Enjoying its largest turnout ever, Meeting Professionals International welcomed more than 3,600 attendees to its World Education Conference in Dallas, its headquarters city, July 9 to 11.

The ratio of 60 percent suppliers to 40 percent planners was quite impressive, according to Mark Andrew, chairman of the MPI Board, since attendance is “usually about one-third planners” to two-thirds suppliers. For the first time, MPI offered one-day passes to the trade show on Monday, which bolstered attendance, and many of the full-conference registrations came in at the last-minute: 400 attendees registered during the week leading up to the meeting. Before this conference, MPI’s largest meeting was the 2001 WEC in Las Vegas, with 3,461 attendees.

For its Professional Education Conference, January 21 to 23 in New Orleans, MPI will change the meeting format, holding the trade show on Sunday, right after the general session, rather than on Monday. It will be an experiment, says Andrew, who says the change has not yet been instituted for the 2007 WEC in Montreal, July 29 to 31.

For the first time MPI offered a strategic meeting management track consisting of six sessions over the course of two days, which covered the eight basic steps for developing a strategic meetings management program (SMMP), as outlined by the MPI Global Corporate Circle of Excellence White Paper in 2005. The sessions were well attended, not only by corporate meeting planners, but by association and independent meeting management companies as well. Monitors turned away many would-be attendees after the first session in the track filled up quickly.

A new position paper from MPI’s GCCOE was released during the meeting, exploring the trend in corporate America to merge meeting and travel departments. Called “360 Degrees of Teamwork: How Meetings and Travel Professionals Can Build Strategic Synergies to Drive Results,” the report discusses the challenges and opportunities of having meeting and travel department work together and offers a nine-step guide to ensure that these collaborations are as effective as possible. The nine-page paper is available on the MPI Web site, www.mpiweb.org.

In other MPI news Christine Duffy, outgoing chairperson of the board, president and CEO, Maritz Travel Inc., announced at the WEC that a decision about a new chief executive officer would be made within 90 days. Andrew, CMP, who took a leave of absence from his job as general manager of the Westin Bayshore, Vancouver, in March to serve as interim CEO in Dallas when Colin Rorrie resigned, left Starwood in early July when the owner of the Vancouver property decided to replace him. Although Starwood offered Andrew a position in another city, he decided to go back to Vancouver and look for a job. Sandra Riggins, MPI director of governance and chief of staff, replaced Andrew as interim CEO when he took office on July 1 as chairman of the board.

MPI surpassed the 20,000-member mark in early July, and Houston has been selected as the host city for the 2008 Professional Education Conference-North America, February 3 to 5.