Paul Van Deventer, Meeting Professionals International

Re-imagine that

Paul Van Deventer is currently celebrating his fourth year of moving Meetings Professionals International, MPI, up through the ratings of event industry organisations to the position it holds today. He shares some thoughts with Rob Spalding

RS After four years with MPI has it all gone according to plan?

PVD Yes, for the most part; though there have been some bumps in the road along the way. We have made tremendous progress over the past four years with stabilising our membership, redesigning our membership model, strengthening the support we provide to our chapters and chapters leaders, re-imagining our live events, expanding our portfolio of educational programmes, bringing on new leadership and talent to the MPI Global Team, and collaborating with other industry associations and partners. This is just a sampling of the list of accomplishments that I am proud of and admittedly, there are a few areas that still need more work…

RS Such as?

PVD Our business model in Europe remains under pressure. Last year, we made a commitment to understand how to enhance our value story in the region. We began with the establishment of a European Task Force to advise MPI Global and have made several significant changes, including reformulating our European marketing strategy and increasing the dollars behind it; expanding our partnerships and live events, which will bring more education to the market with partners such as GBTA, IMEX Frankfurt and SITE; and ramping up Foundation financial investments in Europe.

RS Tell me more about those financial investments

PVD All three major grants in 2016 were awarded to European initiatives, for example. We have also increased European scholarships – funding the 13 European Chapter Presidents’ attendance at our World Education Congress 2017; expanded our Rendezvous networking programme with events held this year at IBTM World and the Meetings Show; and committed to formalising the Task Force with the institution of a standing European Council.

RS What have you been most satisfied with so far?

PVD I am most pleased and proud of the enhancements we’ve made to our educational programming. Year after year, our members continue to tell us that education is one of the most important and valued member benefits, so I am excited about the progress we have made in creating the MPI Academy and growing and diversifying our portfolio of offerings including webinars, streaming content, our popular Experiential Event Series, certificate courses, and more.

What is very satisfying, is that we are seeing our efforts to improve member value, introduce new educational offerings and redesigning our events programming, validated in three straight years of strong positive improvements in all of our key member survey ratings.

RS What has been the main development you have noticed within the industry?

PVD I think we are really starting to gain some traction with advocacy efforts. More industry leaders are speaking up and promoting the contributions of the industry to outside stakeholders and, with the Global Meetings Industry Day campaign, meeting professionals around the world have rallied and used their voices to champion our community. In the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am currently serving as co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition, which co-founded Global Meetings Industry Day with the Events Industry Council.

RS Will MPI be changing direction or shape in the next four years?

PVD We have a very solid plan in place and I believe we will stay the course; though change is inevitable, so anything is possible. For now, I can tell you MPI’s strategic priorities are focused in five key areas: Helping our volunteer leaders be successful; providing the tools and resources to support our most important delivery channel – our chapters; expanding and leveraging strategic partnerships; providing relevant and timely educational offerings; redesigning and updating our digital environment.

RS What is your main aim for MPI?

PVD At the moment, our main goal is advancing the total re-imagination of our digital environment, including our web-platform, chapter website infrastructure, and e-learning system. When launched, it will provide users with a personalised experience and enable us and our chapters to deliver enhanced content and learning experiences – bringing members what they want and how they want it.

RS Do you have any comments about the CIC title change?

PVD I applaud the Events Industry Council on their rebrand and agree the change positions the organization as more inclusive and representative of our global community. Again in the spirit of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am a member of EIC’s board of directors.

RS You have been on both profit and non-profit sides of leadership – do you have a preference?

PVD At the end of the day, it is primarily about tax status. MPI, as any other business, needs to run itself with a focus on long term financial sustainability.

RS Do you manage to get much home life with your hectic schedule?

PVD Yes; but it might be different than it was when I was younger. My wife and I have been blessed with five children, who have all now grown into adults. My role enables me to travel with them as a family and to often visit with them when I am on the road.