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Q&A: MPI's Growth, Community and New Digital Platform

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Editor’s note: Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of Meeting Professionals International, recently discussed a range of issues and updates about MPI with Sarah Soliman of MPItv. Some of the topics were introduced by MPI members at the MPI Town Hall at the World Education Congress in Las Vegas. Others are updates on new initiatives at MPI Global such as the launch of the new www.mpiweb.org. The transcribed version is edited for brevity.

Be on the lookout for more videos from MPItv. We plan to deliver short video updates to you each month that will feature MPI news, insightful interviews and recaps from MPI live events

Video Transcript:

Sarah: Let’s get started. There are a lot of exciting things happening with MPI. First off, let’s talk about the financial status of MPI as a global association.

Paul: Thanks. One of the first questions that we had was about the financial health of MPI. I want everyone to really be comfortable that MPI right now is in a really strong position. We peaked out as an organization as far as our revenue and our membership just before the great recession in 2008, and then we went into a period like many businesses where we lost membership and our revenues declined, but over the last three years we’ve completely turned that direction around. We’re on the right trajectory right now, our memberships started growing again three years ago and we are on track to grow about 5 percent this year on a year to year basis.

Our revenues for three years straight have grown 10 plus percent every year, so double digit growth in revenue and last year healthy positive EBITA and this year looks like it’ll be even bigger than last year, so everything is moving in the right direction—though we did during those years have to dip into our reserves, which was unfortunate. We did it for two reasons: just to manage the business and keep it going, but we also made some made some very important strategic investments as we went through that time, and that included the acquisition of Plan Your Meetings.

It also included a significant investment, our largest ever, into redoing our entire digital environment. So even with that happening we began to rebuild our reserves and we have a healthy cash position—not where we want it, but we’re continuing to build towards that. We believe that right now, with the track we’re on and if we continue what we’ve done in the last two years, within four years we’ll be back where we were in 2008, the same level of cash.

A Vibrant Community

Sarah: You talked about your membership growing and being in a healthy position right now, which is great. So what about from a community standpoint?

Paul: It’s a great question because we have sort of rethought what we are as an association. In the past we’ve been very focused on the core membership base. We’ve recognized that the way individuals interact and want to work with associations has changed over time, and they really just want to be part of the community whether or not they’re a full member or they want to participate in an event (show up at something like our World Education Congress or a chapter event, or take one of our educational classes).

So we’ve begun to talk not just about membership, but our overall community, and over the last few years we’ve grown into where we have an interactive group of almost 80,000 participants within that community. So it’s much bigger than our core membership of 17,000, it’s a much larger overall organization, which really benefits everybody. Better Interaction

Sarah: You often talk about investing in new digital platforms. So what exactly is that platform and why is it so important to MPI?

Paul: We’ve made a major investment in the entire digital infrastructure. Not just the skin of the website, but what’s underneath it—what’s our learning management system, what drives that website, how does that website interact and work together not just at corporate and headquarters but also throughout all the chapters?

We’ll be launching that new website and the entire process underneath it in early September. And what it’s going to be, not just for how you want to work with us, but how you’re going to interact with the rest of your communities. The ability to create special interest groups, the ability for chapters to get more personalized and get closer to their members in their community, and this may not sound like a big deal for a lot of people but it will be mobile friendly.

Today we are not mobile friendly and you just have to be. So it’s an investment first of all to be relevant but it’s an investment that’s going to allow us to really step forward into intimacy and personalization and how our members and the community interact with us.


About the Author

Rich
Rich Luna

Rich Luna is director of publishing for MPI and editor in chief of The Meeting Professional.