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MPI Draws Huge Percentage of First-Timers to WEC

Here’s some of the news you might have missed from MPI’s World Education Congress in Louisville: New certificate programs, award winners, leadership changes, membership growth, and a horde of first-time planner attendees.

The theme for Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress held this week in Louisville, Ky., was “Craft Your Experience.” But if MPI were to pick a theme for the association itself, “momentum” might be a good choice.

The May 20-22 event drew 1,900 in-person attendees and 100 registered for the digital experience, the highest attendance since WEC 2019 in Toronto, said MPI leaders during an on-site press conference. And, of the more than 700 meeting planners who came to the show, about half were first-timers.

Paul Van Deventer, MPI president and CEO, also discussed the rebound of the association’s financial picture. Like most associations, MPI saw a significant revenue decline in 2020. Since then, it’s been climbing back, finally posting a positive earnings report in 2022, but only this year expecting revenues to hit pre-pandemic levels. “We’re finally in a healthy place,” Van Deventer said.

While membership is still down compared to before the pandemic, Michelle Allgauer, 2023 MPI International Board of Directors chair and senior vice president, education & engagement at Financial Services Institute, also reported momentum on that front. MPI currently has 12,500 members, including 6,500 planner members, the most since April 2021. In 2023, membership growth was strongest in the EMEA region, with a 13 percent increase, followed by seven percent growth in Latin America (hitting more than 500 members for the first time) and four percent growth in North America.

Van Deventer.pngVan Deventer (right) noted that member engagement has increased substantially coming out of the pandemic. “This year, we have over 1,100 volunteers; it’s our most ever,” he said. “Our membership is still 40 percent less than it was pre-pandemic, so as a percentage” of overall membership, volunteerism “is almost double.”

Here are six other MPI updates from its WEC:

New leadership: As Allgauer’s term as chair of the MPI board comes to an end, Rob Adams, president and founder of Bishop-McCann, will step into the role. Additionally, Rebecca DeLuca, CMP, vice president of destination sales, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, is chair-elect of the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees, a position now filled by Susie Townsend, chief destination experience officer for Visit Indy.

Speaker diversity: Van Deventer praised Jesse States, CMP, CMM, vice president of the MPI Academy, for her “intentional path” to diversify the speaker lineup at WEC. He noted that eight years ago the people on stage would have been 90 percent men. Today that’s flipped to about 70 percent women, with more of a focus on racial diversity and neurodiversity. One example from the Louisville conference: comedian and diversity advocate Pamela Schuller (left, photo courtesy of MPI) spoke about Schuller.pngher life with Tourette Syndrome. In total, the event had 145 speakers in 115 sessions. Planners could earn up to 13 clock hours of continuing education credits.

Rise Awards: MPI honored its Rise Award winners during WEC, including Member of the Year Jenny Dao, business development manager at Discover Saskatoon. (Read about all the Rise Award winners here.) The association also announced a new Rise Award for social impact that will replace the industry advocate award.

New certificates: MPI will launch three new certificate programs this year. Members will soon be able to take courses in neurodiversity, planning golf events, and event psychology. The association’s “AI-Enhanced Event Professional,” which launched in January, has already seen more than 230 people go through the program. Churchill_Downs.jpeg

Standout venue: While WEC’s evening events included Mellwood Art Center for the President’s Dinner honoring Maritz COO Steve O’Malley and Mercury Ballroom for the Rendezvous fundraiser, the opening-night venue was a standout. MPI was the first group to use Churchill Downs’ new First Turn Club (right), an expansive venue with an outdoor patio offering great views of the historic racetrack and buildings.

Pulse survey preview: Van Deventer provided a preview of the Meetings Outlook Spring 2024 report. The poll of 2,000 meeting professionals showed “continued favorable optimism but a lessening of that optimism,” he said. “They see conditions strengthening, but not as much as they did. They're still hiring, but maybe not as much other last year, and budgets are increasing but a little less than they were.” The full report will be released in June.

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