"I want members everywhere to be able to benefit from Meeting Professionals International's (MPI) programs and take part in its governance," says MPI's president-elect Anna Lee Chabot, CMP, who officially begins her term on July 1. Currently the head of the meetings and assemblies section for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Ottawa, Chabot is the fifth female and second Canadian to serve as MPI president.
Although international in name, MPI is, in fact, mostly a North American organization. Chabot aims to change that.
But she doesn't intend to impose the North American methods of organizing membership on the rest of the world. "I think we're open to the idea that there may be different ways of organizing our membership in other regions of the world," she says. "To go in and create our own bureau and chapter network may not be the most efficient way of bringing MPI's products and services to another region." Chabot points to the recent alliance with the Meetings Industry Association of Australia as a possible model for MPI's global expansion. The Australian association has been given a corresponding affiliate members status, enabling its members to join MPI. "In this way, MPI can extend its reach and work in partnership with an already existing and very fine industry association," Chabot says. "It is not our intention to reinvent the wheel. If we can extend the reach of our programming by working with existing societies and associations that have the same goals, then we are all further ahead."
Membership recruitment is only one facet of Chabot's global vision. She also wants overseas members to take part in MPI's governance. "I'm trying to ensure that all the committees and councils and task forces are made of the very best people we can get who are representative of a global membership and a very diverse membership," she asserts. "I don't think we were intentionally not doing this in the past, but perhaps we didn't have it as priority. I feel it should be a priority at this time in MPI's growth."
Chabot sees her bicultural roots as the foundation for her open-minded perspective. Her mother is from the U.S.; her father is Canadian. Born in Manitoba, she grew up in Vancouver, and attended school in Washington State. "It was a bit of intensive exposure at a young age," she says, adding with a laugh, "Before the exchange rate changed, we did all our family clothing shopping in Seattle. Now, it's the other way around." Chabot is also bilingual; she learned French when she lived and worked in Montreal for 15 years.
How will her multicultural background help her realize her global vision for MPI? "I think I can help foster an attitude that when you live and work in a global environment you need to be sensitive that your way is not always the best or only way," she reflects. "It may work for you in your setting, but be ready to accept that someone else's business practices and way of looking at things are just as valid in their context."