How can a meeting executive keep up with the constant change at work and have a life? At the Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference, held in New Orleans from January 21 to 23, sessions focused on defining the power of meetings through the power of the meeting planner in the office, in global work relationships, and at home.

At the opening general session, Evelyn Laxgang, MPI's international chairwoman and director of strategic programs and events at Motorola in Schaumburg, Ill., quoted from William Shakespeare's “all the world's a stage” soliloquy, adding her own sage advice: “We are no longer players; we can now choose to be or not to be.” These days, she explained, we can't count on predictable career paths. “We have to take center stage in our own lives and character. We have the power to write our own lines.”

“We have the power to write our own lines.”
— Evelyn Laxgang

Unfortunately, Lynne Russell, CNN anchorwoman and keynote speaker, demonstrated that some people should stick to reading lines that others have written for them. Although her résumé speaks to the power of individuals to shape their own careers — she's a licensed private investigator, a mom, an author, and a scuba diver, among other accomplishments — Russell delivered a rambling speech, undercutting her message with long asides about Victoria's Secret, as well as downright simpleminded advice, such as, “Make friends with your computer.” Attendees voiced disappointment — some walked out midspeech. MPI issued an apology in its show daily.

News from MPI

  • Women represent 75 percent of MPI's membership, yet, says Ed Griffin, MPI president and CEO, “few programs specifically target their needs.” Last spring, Christine Duffy, president and COO of McGettigan Partners in Philadelphia, began to address this issue by bringing together women who are industry leaders to talk about professional opportunities. Interest grew beyond all expectations, sparking MPI's Women's Leadership Initiative Program. For the program's first project, the MPI Foundation and Wyndham International will each put up $150,000 to fund research into key issues and avenues for success for women.

  • Jerry Wayne, MPI's chair-elect, recently left his position as executive vice president, sales and marketing, at to become director of sales and marketing for the Galt House, Executive Inn and Executive West hotels in Louisville, Ky. Before his six-month stint at b-there, Wayne worked for 19 years at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville.

  • When it opens in March 2002, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Conn., will provide — free of charge — the Meeting Quality Evaluation benchmarking tool to meeting professionals conducting events of more than 50 attendees. The software, developed by the MPI Foundation, helps corporate planners to assess the effectiveness of their events by comparing them to a set of national norms for typical meetings of the same category.