Meeting Professionals International has undergone major changes over the past year, from rethinking and renaming its Professional Education Conference to its plans to revise the CMM certification. We caught up with MPI CEO and President Bruce MacMillan at MPI's World Education Congress in Las Vegas in August to find out how these changes are affecting members and what we can expect to see from the association in 2009.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: What is MPI trying to accomplish with the changes to the content and design of its meetings?

Bruce MacMillan: We are really aggressively pushing the envelope. We are delivering much higher levels of education, and we're trying innovative things like reformatting our trade show — you won't see any pipe and drape on the trade show floor. We are also looking at some big issues like corporate social responsibility. As we evolve, we don't think of ourselves as a traditional association; we have become a community. MPI has 24,500 members and 69 chapters. We are growing rapidly in Asia, and that is really where the industry is becoming much more global.

CMI: MPI's Professional Education Confer-ence has been renamed MeetDifferent and you've incorporated many changes, such as an open-floor-plan trade show format. What kind of feedback have you received?

MacMillan: For MeetDifferent in Houston, our knowledge session scores went up ten points. MeetDifferent is all about innovation, the cutting edge, about what's going on right now. We used MeetDifferent as one big learning lab to try new things so that meeting professionals could come and say, “Is this going to work for me?” That was where we debuted the new trade show format, and initially we weren't sure if people were going to like it. They loved it! We actually changed our plans for the WEC to incorporate that format because it was so well received. Of course, some people like it when we try these things and some people don't. Did everybody love everything we tried in Houston? No. Did they appreciate that they had the opportunity to see it first? Absolutely.

CMI: Is there such a thing as too much reinventing? Are you concerned that you might alienate some longtime members?

MacMillan: I don't think so. They are all here [at WEC in Las Vegas]. They have been part of the process all along. For instance, we are making some changes to our Certification in Meetings Management program, which was put in place 10 years ago, and the first thing we did was go back to the graduates and ask, “What do you think we should add to the CMM program?” They are part of this process, and we value their input. These are the people who helped us get to where we are, and the great thing is, they still want to be involved. Now, is everybody going like where we are going? Probably not, but our membership keeps growing.

CMI: MPI recently began collaborating with futurist Elliott Masie, CEO of The Masie Center. What was his role in this meeting?

MacMillan: He is our partner in the Future of Meetings project. [MPI recently launched a Future of Meetings Task Force to propose research on meetings of the future and explore the convergence of meetings and technology.] At this conference we will do an interactive session together on the future of meetings. We are going to say, “Here are the seven challenges you have told us you are dealing with.” Then we'll break into groups and brainstorm solutions. We do a parallel “Future of Meetings” [session] at Masie's Learning conferences, so we hear from the chief learning officers in attendance there. There is a lot of convergence going on between meeting professionals and knowledge professionals.

CMI: What are some of the initiatives on the horizon for MPI in 2009?

MacMillan: We are continuing the commitment to elevate the conversation in our industry. We recently launched a new Web site. And, in addition to enhancing the CMM program, we are also making a big commitment to build a rich global industry marketplace, starting with the creation of the world's most comprehensive database of meeting professionals. These are both in development at the moment for activation in 2009.

  • Site-selection company HelmsBriscoe opened its first Japanese office in September in Tokyo. The office, in the downtown Roppongi district, is led by Kayoko Inoue, HelmsBriscoe's new regional manager, Japan.

  • Marriott International is introducing two new tools to help group travel intermediaries: a Web site where they can monitor their commission payments and future bookings, and an online training program.

  • Dolce International has rebranded itself as Dolce Hotels and Resorts and will spend $100 million across the brand, to add spa amenities, restaurants, a new culinary program, upgraded beds, and high-definition televisions.

  • APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange), an initiative of the Con-vention Industry Council, has unveiled Powershop, an application that allows suppliers and planners to send, store, and retrieve documents via the Internet.

  • The International Association of Exhibitions and Events has moved to expel a member, Complete Event Planning of Henderson, Nev., for offering housing services to exhibitor members for IAEE's annual meeting without being the official housing bureau.

  • According to Meeting Professionals International, its 2008 World Education Congress in Las Vegas, which attracted 4,500 attendees, was “the largest global gathering of meeting and event professionals in history.”

First BS 8901 Green Event

Meeting Professionals International is the first organization to implement the new British Standards Institution's BS 8901, a standard for sustainable events developed as a guide for planning the 2012 Olympic Games. MPI's European Meetings and Events Conference, held at ExCel London last April, has been certified in each of the three phases of BS 8901: planning pre-event, implementation during the event, and review post-event. The BS 8901 standard has been supported in part by the MPI Foundation and The Rezidor Hotel Group toward its efforts to become an internationally recognized standard under the International Standard Organization.