If you book celebrity speakers, make sure you know what they're planning to say to your audience. That's one lesson attendees took home from the Meeting Professionals International Professional Education Conference, held in New Orleans in January.

On paper, the PEC keynoter, CNN anchor Lynne Russell, looked like the perfect fit with the conference themes of personal and professional empowerment: She's a licensed private investigator, a mom, an author, a scuba diver, and holds two black belts in Choi Kwong Do. But it turned out she's better at reading lines than at writing her own. Her speech, which included a long aside about the cure-all power of shopping at Victoria's Secret, disappointed and even offended so many people that MPI issued an apology to members in its show daily.

On the final day of the conference, Amanda Gore undid some of that damage for those who attended her session, picking up the themes of balancing one's career and relationships both at work and at home.

Other speakers who created a positive buzz included — but were not limited to — Keith Harrell, with his workshop called “Attitude Is Everything,” and Joline Godfrey, whose talk was titled, “Getting It Together: Women Making Money, Having Fun, Doing Good.”

In other news, MPI announced its first Women's Leadership Initiative project. Wyndham International and The MPI Foundation each will put up $150,000 to research important issues and avenues for success for women in the meeting industry. Professional women represent 75 percent of MPI's membership.