CELEBRATING A RECORD ATTENDANCE of more than 2,700 at the Professional Education Conference in San Diego in January, Meeting Professionals International had a lot to crow about, having achieved some major accomplishments over the past 12 months.

Tackling one of the industry's most troublesome issues head-on, MPI announced at the meeting a position paper from its Global Corporate Circle of Excellence, telling its members that they must partner with their procurement colleagues to survive in today's global meeting environment.

“Planners and suppliers: if you think what you have been doing all along to keep your job is enough, think again,” warned the GCCOE, a group of senior-level, in-house corporate meeting and travel managers, in The Power of Partnership: Capitalizing on the Collaborative Efforts of Strategic Meeting Professionals and Procurement Departments. A tool kit was also released — a package of how-to articles and sample documents that can help meeting professionals to put a strategic management plan into place.

The papers' authors added, “If your work group isn't actively involved with the procurement process now, it probably will be.”

FutureWatch 2005 Agrees

FutureWatch 2005, an annual report conducted by MPI and American Express and also announced at the PEC, bears out that trend. In the industry's first look at comparing year-to-year responses to questions about procurement, all areas grew significantly:

  • 57 percent of planner respondents have fully implemented or will implement meeting purchasing policies and procedures;

  • 54 percent have fully standardized or will standardize purchasing channels;

  • 50 percent have or will soon have preferred supplier programs;

  • 48 percent have or will soon have tech solutions for meeting planning.

Meeting planners surveyed were also bullish in projecting their 2005 budgets, forecasting a 5 percent budget increase in 2005, building on a 3 percent increase in 2004.

Personalizing a Career Path

Hugh K. Lee, chairman of the board of MPI and president of Fusion Productions, updated PEC attendees on MPI's Career Pathways, announced some 18 months ago.

“It's a tool that offers you a way to understand, manage, and track your competencies … and identify the critical knowledge needed at key career levels,” said Lee. The program is geared to giving all MPI members personalized career goals as well as the proper tools to reach those goals.

Lee used as an example a meeting planner who is not sure what she needs to do to plot a career path. “With Career Pathways, not only will she know what skills are required to reach the next level of her professional development, but she will be able to track her progress on the way to that level,” he said. “And she will be able to maintain an electronic profile with us, and our online tools will alert her to educational opportunities that will help her.”

An experienced planner may be looking for coaching to move into a strategic, VP-level position. That type of member planner “will track and manage her competencies, and she'll be able to find specific resources that can help to get her where she wants to go — even if those resources are not specific to the meetings profession or covered by MPI programs,” added Lee.

MPI plans to work with the existing industry certifications and programs, as well as colleges and universities, to establish standardized curricula. “We are providing you with the tools you need to sit down with your employer, and open the kind of dialogue that will help you plan your career together. And, because our ultimate goal is to standardize the roles, responsibilities, and competencies of every job in our industry — eventually even your human resources department will understand what you do in the same way that they understand what other professionals do.”

The beta version of Career Pathways will be unveiled at this year's World Education Conference in Miami in July.

For more news from the MPI PEC, and for the tool kit accompanying MPI's GCCOE position paper, visit www.mpiweb.org.