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National Meetings Industry Day 2012

MPI National Meetings Industry Day Logo
Every year, on the same day, the Canadian Chapters of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) pick one day in April where they hold an event that celebrates the meetings and events industry in our country.  Aside from being given a common theme, each chapter’s celebration is as different as each region where it is organized.

This year the date was April 19 and I had the pleasure of returning to my home chapter (whereas last year I went to the Montreal event).  And my favourite part of the program was the presentation by International MPI Chairman, S├ębastien Tondeur.  He spoke for less than one hour, but he had great observations about the industry and his business.

First, the man is very charismatic (and quite attractive too).  His MPI bio calls him, “ambitious, entrepreneurial, adventurous and archetypal of today’s new breed of meetings professionals,” and it seems bang on!  He only joined the meetings industry 14 years ago, when he came onboard MCI Group, a company his father founded.  When he started the firm reportedly had about 30 employees.  Today, they boast over 1300 in 22 countries.  And S├ębastien has been a key leader of this phenomenal growth.

Here are some nuggets that he shared with the audience:
  • Quoting his favourite book, The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman, Tondeur insisted that meeting and event professionals should not be saying, “when the business is back,” but rather “where is the business?”  Whereas established economies are regressing or stalling, Asian economies, he points out, are still booming.  And that’s why they opened offices in Singapore, India, and Korea, amongst others.
  • He urged fellow MPI members to be seeking business from more innovative sources.  The top three industries that are meeting, he says are: sports, gaming (the video kind, not gambling), and luxury goods.
  • Tondeur also embraces technology and how it intermingles with live events.  “It’s not just about who attends a conference,” he says, “it’s who participates.”
When asked what he considers the biggest risks and the biggest opportunities/trends for our industry in the next five years, he answered:
  • Risks: natural catastrophes and wars.  “When the volcano blew up in Iceland, no one could get to where they needed to go.  That’s a risk.”
  • Opportunities:  more technology, more learning portals and more emphasis on business intelligence.
Questioned about the secret to his success in growing MCI, he declared, “Networking was how we did it.”  Getting out to meet potential partners, even competitors, he said. 

Tondeur closed his address with the MPI slogan, which he clearly believes and embodies perfectly: “I am MPI, and I love what I do.  Because when people MEET, we change the world.”  Well said.