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MPI Expands Into Eastern Canada With Event Acquisition 

Main stage of "the Event" conference.

Skift Take

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) has expanded into Eastern Canada by acquiring an industry event originally created by its three largest chapters in the region.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI) recently announced the acquisition of “the Event,” one of Eastern Canada’s largest education and networking events for industry professionals. The transition marks an important shift in MPI’s strategy as it looks to expand its presence globally through owned regional events.

“The EVENT grew bigger than we could have imagined, and we, along with all the volunteers, took it as far as we could,” Marie-France Watson, one of the event’s co-founders. She added that MPI’s backing of the Event will allow it to expand further and benefit even more event professionals.

A Growth Path

The Event started as a concept created by three Canadian MPI chapter leaders, Ryan Young, Tim Whalen and Marie-France Watson, in 2016. The first edition launched two years later. “The EVENT was originally created to help break down the traditional conference model and bring event professionals together in a more meaningful way,” Young said.

“Those three realized that the Canadian events and meetings industry needed its own event for professionals to come together for education and networking, similar to MPI’s WEC (World Education Conference),” said MPI Chief Brand Officer Drew Holmgreen. “They really leveraged the platforms of each of the chapters located in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal to formulate this concept.”

The Event’s launch presented an organically-driven model that was not common in similar shows, Homgreen explained. Chapter volunteers carried out every aspect of “the Event,” including theme development, marketing, logistics, and sponsor coordination. The inaugural event was so successful that the three chapter leaders won an MPI RISE Award for their efforts. “The EVENT helps MPI put a solid foot into the Canadian Market and shows commitment from Global to Canadian event professionals,” Whalen said. “This has the potential to help the association grow nationally from coast to coast.”

However, after a five-year run, which included one canceled event and another remotely hosted due to the Covid pandemic, the Event had evolved into something bigger than the three primary leaders first envisioned but were eager to see it successfully continue going forward. Conversations around the MPI’s acquisition “the Event” kicked off several months ago, according to Holmgreen, adding that MPI recognized the opportunity to expand internationally further. MPI’s acquisition of the Event was a compensation-free transaction. “The three co-founders saw this as an opportunity for MPI to take over the EVENT and help it make the next step forward,” Holmgreen said.

Will MPI Go West?

Brent Taylor, producer and co-founder of Go West, a similar event to “the Event” but covering Western Canada, said that MPI’s recent acquisition is a promising sign for the local events community. “It’s definitely been a labor of love for those three chapters in Eastern Canada,” he said, adding that it’s understandable to sustain such a large event that’s completely volunteer-driven. “It’s a wise move for MPI to pick it up and see where they can take it.”

Taylor, who founded Go West with his wife, Arlene Schilke, in 2018, indicated that MPI has not expressed an interest in acquiring Go West but continues to be an important partner. “We’re both huge proponents of MPI,” he said, adding that they’ve been active members of the association since the mid-2000s. Both Taylor and his wife have served as local MPI chapter presidents and have been part of global committees and boards. 

“It’s the best association to join and get connected to other events professionals globally,” he said, adding that he recognized the importance of working with associations when Go West was founded. “It’s crucial to be a member of an association as an events professional,” he said. “Membership allows you to get out there, volunteer, make connections and create those resources that will benefit the work we do.” Taylor noted that MPI has been a strong supporter of the Go West conference since its second year in 2019.

The next Go West event takes place in Edmonton, Alberta, from 28 to 30 January. 

Casting Global Influence 

MPI’s international presence includes the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC) hosted in Luxemburg, and after adding a Canadian event, MPI looks to continue its push into other markets, including Latin America. “If a similar type of scenario happens in Latin America, or in Asia Pacific, these are great opportunities for us,” Holmgreen said, adding that MPI never targets acquisitions but the collaborative nature of its chapters has the potential to create similar opportunities. 

Another area of global expansion for MPI is in education and certification. One challenge for associations offering education globally is that most programs and certificates focus only on U.S. rules and regulations. MPI is working closely with the Events Industry Council (EIC) to align the curriculum offered through its educational resources with best practices of regions outside of the U.S. “We want to make sure that our courses are not just applicable not just in the states, but also have some grounding internationally as well,” he said. 

Additionally, MPI has begun a program that allows members of international chapters to take up roles as MPI Academy instructors to teach certification courses. The program is now in practice at chapters in several countries, including Mexico and Japan.