Meetings Focus | Hail to the New Chiefs -
 
   
search
Facilities
Articles
magazines subscribe >
Meetings West
Meetings South
Meetings East
Meetings MidAmerica
e-newsletters
subscribe >
quick poll < results >
1. What is your New Year’s resolution?

Get organized!
Better balance my work and life
Get my CMP or CMM designation
Delegate!
Eat healthier on the road
2. Planner type (required)

 
 
  cover story
2005-2006 Chairwoman…
email to a friend

Hail to the New Chiefs
Incoming MPI chapter heads share their aspirations for the next year

Meetings South, July 2005

July marks the inauguration of new MPI chapter presidents throughout the realm of the organization. Each new leader will take on the concerns of their local constituency—both planner and supplier—and help shepherd through the initiatives of headquarters, such as its Women’s Leadership and Multicultural initiatives, as well as the association’s new Career Pathways objective and other elements of its strategic plan.

Mix in charity events, educational programs and coffer-fortifying endeavours such as managing chapter trade shows and membership-building and retention, and you have a recipe for a busy 12 months.

All of this must act in concert with the demands of the president’s business and personal life—a juggling act all too familiar with meeting planners—requiring late hours, weekend work and an extra dash of political prowess demanded by the very nature of pleasing everyone, every time—or at least giving it the old college try.

Meetings Media marks this changing of the guard with its annual Hail to the Chiefs story, which gives all of the new chapter heads in each region we serve the opportunity to spell out the goals and challenges in their planning fiefdom, as well as providing readers from other areas a snapshot of why their respective destinations are worth a look when it comes to selecting a site for a meeting.

Following are Q&As; with the new MPI chapter presidents in the southern U.S. Also included is the word from the top from Christine Duffy, 2005-2006 chairwoman of MPI’s International Board of Directors.



Carolinas
Representing North Carolina and South Carolina; 483 members.

Linda Ilsley,CMP
Sterling Events; Director of Meetings and Event Sales
www.mpi-cc.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

We are member-centric; I wish to encourage membership involvement and emphasize the ROI on volunteering. I wish to fully embrace Pathways to Excellence as a chapter. Meeting Professionals International’s Carolinas Chapter will be the pivotal force in positioning meetings and events as a key strategic component of an organization’s success in North and South Carolina.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

The Carolinas are very diverse and planners have the option to select locations varying from world-class golf courses, stunning mountain retreats, pristine beaches, charming Southern cities, or captivating historic districts.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

The Carolinas has transformed many of its tobacco farms into vineyards. The wine development and the venues at the vineyards lend themselves to new meeting and event options.

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

North and South Carolina is geographically challenged and at times a member will travel four hours to a meeting. We are locating our meetings in major cities, which will increase meeting attendance.

What are the major challenges facing your destination and what are your plans to tackle them?

The tobacco, textile and furniture industries have faced challenges and in many cases had to reorganize. This has created a tight budget for meetings and events. The suggestion of regional meetings adds value to the time invested and controls the cost of travel for the meeting.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Procurement.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

The Carolinas offers an abundance of options, at any given time there can be surplus or compression in the market. Today’s educated consumer will shop dates to be in a buyer’s market. There is a rate for every date and a date for every rate. The rate seems to be flat as we move forward.

Are there any emerging meetings destinations in your area?

The Carolinas as a whole is an emerging destination for national and international guests. North Carolina is the eighth-most-visited state in the nation.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

Meetings need to show ROI on the time invested in a meeting as related to the budget. Procurement understanding and application can be a challenge. We continue to educate and keep our members current in the trends as we move forward.

Anything you want to add?

Meeting Professionals International’s Carolinas Chapter is excited to have the Professional Educational Conference (PEC)-NA 2006 in Charlotte, N.C. PEC 2006 will be held Jan. 22-25, 2006



Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter
Representing the Dallas and Fort Worth Metroplex; approximately 800 members

Tamra Hughston, CMP
Home Interiors & Gifts, Inc.; Special Events Manager
www.mpidfw.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

Leadership development for new and existing volunteers; enhanced education with fewer monthly programs and more Education Days; and increased communication to the members that is timely and relevant to upcoming events and chapter operations.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

We have two major airports offering nonstop flights to and from just about anywhere in the world. We have all levels of professional sports, such as football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and arena football, to keep groups entertained.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?
  • A recent $128 million investment has brought the Dallas Convention Center to more than 1 million square feet of exhibit area, and it is now the world’s largest singular, column-free exhibit hall. The convention center also boasts connecting light rail service and convenient access to 10 entertainment districts within three miles of downtown.

