ON THE HEELS of its successful August ROI Summit, Meeting Professionals International will roll out a two-day education track, Influencing Executive Decision Makers, at its Professional Education Conference-North America in San Diego January 23-25.

“When people walk away from the session, they're going to have a much broader understanding of how to increase their influence with all decision-makers, whether it's a procurement officer, a chief marketing officer, a CEO, or a general manager,” says Kelly Schulz, MPI spokeswoman. “They're going to understand how to better articulate their value to all those groups.”

Marsha Flanagan, vice president of strategic development and special events at MPI, who designed the track, says the program will show planners how to understand and influence procurement and other executives, and how these relationships will ultimately benefit them — and their meetings.

The program kicks off with a state-of-the industry address by Christine Duffy, president and CEO, Maritz Travel Co., St. Louis. Then, Duffy will lead a 60-minute panel discussion with some top meeting planners and procurement officers, in which the focus will turn toward trends and procurement consolidation initiatives. One of the panelists will be a National Business Travel Association board member, says Flanagan.

Next, a discussion led by Barbara Talbott, executive vice president of marketing for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, will explore the value of meetings and the importance of creating “objective-based” meetings.

Hotel executives take the stage the next day to talk about trends in the rapidly changing lodging industry. Among the topics, hoteliers will talk about future distribution channels and how hotels approach the meetings market.

Picking up where the ROI Summit left off will be a 90-minute session on ROI, providing attendees with an overview of the methodology for measuring ROI developed by the ROI Institute, Birmingham, Ala. The ROI of MPI PEC-NA will be measured using this methodology, which was developed by Jack Phillips, PhD. Flanagan, who went through Phillip's inaugural ROI certification program in November, will do the measuring for MPI.

In the afternoon, a Harvard professor has been tapped to lead a session on influence and persuasion, in which planners will learn the business skills required to get a “seat at the table.” The track ends with a discussion of risk management, governance, and compliance. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act will be among the topics addressed here. For more info, visit www.mpiweb.org.