What were the main components of the MPI rebirth?
The biggest issue was that we had become too many things to too many people; our message was scattered. So we focused on what our value was. And talking to many people we found out it was professional development. In other industries there are lots of teaching schemes, but not really in our industry, so what we can offer is a place where they can progress through their careers. Once that key value was established, we defined the value added we have deliver to each segment, and we saw gaps (some skills were missing, or how we deliver this education could be improved).
We realise our number one delivery channel is the chapter, a way to deliver knowledge to many places around the world. Volunteer leaders are learning things about how to lead which they may not get elsewhere; so we needed to consolidate the chapters, empower them, give them the right tools and methods.
We also realized that after 40 years, we had the same model to interact with members; so we reestablished the types of membership and how people want to interact with MPI.
Finally, we changed our internal culture and think now more like a business, to make sure we are successful long term.
The quickest impact of these changes has been in the US where we have 80% of our revenue and member base.
There are more competitors of MPI when it comes to get networking and education (every trade show and many networking events are in the end competitors of the value of MPI)... What is the DNA of MPI??
It is true, we are not competing with other associations, we are competing with other content deliverers. About our DNA, there is a phrase we hear a lot from members: "this was my career home", no matter in which company I worked. Part of it is irrational: when I joined, I found amazing passion and a true community. There is that emotional part which was capturing me. Coming from another industry, it really struck me.
What has to be learned in our industry? In other industries it is quite clear... but in meetings is there a clear body of knowledge?
We have created the MPI Academy to deal with this issue and define a complete set of skills professionals should learn. We used to see education on a "per event" basis, rather than leveraging the opportunity to offer consistent value and a complete set to be distributed across all events. We have begun to define a professional roadmap, and members can see where they are in their career, what they still need. This is the vision, now we have to fill in the content underneath.
The second segment is external: people look at our industry and don´t understand the education we need. We have to raise the quality and recognition of our education. In the future I would like to have a CMM or CMP get the same recognition as a broker´s license. We work with other associations to raise this recognition. Also you need a curriculum. You look at all the general and specific building blocks you need for your career. And the roadmap is the tool to build your curriculum. And we don´t do it alone: we involve other associations and companies which want to bring educational content.
It is also about how we empower the chapter leaders. So it is great news that the Foundation has decided to fund the chapter leaders´ participation into the WEC.
A key to the chapters´ development is to make sure they can afford permanent staff and be financially sustainable?
If you want to be sustainable, we have to see beyond the chapter model, making it possible for people to interact with us in online communities, segmented groups, at the chapter level but chapters could be affiliated to a broader region. We suggested wannabe chapters in regions like Eastern Europe to be included into a bigger model. You can´t go chapter per chapter; in some countries too big like Germany, you would need a local presence which the current chapter model is not really providing.
Shouldn´t we be much more demanding about what meeting planners need to know, isn´t there a lack of R&D in our industry?
There is a growing body of R&D, spontaneously generated by professionals in our industry. And there is a growing body of universities which have recognised this is an industry. We have to be focused on delivering value and then ensuring the right level of skills. So increasingly people recognize us as a profession and see the value we bring.
Our industry has amazing value, which has to be recognized: as I was saying in this conference, when you take a serious issue like climate change, our industry is the one which can make it all happen. That is the value of face to face.
We could check this importance during the crisis, as meetings and travel were cut by the government. Quickly many problems came up, for instance veterans could not be effectively treated: people were not trained and this was the problem - now they are starting to connect the dots and realise the value of our industry. We employ in the UK more people than agriculture, something deep rooted. In the US we employ more people than the auto industry, another deep rooted one.
How to make this message reach the rest of the economy?
We can´t be the sole voice. Other voices have to all get on the same page: destinations, airlines, hotels... Hotels should go there, and make their staff aware that they don´t just lay tables, they change the world. We have a group called "meetings mean business", with 50 powerful organisations ready to fund a PR effort. This will be a group effort.
On 14th April, internationally we have the meetings day, a day which started organically in Canada and aims to generate awareness outside our industry. We want to bring in local infrastructure, politicians, etc. and make it a day of awareness-building.
In this conference, we see a lot of meeting design. Is it the great, necessary revolution for our industry?
What we have seen in this conference is that the right food, lighting, formats... make meetings hugely more effective. So yes, if you want to demonstrate effectiveness and ROI, meeting design is a basic building block. A lot of knowledge which makes you an effective meeting planner in the first place can restrict you from moving out to that strategic thinking. Making that move from logistical to strategic is very difficult but is essential.