MPI Hits (and Misses) at PEC

If you book celebrity speakers, make sure you know what they're planning to say to your audience. That's one lesson attendees took home from the Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference, held in New Orleans in January. On paper, the PEC keynoter, CNN anchorwoman Lynne Russell, looked like the perfect fit with the conference's themes of personal and professional empowerment: She's a licensed private investigator, a mom, an author, a scuba diver, and holds two black belts in Choi Kwong Do. But it turned out she's better at reading lines than at writing her own. Her speech, which included long asides about the cure-all power of shopping at Victoria's Secret, disappointed and even offended so many people that MPI issued an apology to members in its show daily.

On the final day of the conference, Amanda Gore undid some of that damage for those who attended her session, picking up the themes of balancing one's career and relationships at work and home. Other speakers who created a positive buzz included — but certainly weren't limited to — Keith Harrell, with his workshop “Attitude Is Everything,” and Joline Godfrey's “Getting It Together: Women Making Money, Having Fun, Doing Good.”

In other news from the conference, the MPI Foundation and Wyndham International will each put up $150,000 to fund research for MPI's new Women's Leadership Initiative. Professional women represent 75 percent of MPI's membership.