SOWA BONA MPI!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

I see you.  Do you see me?

For MGM Resorts, this African greeting illustrates the true meaning of hospitality: acknowledging every human, regardless of physical appearance, with respect and care.  This mantra, which guides the training of their 60,000 worldwide employees, was front and center at the recent Meeting Professionals International (MPI) World Education Congress at the Mandalay Bay Las Vegas.  Courtney and Elizabeth had the opportunity to experience a snippet of this training as part of the conference’s theme of TRANSFORMATION, as the entire crowd was moved to tears with exposed challenges and stories of adversity.  And all this, no less than 5 minutes after keynote speaker and TED fellow, Candy Chang, shared her incredible story of vision, art, and transformation in communities around the world.  A powerful way to kick off an amazing 3 days of education, networking and fun!

Courtney and Elizabeth ran from one chilly ballroom to another, soaking up information and engaging with colleagues and meeting professionals from around the country.  Sessions touched on everything from sustainability to risk mitigation and from strategic meeting management to contracting.  They learned about the importance of understanding bandwidth usage, and even to have a song for all of your personal entrances.

They also had the opportunity to participate in an awesome corporate social responsibility teambuilding activity.  In teams of six, attendees constructed 250 prosthetic hands that will be distributed to amputees in 65 developing countries.  This initiative allowed groups to explore their strengths and leverage their limitations, in order to successfully construct these prosthetic hands.  What a powerful teambuilding activity!

With everyone safely back on the East Coast, our team is reflecting on this new information, our common experiences, and current trends – we can’t wait to share what we learn with our clients and vendors!

Oh, and of course, they enjoyed a party or two!

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MPI New England: January Meeting Recap

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Last Wednesday Jill, Elizabeth and Laura ventured over Fort Point Channel to the BCEC and attended MPI’s January meeting addressing the state of the industry.   With over 180 members and guests in attendance, it was a terrific showing by local planners and vendors – a great opportunity to catch up with many of our dear friends!   With a panel of leading experts, we participated in an interactive discussion on the state of our industry touching on hotel occupancy, government travel regulation, green meetings and overall trends observed.

Managing Director at Pinnacle Advisory Group, Matthew Arrants, shared his thoughts on the cyclical nature of the hotel industry; he included tips – encouraging planners to negotiate hotel contracts while the market is down.  Currently, there are record occupancy rates at the high end of the market and rates are predicted to go up as supply is staying low while demand is at average rates.  Where can you get the best value?  Secondary cities have great value and flexible booking patterns will allow for more leverage in the negotiation process.  And right here in Boston – we’re essentially at full capacity – meaning deals are hard to find in this first class destination!

The second panelist, Robert Zarnetske, Regional Administrator for the New England Region’s US General Services Administration shared interesting insight into government regulations for federal travel.  Echoing a general philosophy that we are currently in an austere time with little tolerance for big government spending, federal travel and meetings are focused on efficient spending with many meetings happening via a network of teleconference rooms.

Perhaps the issue of the decade – climate change, was addressed by Dan Ruben, Executive Director of Boston Green Tourism.   Addressing what meeting planners can do to positively influence global impact on the planet, Ruben suggested including green criteria in RFPs in an effort to select a green venue for all aspects of the meeting.  A green meeting uses less fossil fuel, energy and water, and offers environmentally friendly food.  There is even an option to certify a meeting as green through CIC’s APEX and ASTM International’s environmentally sustainable meeting standards.

Finally, Janet Weiner, CMP, a Strategic Account Manager at Maritz Travel shared broad trends seen across the industry.  In the current economy, she has observed companies doing more with less, shorter meeting cycles, increased emphasis on mobile apps for real time information, interactive meeting formats, emphasis on compliance and higher airfares with more fees.  To keep those budgets tight focus on site selection and multi-year contracts, creative food and beverage (ie. serving a family style meal instead of plated), re-using meeting rooms and eliminating printed material.

A fascinating evening – we’re so glad to be surrounded by such experts sharing their knowledge with us.  We’re hopeful for a successful 2013 for the entire industry as we adapt to the ever-evolving needs of our clients – we just can’t resist a challenge!

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