  • The largest urban arts district in America, including the new, nationally acclaimed Nasher Sculpture Center

  • National ranking as a top business and leisure destination

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

Limited volunteer time and time of members to attend educational meetings on a monthly basis. We have reduced the number of offerings to one key meeting each month. This not only releases some of the obligation not only to our volunteers for the time it takes to plan each event, but it also ensures our members that if they commit to attend just one meeting a month, it will be the best opportunity for them.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Procurement.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

Although I believe we’re on a swing to being a seller’s market, there are still some incredible properties out there booking some ideal rates.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

So many companies are requiring more tasks to be completed by less people, and it’s creating an imbalance between work and home. This process affects the amount of time people are willing to give to other organizations, such as church, recreational sports and MPI.

Anything you want to add?

We’ve really looked at the demographics of our chapter and have selected a board that best represents each person in our association. With this representation, we are truly thinking more like the body that makes up our chapter, and I believe we will be “Making a Difference” in an incredibly positive way this year.



Georgia
Representing Georgia; approximately 865 members

Leigh Ann Waters
Resource Hospitality, LLC; Corporate Directorof Sales and Marketing
www.gampi.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

Education, professional development, leadership development, and ROI for our members.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

We are a major international city offering many options for meetings and conventions; ease of transportation and access to Atlanta; and a variety of full-service and luxury hotels and meeting facilities.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

The Georgia Aquarium opens in fall 2005. Other highlights include the High Museum and Woodruff Arts Center, the variety of trendy and upscale restaurants in downtown, and the Midtown and Buckhead districts.

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

Providing cutting-edge education to our members and continuing to address value for membership.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Elevating the status and importance of our position in the business community.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

While we have seen an incline in occupancy rates and room rates, Atlanta and the state of Georgia has an abundant inventory of available guest rooms, creating buyer’s and seller’s markets at different times of the year.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

Slower recovery of the overall economy.

Anything you want to add?

Atlanta is fortunate to have many hotels and meetings facilities to address the needs of any type of meeting or convention. Our resources for the meeting planner are tremendous, from CVBs to destination management companies. Major airlines support our international airport, which is consistently ranked the busiest globally. The Georgia Chapter of MPI is a very strong chapter of meeting professionals that strongly support the industry. We host the Meetings Exploration Conference each spring to educate our members and potential members on the latest trends for meetings’ success.



Kentucky Bluegrass
Representing Kentucky; approximately 165 members

Brian P. Doty, CMP
Holiday Inn Lexington North; Food and Beverage Director.
www.kbcmpi.com

What are your goals during your tenure?

To build on the momentum in quality educational programming, fiscal health and member care.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

We have a beautiful state with easy access by air or land. Lexington has recently expanded the convention center, which is the jewel of the bluegrass. Additionally, Louisville has continued to build on its growth by opening 4th Street Live downtown. It is a great entertainment area with plenty to do. Northern Kentucky continues to build excitement on the Ohio River with world-class restaurants, clubs, hotels, and other entertainment venues.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

Our universities throughout the state offer outstanding meeting services. Our state parks are among the nation’s finest, many with conference facilities.

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

Lack of time still ranks as the top challenge. We are reviewing ideas to promote current MPI educational activities on the Web and are considering some similar ideas at the chapter level.

What are the major challenges facing your destination and what are your plans to tackle them?

We continue to compete for an increasing share of the market nationally, primarily. Our state and metropolitan governments recognize the value of the meetings industry and continue to invest in improving facilities, attracting new development and improving access.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Continued focus on Return on Investment. Pathways to Excellence is a great framework to address issues currently facing the industry and the membership.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

Our rates or competitive. I feel we are still in a buyer’s market in the area, generally speaking.

Are there any emerging meetings destinations in your area?

Northern Kentucky is establishing itself as a destination independent of Cincinnati.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

I think both planners and suppliers are forced to produce more with fewer resources. It affects almost every person in the industry. Additionally, the prominence of technology in wireless laptops and cell phones now allows us to work 24/7, and many of us do just that. These issues have the potential to create an exodus from the industry.



