THE THEME WAS the dawning of a new age of Aquarius — think the musical Hair, circa 1969 — and the underlying message was partnerships and professionalism at Meeting Professionals International 2003 World Education Congress in San Francisco, 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.” This is also an idea that reverberates with Colin C. Rorrie Jr., PhD, CAE, MPI's new president and CEO, who spent the past few years of his career with the American College of Emergency Physicians in Irving, Texas, developing partnerships and elevating the status of his ACE constituency before joining MPI this summer.

Among the partnerships announced at the conference is an alliance between MPI and the National Business Travel Association that gives privileges to members of each organization, such as access to the other's meetings and educational offerings at member rates. 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.”

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 — the level of the profession. Even after the economy recovers, we're not going back.”

Learning Rocks

The spacious, light-filled new Moscone West convention facility was host to a well-attended exposition of about 500 industry suppliers and more than 120 educational sessions that addressed not only logistical and strategic issues facing meeting professionals today, but also overall business skills. An energized buzz animated the 1,096 planners and 1,633 suppliers in attendance (at 3,162, total attendance was up from 2,900 last year), and the overall mood seemed upbeat. In a standing-room-only session on industry trends, presenter Christine Duffy, president/COO, Maritz McGettigan, asked the audience of about 180 people to rank their top hot-button issues. Nearly tied for first and second place were attrition/Web booking (56.4 percent) and contract negotiations/buyers market (56 percent).

Other MPI News

  • The MPI Foundation will invest $1 million over the next 12 months to support Pathways to Excellence, the association's multiyear strategic plan that calls for elevating the role of meetings in the business world. The money will be invested in 10 association programs, including Career Pathing (an identification and classification system for meeting and event management competencies and the pathways for growth from one level to the next); CIC's Project Attrition; the George P. Johnson Co. annual benchmark survey; the Multicultural Initiative; ROI II, a next-generation ROI program of meeting measurement tools; and the Women's Leadership Initiative.

  • Next on MPI's agenda for the Multicultural Initiative is a four-part research paper covering key success criteria for international, domestic, and regional meetings; why organizations should embrace multicultural needs; planning and executing successful multicultural meetings; and the importance of cultural sensitivity and multicultural business protocol.

  • Launched in late July, MPI's E-Learning Series is continuing with a series of Web and teleconference sessions on breaking news topics called E-merging Issues Online that debuted on September 24 and will be followed by sessions on December 3, March 3, 2004, and June 16, 2004.

  • MPI also announced that it will co-host the 2003 Meeting Industry Ladies Invitational golf event at the Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, November 2 to 5.

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