Celebrating a record attendance of more than 2,700 at the Professional Education Conference in San Diego in January, Meeting Professionals International had a lot to crow about, having achieved some major accomplishments over the past 12 months.
Tackling one of the industry’s most troublesome issues head-on, MPI announced at the meeting a position paper from its Global Corporate Circle of Excellence, telling its members that they must partner with their procurement colleagues if they want to succeed, or even survive, in today’s global meeting environment "Planners and suppliers: if you think what you have been doing all along to keep your job is enough, think again," warned the GCCOE, a group of senior-level, in-house corporate meeting and travel managers, in "The Power of Partnership: Capitalizing on the Collaborative Efforts of Strategic Meeting Professionals and Procurement Departments." A tool kit was also released—a package of how-to articles and sample documents that can help meeting professionals put a strategic management plan into place.
Because of the rapidly changing business environment, planners and suppliers must "be proactive in working with procurement, legal, travel, and other strategic alliance partners to facilitate better business. You must know your organization’s strategic objectives, measure and report spend, maximize process, and deliver value."
Suppliers were warned, "it’s not good enough to simply provide a product or to do business based on relationships alone." The papers’ authors added, "If your work group isn’t actively involved with the procurement process now, it probably will be," and that meeting professionals "must be prepared to embrace that reality."
FutureWatch 2005, an annual report conducted by MPI and American Express and also announced at the PEC, bears out that trend. In the industry's first look at comparing year-to-year responses to questions about procurement, or "a full strategic sourcing solution," all areas grew significantly:
- 57 percent of planner respondents have fully implemented or will implement meeting purchasing policies and procedures
- 54 percent have fully standarized or will standardize purchasing channels;
- 50 percent currently or will soon have preferred supplier programs;
- and 48 percent have currently or will soon implement technology solutions for meeting planning.
Meeting planners surveyed were also bullish in projecting their ’05 budgets, forecasting a 5 percent budget increase in 2005, building on a 3 percent increase in 2004. Planners also projected that budget figures for 2005 will be up significantly: corporate planners report average budgets of $7.1 million vs. last year's $5.3 million; independent budgets climbed to $11.8 million from$6.1 million; and association budgets up to $4.8 million from $1.4 million. "The continued growth of independent planner budgets indicateswill likely remain a viable industry model, even upon full market recovery," according to the report.
Personalizing a Career Path
Hugh K. Lee, chairman of the board of MPI, and president of Fusion Productions, updated the attendees at the PEC about MPI’s Career Pathways, announced some 18 months ago. "Career Pathways is the most powerful tool in the industry for professional development. But what does this mean to you—sitting in the audience?," Lee askedat the general session. "It's a tool that offers you a way to understand, manage, and track your competencies…and identify the critical knowledge needed at key career levels."
The program is geared to giving all MPI members personalized career goals as well as the proper tools to reach those goals. Lee used as an example an association meeting planner who is not sure what path she needs to take to plot a career for herself—how to get to the next level.
"With Career Pathways, not only will she know what skills are required to reach the next level of her professional development, but she will be able to track her progress on the way to that level," he said. "And she will be able to maintain an electronic profile with us, and our online tools will alert her to educational opportunities that will help her to check off core competencies as she acquires them."
A more experienced planner may be looking for coaching and the personalized, cutting-edge information needed 24/7 to facilitate a move from a senior-level tactical meeting planner to a strategic, executive-level VP. That type of member planner "will track and manage her competencies, and she'll be able to find specific resources that can help to get her where she wants to go—even if those resources are not specific to the meetings profession or covered by MPI programs," added Lee.
Lee said that MPI plans not only to work with the existing industry certifications and programs, but "to work with colleges and universities to establish standardized curricula. And we are providing you with the tools you need to sit down with your employer, opening the kind of dialogue that will help you plan your career together. And, because our ultimate goal is to standardize the roles, responsibilities, and competencies of every job in our industry—eventually even your human resources department will understand what you do in the same way that they understand what other professionals do."
The beta version of Career Pathways will be unveiled at this year's World Education Conference in Miami in July.
For more news from the MPI PEC, and for the online tool kit accompanying MPI’s GCCOE position paper, visit www.mpiweb.org