Wednesday, 07 January 2015 00:00

Back to the Future : Build on the Past for a Better Future by Dr Rodolfo Musco

AIMP, Italian Association of Meeting Planners

From the internationalization of MPI to the new focus on advancing professionalism and certifying those who concur to the production of meetings and events.
Rodolfo Musco, CMM, CMP
I started my career as the marketing manager of an international company, and realized that meeting are very important to link the “field” to the “building”. At that time the meetings were mostly related to international congresses and former interpreters became congress organizers.
Corporate meetings were almost unknown, so that I started to write hundreds of articles on how to organize and manage meetings and incentive programs.
An association – AIMP, Italian Association of Meeting Planners - was set up in Milano in 1978, and in a short time the membership grew to more than 350.
The need to look for alliances with associations based in other countries became stronger and stronger.
I joined MPI in 1989. The MPI CEO came to Switzerland at the beginning of 1990 and I met him to talk about the possibility of sharing part of the programs of the two associations, MPI and AIMP. The meeting was a disaster, and I proposed MPI Board of Directors to remove the “I” from MPI, as atthat time the Association did not include any “international” element.
Probably addressing this it became evident that the CEO was not the ‘right man at the right place’. As a matter of fact, he was removed and another interim CEO was appointed. It was a great honor for me to be invited to join the international committee and participate ina meeting in Chicago with one point to discuss: How to internationalize MPI.
By that time MPI members in Europe were just 13, and 4 of them were Italians. I talked with my colleagues, and we decided to try to start a chapter. MPI members based in USA had relevant benefits, such as discounts on car rentals, and more. So, we asked for promotional fee for the first year of their membership. The board of directors accepted the proposal, but requested there be 100 members to start the chapter.
In autumn 1990 I obtained a complimentary booth at a trade show in Florence. Basic concepts related to MPI were exhibited at the booth, together with a large panel on which was written: “The following colleagues are already MPI members. Add you name to the list”. At the beginning just our 4 names were added, but at the end of next day, there were 81 names, as 77 peers had already applied to be members.
At the end of that year, MPI Italia membership was 112, and at the beginning of 1991 MPI Italia chapter was approved. It was the first chapter outsideof North America!

1st MPI chapter outside North America

Diane Smith, CMP, was at that time the president of MPI Dallas-Fort Worth chapter. We started a “sisters chapter program” exchanging visits, seminars and best practices both in USA and in Italy. Again, a great and fruitful experience.
I took a chance again, and proposed to the International Board that the name of the Association be changed from “Planners” to “Professionals”, as our activity is not just related to planning meetings, but also analyzing previous events with the same participants, the needs of meeting stakeholder and attendees, the direction of the meeting, the evaluation of ROI and ROO, and more.
The proposal was accepted and the Association changed its name.
The next step was the certification. MPI is an active member of and contributor to the Convention Industry Council, the “administrator” of CMP designation, Certified Meeting Professional.
Fifteen Italian colleagues agreed to study and to sit for the test that was scheduled in Rome, for the first time outside of North America.
During a European meeting I emphasized that CMP is essentially based on “how to do” things in meeting management. But professionals need to know also “why to do” things in that way. This means that they must know some elements of the “affluent sciences”. So, I proposed a “university level” certification. A committee was appointed and in a very short time CMM was launched in Europe.
I remember so well the great experience of the full week course in Denmark, with 11 facilitators in the same hall and colleagues from several European countries studying for no less than 10 hours a day. Giving and getting experience and updating.
A new challenge is ahead of us, starting in Europe. A couple of years ago, I noticed the cover of a book that I wrote in 1992 featuring a picture of a director thanking the spectators at the end of a theatre performance. He is surrounded on the stage by the actors.
“We cannot produce meetings without the contribution of a series of technicians and experts who take care of lights, sound, registration, scenography, interpretation, catering, security, transfers, etc.”, I thought. If all of them share knowledge, the co-operation can flow much better and the results of it can be greater. The whole meetings & events industry can be improved and have a greater consideration in the market.
Of course, we cannot require that each technician or expert must study everything a meeting executive must know. There are some subjects that everybody should know, such as “Types of meetings and their specificities”, “Goals and Objectives”, Ethics”, “Risk Management” etc. Other subjects are selected according to the specialization of each technical or specialized area. Based on that, three levels of certifications have been identified. The highest level is for meeting executives who will be tested on all 32 subjects in the manual. The second level is for five categories of “experts” who will be tested on an average of 20 chapters of the manual. The third level is for six specializations of “technicians” who will be tested on an average of 13 chapters of the manual.
There are 140 different languages all over the world, and just a 5% of the global population knows enough English/American to pass tests based on that language. So, a great innovation is that candidates may study manuals edited in their national language and be tested in the language that they speak. Manuals will contain international standards and references, but will be sized on the local culture for a better understanding.
MPI Italia Chapter is the first nation adopting the multi-level certifications project and the first tests will take place on February 12 in Milano.
The project will be presented and discussed in Krakow during the European Chapters Business Summit.
This article has been published on the MPI website on January 6th, 2015.
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