North Florida
Representing Northern Florida; approximately 78 members

Anne Urban
Destination Planning Corporation; President
www.nfmpi.org

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

Jacksonville was the home of the 2005 Super Bowl, and North Florida is best known for the following: an average annual temperature of 78 degrees (perfect for any outdoor activity year-round); we have more than 72 golf courses, and are home to the Tournament Players Championship; our miles of pristine beaches reach from Amelia Island through Daytona Beach; and we have more than 15,000 hotels rooms and a convention center with 100,000 square feet of space.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

Our best-kept secrets include St. Augustine’s (the nation’s oldest city) many venues, which include the Lightner Museum, Old St. Augustine Village and The Government House, to name a few. The “Southern hospitality” in North Florida is what the NFL fans stated was the best attribute North Florida has!

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

The major challenge our chapter intends to tackle is increasing meeting planner membership by 30 percent!

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Budget cuts—I would like to see MPI campaign for showing the value of face-to-face interaction so that teleconferencing and other means to decrease meetings that involve travel are addressed.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

Our occupancies are steady. Depending on the season, the market can belong to the buyer or the seller.

Anything you want to add?

The overall exposure from the Super Bowl has been tremendous!With more than 200 million people seeing North Florida via television during the game (some for the first time), we have received outstanding reviews. Many corporations have begun to book their own meetings here based on their experience during the week of the Super Bowl. The city of Jacksonville has begun an intensive study to improve our downtown entertainment district—watch for more to come in the near future on this! Also, discussions are back on the table about expanding our convention center.



South Florida
Representing Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Monroe, and Collier counties, as well as the Caribbean; approximately 330 members

Lauren Halpern, CMP
Office Depot; Program Manager Event Marketing
www.sfmpi.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

To share some of my insight in the meeting and event planning business and to leave a succession plan for the chapter.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

That South Florida is a great destination for incentive programs.

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

Lack of committee member involvement. We look forward to building stronger committees in the coming year.

What are the major challenges facing your destination and what are your plans to tackle them?

Our chapter has a large territory to cover. We plan to continue to rotate our monthly meetings and have relevant topics during our educational sessions.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

I would like them to continue to place emphasis on the three Pathways to Excellence.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

I am finding the South Florida area is more of a seller’s market lately.

Are there any emerging meetings destinations in your area?

Fort Lauderdale, because of all the new hotels being built.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

I feel one of our bigger challenges is influencing our executives as to our skills as a planner. We are good decision-makers, fast thinkers and communicate messaging through strategic planning.



Tennessee
Representing Tennessee; 201 members.

Vicky L. Garner, CMP
Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt University; Sales Manager
www.tnmpi.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

To continue to improve educational programming at the chapter level and successfully promote and execute the MidAmerica Conference, which is a regional conference (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee) that will be held in Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in April 2006.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

Tennessee is a short-drive/flight for most meeting attendees, and in today’s fast-paced environment companies don’t want their employees wasting too much travel time. Some other key elements that we hear from meeting professionals, especially corporate planners, are that they need to “out-do” last year’s meeting but do it with a smaller budget. That’s when they see how Tennessee can help them achieve both objectives. Tennessee provides hotel room rates lower than most states, but airfare comparisons are attractive, competitive and offer an affordable option for the corporate traveler. Some planners don’t look into other cost areas, like labor for their meetings and trade shows. Since Tennessee is a right-to-work state, most of our labor costs are extremely low as well. That’s one of the reasons why I live in Tennessee. The quality of life is so wonderful, and our visitors recognize it as well when they see and experience how affordable everything is in comparison to other parts of the U.S.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

Live music of all kinds (not just country) is everywhere, but what’s even more important to the planner whose attendees have seen it all and done it all before is we offer something unique and different. Everything is unique to just Tennessee! We have so many options for offsite venues that you can’t find anywhere else in the world (i.e., the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Graceland in Memphis, Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, The Aquarium in Chattanooga, and Loveless Restaurant in Nashville, just to name a few).

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

Quality education: Only a small percentage of our membership (approximately 15 percent), due to budget restraints or time away from their offices, will be able to attend MPI national or regional conferences. We are challenged at the chapter level to provide the absolute best speakers and programming possible. This year I plan to focus and allocate more dollars to securing quality speakers that can provide better educational opportunities for the seasoned industry professional.

Additionally, our chapter has formed a partnership with Belmont University to provide a Meetings & Event Planning certificate for industry professionals. The basic program is five weeks in length and features a variety of topics that will include Meeting Planning Basics, Site Selection, Food & Beverage Planning, Event Budgeting, and Introduction to Special Events. This successful series began in November, 2004, and is geared at educating someone considering meeting planning as a profession. These classes are taught by past presidents of MPI. This is a great way to keep our past presidents involved in our chapters. This certificate program will give planners and suppliers new skills to work more effectively and more efficiently in their jobs.

