I am delighted to have Paul Van Deventer calling in for this interview. Paul was recently elected president of MPI, the Association for international Meeting Planners. What is he up to in his organization and what are in his opinion the biggest challenges for the meeting industry for the next few years? Welcome to eventplanner.tv!
Hi Paul welcome to our studio!
Hello Kevin good to see you!
Well before we start talking, a lot of our viewer would not know about MPI. What is the organization stand for?
Thank you for asking. MPI is an aquarium for Meeting Professionals Internationals. We are a 43 year old organization. And we are the largest global association focused on meeting of events professionals. We have about 20,000 members and they are involved and engaged in MPI through 71 chapters and clubs that are based all around the world.
That’s impressive. And you were elected president recently, Congratulations!
Thank you very much. Just one correction I am not elected I am appointed, I was selected by the board Kevin: Okay. So why did they appoint you?
Well, the search that was underway is that they were looking for someone who understood the business travel and specifically meeting of event industry, in some degree, more importantly they wanted professional experience in running a business. And they were really looking for a business person to come in and manage MPI in a way that was financially sound and strategically well planned and thought out. So that’s why I got the opportunity. I’ m not a, I was not from within the MPI organization.
Okay. Perfect. And what do you think your impact will be on the organization, what are the focus points for you?
Focus points for me, is like a setup for, it’s a 43 year old organization, so there is lot of to be proud of, there is lot of great history there. What I want to be able to do is to re-focus in our energy and passion of our 20,000 members which is extremely strong in how we are going to move MPI forward. So not just focusing on what we have done in the last 43 years but what we need to do differently as the meeting and events industry vows. And the demands and the requirements of our membership and the industry of all changing involves. So I’m focusing on building a very sound, strong financial balance sheet, so we have the money to invest, focus on improving overall professional development and educational programs. And looking at how we in a smart way, to complement on what we already have, our really strong markets in North America and Europe, how we smartly grow and expand into developing markets, where so much of the investments and meeting and events are going and in greater Asian and in Africa, in South America.
You already touched the subject of the meeting industry changing a lot in the last few years. What do you think are the biggest challenges for our Industry?
We face a number of challenges. One is the industry itself provides a very attractive career path, and a lot of attractive career opportunities for individuals, it is also is a strong economic driver for governments and for countries but I don’t think that those points are well enough understood outside the industry. So one of the key things that MPI believes that the role we can play is, in working in cooperatively with other associations and organizations is really promoting those two facts about the industry. One is how strong a career you can have here and how involved a career. You know, it’s a really engaging opportunity to spend your entire life in the industry, so that we can attract the talent in. We need the best and brightest in this industry; to be able to respond to the new technologies is the new creative approaches which are going on in the industry. So that’s one big challenge is getting the right talent so that the industry can evolve and grow and I think together with other organizations we can help do that, we can help promote the value of the industry, at the career stand point, at the university level, at the junior college or the high school levels across the world. The other is ensuring that the value of the industry is well perceived and given credit by the organizations that invest in meetings.
In your opinion is that also add a value having a organization like MPI because on the base a lot of companies think okay becoming a member of an organization that only costs money.
I think there’s a value to the association that we have an obligation to promote the industry because we stand for the 20,000 members who have chosen to participate with us and while they participate somewhat economically the fees belongs to MPI are not that great. It’s more of a commitment of time, if you want to get your value out of MPI while you do pay an annual fee; you really ought to get the value if you attend the meetings if you participate in your local chapter and clubs, if you get online and interact with other members, take advantage of professional development opportunities, the job boards, the different interactive sessions and tools that we have that’s when your gonna get the value out of it, so we do feel it’s a obligation of ours to promote the industry because that’s to the benefit of our 20,000 members.
And maybe as the last question, with a big organization like yours how do you keep all those chapters in sync and going in the same direction
I think it’s one of the great benefits we have is having 71 chapters and it’s one of the greatest challenges that we have won because that’s also very unique to our association to have such a strong chapter network. Kevin: And why is that so important? Paul: Well, we believe that the best way to attract members and interact with members is that the grass root level and the chapters are our grass root, fundamental organization. So they will have major events like we have in Europe, an annual congress this year in February in Istanbul. In United States we have a very large congress this last year in Las Vegas and next year in Mini Polis. We may get face to face with 10 to 15 percent of our members. The chapters will reach out and touch our members in regular basis and see them face to face, so that interaction is so important for us. Keeping that consistent is one of our biggest challenges. So we have an entire organization within our staff that is led by a senior director and he has a team underneath each of them assigned to specific chapters and their role is to look for best practices, to be able to take those best practices and fortify them and put them into documentation to share with other chapters. We bring the chapter leadership together in a regular basis because chapters, their success rate is so dependent on our strong volunteer leadership, so we bring them together once to twice a year to train them, give them information about other chapters, let the chapters talk to each other. So big focus for us is the chapter network created consistency and also for us creating value to them as really a communication between them, but they know how to do it better than we do because every day their out there interacting, meeting with an event planner so why not learn from them, if someone from the Turkey club does something very strong why not share that with the Belgium chapter and UK chapter so that they can take advantage of it.
Okay. Perfect. Paul I want to really thank you for this interview.
Thank you Kevin it was nice to talk with you. Good to see you and hope to meet you surely in person.
And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next time.