The continuing effort to define meeting planning as a profession and to establish it as an important strategic cog in the corporate wheel was front and center during Meeting Professionals International's Professional Education Conference in Charlotte, N.C., in January.

After expending more than $1 million and more than 10,000 hours of program and technology development, MPI officially launched Member Solutions at the conference. The initiative is designed to help foster the evolution of meeting planning into a recognized profession while creating personalized career paths for industry professionals.

The opening general session of the PEC conference saw a first: The keynote speaker was replaced by a live news “talk show” format, highlighted by an executive roundtable moderated by Christine Duffy, MPI chairwoman, and CEO of Maritz Travel Co. St. Louis. Through a combination of video segments and live interviews, four corporate executives discussed the challenges facing planners and organizations as meeting planning strives to claim a strategic role in corporate America.

For example, Steven Chyung, vice president, strategic sourcing for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, North America, East Hanover, N.J., in discussing how the issue of transparency has affected meetings in his company, said that it has provided meeting planners with the opportunity to step up to the plate.

“It's about bringing solutions — ‘Here's how I think business processes could change; here's how I think we can enable technology,’” he said. “It's about bringing a consultative- and solutions-based mentality to meeting planning.”

Also announced at MPI:

  • A new Culture Active Tool to help meeting professionals and their organizations better communicate cross-culturally.

  • An ongoing MPI Foundation — backed survey of corporate CEO's attitudes about the role that meeting planning plays in their organizations.