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Diverse Audiences Finding Common Ground

GF Wrap Up 1_14_18

Leaders for meeting and event industry organizations Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) hoped for the best when they decided to come together for a three-day joint conference, the SITE + MPI Global Forum in Rome, Italy.

They came away thinking this just might be something to consider again.

With a record of nearly 540 registered attendees and more 620 attendees overall, more than 30 diverse education sessions and a setting in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the SITE + MPI Global Forum was deemed a success.

“When you try something new, something that has never been done before, you’re not really sure it’s going to work,” said Kevin Hinton, CEO of SITE. “But after seeing how we all came together, I’m convinced people liked how this unfolded. The education was varied enough to serve our diverse audiences, and yet we found a lot of common ground.”

Darren Temple, chief operations officer for MPI, said there were some positives and some challenges, but that overall it was a great experience.

“We are very pleased with the Global Forum,” he said. “The noise and energy have been very positive. Our Joint boards had several meaningful collaborations together. We have committed to continue to work with each other going forward around future events, mutual education delivery and exchanges and investigating shared membership models.

“The intent of the collaboration is to share synergies for the benefit of the broader meetings and incentives community.”

The vibe was so positive that the CEOs for both organizations, Hinton and MPI’s Paul Van Deventer—and volunteer board chairs Amanda Ruffini for SITE and Amanda Armstrong for MPI—signed and announced a joint declaration on future collaboration between the two organizations. The declaration read in part:

• Whereas the SITE + MPI Global Forum 2018 in Rome, Italy, brought together the world’s leading professionals across all industry segments,

• Whereas the Boards of Directors and Foundation Trustees of both Organizations are dedicated to creating synergy for the benefit of their members and the industry as a whole,

• Whereas both Organizations have a shared interest in advocating for meetings, incentives, conventions, and events professionals around the world,

• The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence and Meeting Professionals International hereby commit to future cooperation and collaboration with each other for the benefit of industry professionals globally.

The organizations will not have a joint conference in 2019. SITE rotates its conference between Asia, Europe and the Americas, and announced Sunday it will meet in Bangkok, Thailand, next year.

MPI announced Sunday it will return to its European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) in 2019, and will collaborate with the Netherlands Chapter for its gathering at World Forum The Hague on Feb. 9-12, 2019. The last EMEC took place in 2017 in Granada, Spain.

The MPI Foundation had a presence at the global forum with Rendezvous, its premier networking event for meeting and event professionals. The MPI Foundation partners with organizations throughout the year to hold Rendezvous events, and proceeds support individual scholarships and educational grants for MPI members worldwide.

Nearly 200 people attended Rendezvous in Rome, raising more than US$19,000.

Of the nearly 540 registered attendees, 55 percent were from Europe; 34 percent from North America; 17 percent from Central/South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East; 25 percent were planners/buyers; 68 percent were members of MPI, SITE or both associations; and 25 percent were first time attendees of either an MPI or SITE conference.

The education program in Rome included an incentive travel track and a meeting management education track with content for each industry. There was significant crossover with members of each group attending sessions supported by each organization, reflecting the depth and scope of the education. Keynote speakers included the following.

• Alberto Angela, the Italian paleontologist, journalist and writer who was part of the team that discovered the famous hominid “Lucy” and is author of the bestselling book, “A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities.”

• Frans Johansson, founder and CEO of The Medici Group, which advises executives at many Fortune 100 companies on innovation and strategy, and author of “The Medici Effect and The Click Moment.”

• Federico Mattei, a technical writer and project manager for Slow Food, a global, grassroots organization founded in 1989 to prevent local food cultures and traditions from disappearing.

• Julie Cottineau, author of the bestselling book “TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands” and former vice president of brand for Richard Branson’s Virgin company.

In addition to education, MPI conducted business with its volunteer leaders and boards of directors. About 40 volunteer leaders from European chapters met in Rome to hear updates from MPI leadership on initiatives aimed at European chapters and members. The organization’s European Advisory Council met during the conference, chaired by Angeles Moreno (MPI Iberian Chapter).

MPI’s board of directors held several meetings, approving the Brazilian application for Club status and the request from the Spain chapter to expand its territory to include Portugal and change its name to Iberian Chapter.

Armstrong, Van Deventer and Temple led an MPI business update and open forum for members and honored Rodolfo Musco, the “founding father of MPI Europe,” for outstanding service and contributions to MPI Italy.

The event was the last conference for Hinton, who announced he would be leaving the organization in late January. His replacement, Didier Scaillet, was announced at the beginning of the conference. A MICE industry veteran, Scaillet started his career working for one of the first association management companies in Europe. He held various roles for nearly 20 years with MPI as director of European operations, vice president of global development and chief development officer for MPI and the MPI Foundation. Most recently, the native of Belgium was vice president, business development for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).

It was a bittersweet moment for Hinton, who has developed a close friendship with Van Deventer. Hinton previously served on the MPI board of directors and was part of the interview process that selected Van Deventer for the position in 2013.

“It felt like one community here,” Hinton said. “Even though we both have our brands and had elements of individual education, there was a healthy blending during the events. This was absolutely the right thing to do. I would look for us to work together.

“It feels natural to be here with MPI. I spent a lot of time and had a lot of professional growth through MPI. I’m blessed that it all worked out.”

About the Author

Rich Luna

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