MPI CEO Paul Van Deventer discusses proving the value of meetings, taking risks so planners don't have to, the open-ended future of MPI, and MPI's upcoming European Meetings and Events Conference
Paul Van Deventer is the CEO of Meeting Professionals International (MPI). He spent 20 years with American Express, around ten of which saw him leading corporate travel before moving on to other roles within the software and medical industries. Van Deventer came to the top job at MPI through a recruiter ten years ago. Despite having limited experience with the meetings industry, Van Deventer has fallen in love with the sector and the MPI community. He is particularly passionate about sharing the impact business events have on the world.
The meetings industry is one of the largest industries in the world. It has a huge direct economic impact that also translates to innovation, economic growth, social impact and change. In spite of this, Van Deventer believes the industry has largely failed to showcase its incredible impact. During the financial crisis of 2008, the industry came under fire from politicians. They viewed the industry as parties and wasted resources. This was a turning point for the industry that drove collaboration and joint communication to prove the value of meetings. Only then did the industry start to showcase its true nature and its impact on so many levels.
In Van Deventer’s view, the absence of meetings during the Covid pandemic proved their importance. It demonstrated the value of coming together in these challenging environments and the benefits to businesses and the whole economy. This forced proof feeds into the overall story of the incredible value of meetings.
MPI is a global organization with local chapters that are integral to its community. However, when Van Deventer joined, he noticed a disconnect between these local chapters and the global organization. MPI now works alongside local chapters so that the MPI brand experience is felt at all MPI gatherings. It’s important that the MPI experience is consistently positive, regardless of where events are held. At the same time, MPI experiences and events must highlight and celebrate the local culture.
The upcoming EMEC event in Brighton exemplifies how MPI creates an MPI brand experience with regional flavors. The global MPI team is stepping back and allowing the design and theme to be developed in a localized way. This ensures that the event is specific to the target European community.
Part of the plan is also for MPI to take risks with their events so that planners don’t need to. For example, MPI may keep the core elements of an event in place but test alternative flows or content delivery. MPI accepts that some of these ideas may fail, and some attendees might not like them. However, experimenting with event formats and delivery gives members an important opportunity chance to learn and be inspired by MPI.
MPI is a large organization with a strong brand but doesn’t want to become a homogenous entity. Van Deventer’s goal is to give everyone the opportunity to engage and create their own MPI journey. MPI works on this by creating several topical communities that nurture and curate themselves. Individual members can join as many communities as they like, but always as part of the larger MPI community. MPI believes this approach will be more important for members, non-members, and partners going forward.
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