The Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference/North America, held from February 2 to 4 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., and at Walt Disney World Resort, may have stressed leadership, but the subtext was survival. And it was a message planners wanted to hear: 2,207 (680 planners and 1,167 suppliers) came to hear it, which is significantly more than came to the meeting in 2002.
“We're facing challenges that are more serious than they've ever been,” MPI chairman George Aguel, senior vice president of Walt Disney World Resorts, said in an interview during the PEC. A heavy menu of personal development courses at the conference enhanced the overall feeling that individual planners are fighting for their own jobs at the same time that they're striving to convey the strategic value of meetings and events.
The 50-plus educational sessions focused on tools to navigate an economic and political landscape that's grown increasingly challenging for both planners and suppliers.
The unspoken undercurrent at the conference was how to justify the apparent expense — and downplay any appearance of frivolity — of meetings in a down economy. “We've been going much more with regional meetings, but not because of fear of terrorism. It's just wanting to make sure that we're being careful with funds,” said Dana Nickerson-Rhoden, senior manager of the scientific sessions program for the American Heart Association, Dallas.
Other MPI News
Aguel announced MPI's new strategic plan, which has three elements: creating career pathways that enable members to evolve toward positions of strategic influence; increasing MPI's influence with senior decision-making executives; and focusing on business development opportunities for suppliers.
The committee seeking a replacement for departing MPI president and CEO Edwin L. Griffin Jr., CAE, disbanded after confidential information relating to the search became public. A new committee is expected to announce Griffin's replacement by the time he leaves at the end of April.