Dallas -- Meeting Professionals International (MPI) enjoyed record-breaking attendance at its annual World Education Congress. More than 3,600 people attended the three-day event, which ended here yesterday.
The attendance figure tops by about 140 people attendance at the 2001 convention, in Las Vegas. About 40 percent of attendees were meeting planners, with the rest comprising suppliers, speakers, guests, and members of the news media.
Planners typically make up about one-third of attendees at the association's annual conventions, according to MPI chairman Mark Andrew, who lauded the increased participation of planners.
"This industry is hot right now," said Andrew during a town hall-style forum with members. "Seeing over 3,600 people attend this conference means it's growing, growing bigger than ever.
"A lot of people are looking to grow and develop careers for themselves," Andrew continued. "Coming to this event shows you're focused on your own growth, focused on the meeting and events industry, and you're excited about the future."
The record-breaking attendance coincides with robust growth in the meetings business and business travel generally over the past few years, following the downturn that resulted largely from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
In addition, MPI's membership has grown since the July 2001 convention, providing the association with a larger pool of potential attendees. Membership now stands at about 21,000 people, split about evenly between buyers and suppliers.
The convention featured 50 new sessions and two new tracks, strategic thinking and strategic meetings management, both of which further MPI's goal to upgrade the profession by helping planners assume more strategic roles in their organizations.
The convention was held at the Dallas Convention Center; with the opening-night reception at Gilley's, a cavernous, Texas-style roadhouse; and the closing dinner at the Hilton Anatole, featuring a performance by Hootie and the Blowfish. The keynote speaker at the opening general session was the founding editor of Fast Company magazine, Bill Taylor, who urged passion and a sense of ownership in business endeavors.
Sally Goldesberry, senior manager of meetings and exhibitions for the Society of Petroleum Engineers, of Dallas, was named International Planner of the Year; while Barb Taylor Carpender, founder of Taylored Alliances, in Colorado, received the International Supplier of the Year award. Betty E. Garrett, chief executive of Garrett Speakers International, of Dallas, was honored with the Marion N. Kershner Memorial Chapter Leader award. Two winners were selected for the Tomorrow's Leader award: Natalie Nardone, principal of Nardone Consulting Group; and Craig Raughton, director of client development for One Smooth Stone, in Downers Grove, Ill.
The MPI Foundation netted some $230,000 from the Rendezvous Dallas party that followed the opening-night reception, a poker tournament held Monday, a silent auction, and a golf tournament held today. In addition, industry organizations pledged some $250,000 at a Foundation board meeting.
David DuBois, MPI executive vice president and the staff liaison to the Foundation board, said the committed funding represents nearly one-quarter of the Foundation's goal for the fiscal year.
Also at the convention, the MPI board announced that it has selected Houston as the host city for the 2008 Professional Education Conference-North America. Next year's North America conference is scheduled for Feb. 3-5, in New Orleans; and next year's World Education Congress is scheduled for July 29-31, in Montreal.