International meeting cancellations, virtual meetings replacing live ones, diminished air service — the post-September 11 realities dominated the spotlight at Meeting Professionals International's Professional Education Conference, held in late January in Honolulu. Perhaps most indicative of the times was the meeting's attendance: 1,500 people, almost half of last year's PEC in New Orleans.

Still, MPI President and CEO Ed Griffin said he was pleased with the attendance, all things considered.

“To have this many attendees make the trip here to participate in this conference is a tribute to them and shows proof that we're moving ahead into 2002. It's proof that we're back to business.”

Panel discussions grappled with doing business under different conditions than a year ago, with changes such as limited air service to some secondary cities, more regional meetings, and new corporate policies limiting the number of employees traveling a particular flight. There was also much discussion about recent corporate downsizing of meeting planning departments and the trend toward outsourcing.

In response, one veteran meeting planner, Tony Korody, president of Los Angeles-based FEP Inc., has started the FEP Affiliate Program for businesses faced with downsizing their meeting departments. The program helps companies maintain continuity by outsourcing their meetings to their former employees. Another of his programs helps former corporate planners get the training they need to start their own planning business.

“We see a growing need, and we have the systems in place to help anyone who needs it,” he said.

Patti Roscoe, president of PRA Associates, San Diego, reported that incentive travel groups are shrinking. “Clearly,” she said, “frivolous programs are going away.”

In other MPI news:

  • The Global Paragon Award winners will not be released until MPI's World Education Congress, to be held in July in Toronto.

  • MPI's Women's Leadership Initiative, launched last year to identify key professional development areas for female meeting planners, announced the results of extensive research it has completed with the members of six meeting industry organizations. Among the findings: Four out of five women feel that it is important to develop a working style suitable for superiors, while only three out of five men agreed; a third of the women reported a decrease in sleep or curtailing of hobbies due to work pressures, while only 10 percent of the men did; and three-quarters of the women said companies should offer them the same perks and benefits as men.

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