The theme was the dawning of a new age of Aquarius — think the buoyant musical Hair, circa 1969 — and the underlying message was partnerships and professionalism at Meeting Professionals International's 2003 World Education Congress August 3 to 5.

“There's been kind of a shift in our philosophy,” said MPI's new chairwoman Terri Breining, CMP, CMM, president of San Diego-based Concepts Worldwide, during an interview at the conference. “MPI can't alone be all things to all people. To address the needs of our members on several levels, we have to form partnerships.” Perhaps the biggest example is MPI's alliance with the National Business Travel Association, which was announced at the show. (See story, right.) Meeting managers and travel managers “are in closely related and sometimes overlapping businesses,” said Breining. “If both groups are going in the same direction, everyone wins.”

San Francisco's new, light-filled Moscone West convention facility was host to the 1,096 planners and 1,633 suppliers in attendance (total attendance was up 9 percent over last year), and despite the temptations of San Francisco, planners and suppliers flocked to the content-rich seminars addressing logistical and strategic issues facing meeting professionals. Standing-room-only sessions included a Convention Industry Council-sponsored booking-outside-the-block discussion and a session led by Christine Duffy, president/COO, Maritz McGettigan, on industry trends. Duffy asked the audience of about 180 people to rank their hot-button issues. Nearly tied for first place were attrition/Web booking (56.4 percent) and contract negotiations/buyers' market (56 percent).

Asked for her personal take on the most significant trend in the corporate market, Breining cited the theme that has resonated with MPI in recent years: professionalism. “Difficult times have forced corporate planners to a level of accountability we have not seen before,” she said. “I think this is a good thing, because it raises the bar. Even after the economy recovers, we're not going back.”

Other MPI News

  • The MPI Foundation will invest $1 million over the next year to support Pathways to Excellence, a multiyear strategic plan to elevate the role of meetings in the business world. The money will be invested in 10 programs, including CIC's Project Attrition; the Multicultural Initiative; the Women's Leadership Initiative; ROI II, a next-generation ROI program of meeting measurement tools; and Career Pathing (a system for identifying and classifying meeting management competencies and the pathways for growth).

  • MPI's Women's Leadership Initiative announced a strategic plan for 2003 to 2005 that includes new research, education, networking and mentoring, chapter implementation, marketing, and ROI measurement. Among the education initiatives is a new task force to investigate a possible WLI conference in 2005.

  • Next on MPI's agenda for the Multicultural Initiative is a research paper covering such issues as planning and executing successful multicultural meetings, and the importance of cultural sensitivity and multicultural business protocol.

  • MPI's e-learning series, launched in late July, includes modules called Business Skills Online and Meeting Strategies Online. Among future offerings is a series of Web and teleconference sessions on breaking news topics called E-merging Issues Online that will debut at 2 p.m. on September 24, followed by a session December 3.

  • An MPI/Meeting Industry Ladies Organization alliance was announced. MPI will co-host the 2003 Meeting Industry Ladies Invitational golf event at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, November 2 to 5.