that would support the pursuit of a joint membership? I believe the answer is yes.
But being trained as an educator, I believe in doing one's homework. So before getting on your political bandwagon and beating your chest for or against “Merger Talks,” here are a couple of questions to consider.
But Who Benefits?
The competition for members, board members, and volunteers is fierce between MPI and PCMA. Some members have dual memberships and others have to choose one association over the other for budget reasons. I have chosen MPI for three reasons: MPI is a bigger organization and for me it presents better opportunities and education. I am sure there are plenty of PCMA members feel equally strongly about their organization.
But the big question is this: Are MPI and PCMA members benefiting from the competition between the two associations? I don't see any advantage to this competition.
The sheer cost of operating an association has doubled in just the last few years. Associations have to pay more for staff, technology, and marketing. Marketing to compete for the same people has become routine within the industry. Associations require more members to generate more revenue in order to continue to provide member benefits.
What do members gain from MPI's and PCMA's spending dollars on staff, marketing, and technology to recruit and serve the same people? The prospect of industry colleagues contributing to one “pot” instead of two makes the idea of a merger quite attractive for both meeting planners and suppliers.
While the merger idea has a lot going for it, it may not be feasible — at least not immediately. Why? The cultural differences between the two organizations may be too great for a union to occur. And are the missions of PCMA and MPI compatible? PCMA has positioned itself as the premier educational provider, while MPI positions itself as “the voice of the industry.” Can one organization be both?
Perhaps a more reasonable beginning might be to develop working relationships between sister chapters and create reciprocal agreements. This approach allows for each association to retain its unique identity while working toward more collaboration.
Having said all this, I can't help but imagine how powerful, how globally effective the meetings industry would be if PCMA and MPI did in fact merge. It's a compelling idea, if nothing else, for an industry that has been trying for years to establish itself as a true profession to the “outside” world.
Michele C. Wierzgac, CMM, founded Michele & Company, a meeting management and consulting firm, in 1996 after a career in educational administration. She is a speaker, consultant, facilitator, strategist, and columnist. She was recently named a Founding Chancellor by MPI. Contact her at (708) 598-6600 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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