TWO DYNAMIC WOMEN set the stage — and tone — for the high-energy Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress July 10 to 12 at the Miami Beach Convention Center: Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel Co. and chairwoman of the board of MPI; and keynote speaker Amanda Gore.

It was appropriate for an association whose membership consists primarily of women. Duffy laid the groundwork at the opening session for her year at the helm of the association, in which she hopes to move MPI that much closer to the goals laid out some three years ago in MPI's strategic plan.

She was followed by Gore, a professional speaker and native Australian (trained as a physical therapist), whose theme of personal transformation begins by reconnecting one's head with one's heart. She had the audience laughing uproariously, holding hands, and waving magic wands to get her message across.

With a tip of the hat to MPI's four most recent chairpersons — Jerry Wayne, George Aguel, Terri Breining, and Hugh Lee — Duffy explained her vision to help elevate the meeting planning field to a true profession. “Our ability to exert power or influence on those outside our industry is key to the success of the transformation that MPI is launching this year,” she said. “Let's define that transformation by using our imaginations: Imagine a day when the head of your organization comes to you and congratulates you for the role that you — and the meeting you orchestrated — played in the successful launch of a new product.

“We are trying to do for our industry what human resources professionals did for theirs 20 years ago,” said Duffy, “what PMI — Project Management Institute — is doing for its members right now. And it wasn't too many years ago that procurement was called purchasing. And how much influence did they have back then? These were not simply cosmetic name changes. These professions have embraced change, and in doing so have affected a transformation.”

To achieve those goals, Duffy said that MPI will launch research to understand and document executive thinking regarding the value and impact of meetings; create a summit for C-level executives at companies that plan many meetings and for those from hospitality companies; and develop a media strategy to reach out to the general business press.

Self-Assessment, Coming Soon

In other news, MPI demonstrated part of its new online Member Solutions suite, both online and off line, which includes Professional Pathways, formerly called Career Pathways.

“MPI Member Solutions is the end result of MPI's Career Pathways initiative and how we will describe the new way of doing business for MPI,” said Marsha Flanagan, vice president of professional development for MPI.

It is a “personalized, Web-based skills assessment, gap analysis, and development plan tool based on clearly defined core competencies and job descriptions for meeting professionals,” she added. It will launch January 22, 2006, at MPI's Professional Education Conference — North America in Charlotte, N.C., the first phase of a three-year rollout.

Every planner member should do a profile and skills self-assessment, she added. And although it will touch all members of MPI, the heart of the program is geared to corporate, association, and independent planners.

Flanagan also announced that six related industry associations based in Washington, D.C., including the American Society of Association Executives and the Convention Industry Council, have pledged cooperation and support for MPI's plan to make terminology consistent and to standardize aspects of the career development program that might overlap with theirs.

“It will revolutionize the way we and others think about our profession,” said Duffy in her opening comments. “It will be the place to go to map out and track your career path. It's technology-driven, but developed with input from industry professionals at every level, and it will ‘learn’ and grow as it's used. It's a true body of knowledge, and it's what will help us define and create our profession.”

The 2005 WEC in Miami was the second-largest event in MPI's history, with 3,417 attendees, following the July 2001 WEC in Las Vegas with 3,461 attendees. The 2004 WEC in Denver had 3,151 attendees.

And the Winners Are…

Meeting Professionals International bestowed its annual awards at the World Education Conference in July.

  • International Planner of The Year: Glen Reigheart, CAE, CMM, CMP, director of meetings and conventions for the National Community Pharmacists Association, Alexandria, Va.

  • International Supplier of The Year: Coleman, CMM, owner of The Conference Works, Mineral Point, Wis.

  • Marion N. Kershner Memorial Chapter Leader Award: Chad Chappell, CMP, vice president of sales with The Hyland Group, Washington, D.C.

  • Tomorrow's Leaders Award: Ruth Fitzgerald, regional director of sales with DMI Hotels, Clearwater, Fla., and Shannon W. Derrick, sales manager with Kimpton Hotels, Washington, D.C.