Two dynamic women set the stage — and the tone — for the high-energy Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress, July 10 to 12, at the Miami Beach Convention Center. They were Keynote speaker Amanda Gore and MPI's new chairwoman of the board, Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel Co.

Duffy explained her vision to help elevate meeting planning to a true profession. “We are trying to do for our industry what human resources professionals did for theirs 20 years ago,” Duffy explained. “And it wasn't too many years ago that procurement was called purchasing. How much influence did they have back then? These were not simply cosmetic name changes. These professions have embraced change, and in doing so, have affected a transformation.”

To achieve those goals, Duffy said that MPI will launch research to understand and document executive thinking regarding the value and impact of meetings; create a summit for C-level executives of companies that plan many meetings and those from hospitality companies; and create a media strategy that will reach out to the general business press.

She was followed by Gore, a professional speaker and native Australian (trained as a physical therapist), whose theme of personal transformation begins by reconnecting one's head with one's heart. She had the audience laughing uproariously, holding hands, and wearing kangaroo ears to get her message across.

The 2005 World Education Congress in Miami was the second-largest event in MPI's history with 3,417 attendees, following the July 2001 WEC in Las Vegas, with 3,461 attendees. The 2004 WEC in Denver had 3,151 attendees.

Cool New Tool: APEX OfficeReady

In other news at the MPI meeting, the Convention Industry Council introduced attendees to its new APEX OfficeReady product. The application includes more than 200 event management and business templates, and was developed by CIC's APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) Initiative. It has just about everything you need to plan a meeting — checklists, event specification guides, housing forms, even name badge templates and marketing materials. OfficeReady interfaces with Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

Customizable event specification guide templates, consisting of the narrative, schedule, and function orders of an event, constitute the heart of the tool. While both the ESG and the post-event report templates are already available in Word and can be downloaded for free from the CIC Web site, they are now incorporated into OfficeReady, which includes many other business forms that a meeting planner uses. The APEX Glossary is also part of the tool set.

Once a user registers for the program, he or she will receive free updates — including templates and RFPs for working with any service provider, — as each APEX council completes its work in creating suggested “standards” or best practices for the industry.

Hyatt Hotels and Resorts has purchased 4,000 copies to distribute to its clients, and many other vendors have agreed to make large purchases, said Mary E. Power, CAE, president and CEO of CIC. Moreover, technology experts from the major meeting hotel chains, CVBs, facilities, and meeting and hotel management software companies all sit on the APEX Technology Advisory Council, and they are the driving force behind the OfficeReady product, said advisory council leader E.J. Siwek, president, FlashPoint Technologies. Siwek added that within two years, all of the meeting data from planners that a hotel or facility must now rekey into their systems will become seamless electronic communication between the two parties.

For more information about Office-Ready or to order a copy of the application for a one-time fee of $99.99, visit www.conventionindustry.org.