The second educational track, Leadership Institute for Meeting & Event Planning Professionals, will begin in fall 2005. This five-week program will include topics such as Building an Effective Event Team, Negotiating, Enhancing Presentation Skills, and Crisis Management. This series will be designed for the seasoned meeting professional and will be taught by instructors at the Belmont University campus.

What are the major challenges facing your destination and what are your plans to tackle them?

A major challenge facing our destination is keeping a competitive edge in a highly competitive market. Additionally, in Nashville the need for a larger convention center is paramount to attract the larger citywide conventions and continue to accommodate the growth of existing conventions that want to return to Nashville annually.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

The standardization of industry forms such as Requests for Proposals. The difficult part would not be the creation of such a document but rather the acceptance from corporate planners.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

The occupancy rates and room rates continue to fluctuate across the state of Tennessee. Overall, both occupancy and room rates have continued to climb over the past three-and-a-half years. Our destination, however, in general terms, is still a buyer’s market.

Are there any emerging meetings destinations in your area?

Chattanooga.

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

The most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today as it specifically relates to the state of Tennessee and MPI’s Tennessee Chapter is making a smooth transition from a buyer’s market to a seller’s market in a fast-paced, competitive environment. Another challenge is keeping up with the latest in technological advancements.



Texas Hill Country
Representing Austin, San Antonio and surrounding areas in Texas; approximately 370 members

Lauren Grossman, CMP
Austin Convention Center; Account Representative
www.mpithcc.org

What are your goals during your tenure?

To increase involvement of the membership, whether it be through attendance and/or serving on committees. It is the only real way to get a full return on the investment of being a member.

What attributes of your destination should planners from outside of the region know about when considering booking a meeting there?

Texas is a relaxed state of mind but can do business with the best of them. San Antonio has an ethnic flare to it with a couple of fun theme parks. Austin is known as a technology center and for its incredible amount of live music.

The cities in the Hill Country all have charm and beautiful views.

What are some of the best-kept secrets, in terms of attractions, restaurants or meeting venues, in your region?

Each of the two major cities in our chapter—Austin and San Antonio—have so much to offer and are 30 to 60 minutes away from our other, smaller cities in the Hill Country. Some of those cities are really the best-kept secrets and are great for smaller meetings and day trips….from golfing, horseback riding, shopping, and antiques to other attractions.

What are the major challenges facing your chapter and what are your plans to tackle them?

The involvement of members that will keep up with our chapter’s growth. Since the bulk of the chapter’s activities take place in Austin, we are initiating two to three educational lunches in San Antonio to serve the members in that area more directly. I am also going to challenge committees to get two new members who have not ever served on a committee.

What are the major challenges facing your destination and what are your plans to tackle them?

In Austin, we actually have to bid against San Antonio a lot. That city is bigger and actually better known. Both San Antonio and Austin face the challenge of bidding against other cities for conventions—some that give their cities away at very low, low rates.

If you could ask MPI to place a heavy emphasis on one issue affecting the meetings industry, what would it be?

Fair pricing for planners and for suppliers. Some of the specifications I receive request many free concessions and really don’t have the business (in terms of room nights or food and beverage revenues) to make it worthwhile. Planners need to really understand what their conventions are worth and be reasonable in their demands.

How are occupancy rates and room rates holding up in your region, and does any fluctuation in them make your destination, in general terms, a buyer’s market or a seller’s market?

I can’t answer this specifically. I just know that we bid against a lot of cities—even large ones—that are almost giving away their convention centers and sometimes hotel rooms. So I would say it is a buyer’s market.

Are there any emerging meetings destinations in your area?

Fredericksburg, Horseshoe Bay, Bandera, and Kerrville for small meetings

What is the most pressing challenge facing the meetings industry today, and how has this affected your region or chapter members?

Everyone is overworked, and thus less likely to want to put in time with the chapter.



Other chapter presidents

Greater Orlando: Steve Rice; Gulf States: Stephanie Miller; Houston Area: Vicky Corrington; Oklahoma: Carol Brown; Tampa Bay: Kirk Whalen; Virginia: Abby Sipe





davidson articles
CVB Update
Meetings East, October/November
Bureaus battle the bureaucracy…

Coping with Katrina
Meetings South, October
The meetings industry pulls…

CVBs Under Fire
Meetings South, October
Bureaus battle the bureaucracy…

CVBs Under Fire
Meetings West, October
Bureaus battle the bureaucracy…



 
   
Copyright © 2005 Meetings Media. All rights reserved.