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Expert expects mega events to boost meetings industry

When Cristin Barr, CMP, went to college, she was more interested in investor relations than guest relations. “At The University of Texas I studied Investor Relations, which took me to New York City for my first professional job,” said the current president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (AzMPI).

AzMPI President: Cristin Barr

AzMPI President: Cristin Barr

“For the past 10 years, though, I’ve been traveling the world and enjoying the hospitality industry.” Now director of national accounts at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, Barr is working with the No. 1 hotel in Arizona, according to Travel + Leisure.

“I work with meeting planners to secure guest rooms and meeting space at the hotel for programs, including incentive trips, client events, annual meetings and board retreats,” Barr said.
Az Business caught up with Barr to talk about how the next year is shaping up to be a big one for the state’s tourism brand.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY?
The sales role in hospitality is a great mix of creative and analytical. On any given day, we have unique challenges that can be best solved with a combination of critical thinking and service-based creativity.

HOW HAS YOUR MEMBERSHIP IN MPI IMPACTED YOU PROFESSIONALLY?
MPI membership and CMP (certified meeting planner) certification give me a sense of personal achievement as well as recognition in the industry. The increased credibility among customers and prospects is invaluable.

WHAT KIND OF ECONOMIC IMPACT DOES THE MEETING AND EVENTS INDUSTRY HAVE ON ARIZONA?
Tourists bring almost $20 billion to Arizona each year, which can be seen in employment and tax base coming from lodging, food service, transport and recreation — just to name a few. But the benefits reach far beyond the hotels and golf courses. The economic impact is evident in important public services as well as in the businesses that open or relocate to our area.

HOW DO MEGA EVENTS LIKE THE 2015 SUPER BOWL IMPACT ARIZONA’S MEETINGS AND EVENTS (M&E) INDUSTRY?
The economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl makes Arizona itself the clear big winner. A mega event places a spotlight much wider than just expenditures during the week of the game. There is no doubt that the M&E industry will benefit from incredible media exposure, generating future event bookings.

WHAT SHOULD ARIZONA’S M&E INDUSTRY DO TO CAPITALIZE ON THE 2015 SUPER BOWL?
We are lucky to have a very strong network of CVBs, offices of tourism and advocates that work year round to attract and assure successful meetings, conventions and events are held in Arizona. The Super Bowl will be a unique and exciting tool for continued messaging that Arizona is a premiere destination.

WHAT CURRENT TRENDS ARE HAVING THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON THE M&E INDUSTRY?
Social media is interesting in that the content is often driven by stakeholders rather than by the planners or the educators. Social media can help attendees engage before and after a meeting and provides opportunity to connect with a very broad audience or a narrow specific slice of the demographic. It’s easy, it’s inexpensive and it will continue to change the face of the industry.

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AS AZMPI PRESIDENT?
2013-2014 was a hugely successful year for AzMPI in terms of promoting excellence in the meeting industry through education, certification, advocacy and business alliances. For the 2014-2015 year, we will focus on our key metrics with an emphasis on member satisfaction and financial management. We will also organize six monthly educational programs, the holiday party, awards gala, as well as a golf tournament that we do in conjunction with the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

Deliver on Your ROI, Business Meetings

Arizona MPI honors excellence with awards

The Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (AzMPI) recently recognized its members who went above and beyond to volunteer for the chapter. Winners include: Rising Star Award presented to Troy Peters with Video West; James A. Fausel Student of the Year Award presented to Shelby Wray, ASU; Committee of the Year Award presented to Sponsorship Committee; Host Property/Venue of the Year Award presented to TPC Scottsdale; Sponsorship of the Year Award given to kool Party Rentals; Member of the Year Award presented to Jacqi Marth, Destinations & Details; The Edward E. Scannell Award presented to Christina Tzavellas, CMP with CTZ and Associates; Supplier of the Year Award presented to Chip Headman, Williams & Associates; Planner of the Year Award presented to Susan Molinich, CMP, SMMC, American Express Meetings & Events; Presidents Achievement Awards were given to Jamie Cook, CMP, CMM, Strategic Meetings & Events and to Joanne Winter, AzMPI.

“We strive to promote excellence within the meeting industry through education, certification, advocacy and business-to-business networking opportunities for our members,” said 2013-2014 AzMPI President Jill Longfellow. “Anyone who plans or supports meetings in any capacity, whether an administrative assistant or a caterer, can benefit from what AzMPI offers.”

The 375-member Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International was established in 1979. Meeting Professionals International is the meeting and event industry’s largest association for the $102.3 billion meetings and events industry. AZMPI offers monthly events providing education, and networking opportunities. MPI membership is comprised of more than 24,000 members belonging to 80 chapters and clubs worldwide. To learn more about AZMPI visit www.AZMPI.org or call 602-277-1494.

Deliver on Your ROI, Business Meetings

AzMPI Announces 2013-14 Board

The Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (AzMPI) recently installed their 2013-2014 slate of Officers for the chapter.

Officers include incoming President Jill Longfellow,  Enterprise Holdings Inc.; President-Elect Cristin Barr, The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain; Vice President of Finance Penny Allphin, Hassayampa Inn Prescott; Vice President of Communications Chip Headman, Williams & Associates; Vice President of Membership Julia-Isabel Davenport, Maximize Your Publicity; Vice President of Education Susie Molinich, American Express Meeting & Events, and Immediate Past President Donna Masiulewicz, Timeline Meetings & Events.  The Chapter Directors are: Director of Leadership Development Lynne Wellish, Triage Meetings & Events; Director of Fundraising & Special Events Tiffany Higgins, The Tiffany Event; Director of Strategic Alliances Dave Rosenbaum, Carefree Resort & Conference Center; Director of Monthly Programs Lee Smith, Hotel Valley Ho; Director of Recruitment Dave Borsheim, Hotel Palomar Phoenix; Director of Retention Jacqi Marth, Destination and Details; Director of Information Technology Danielle Adams, KCA; and Director of Public Relations and Marketing James Eggimann, The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix

“We strive to promote excellence within the meeting industry through education, certification, advocacy and business-to-business networking opportunities for our members,” said incoming 2013-2014 AZMPI President Jill Longfellow.  “Anyone who plans or supports meetings in any capacity, whether an administrative assistant or a caterer, can benefit from what AZMPI offers.”

The 375-member Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International was established in 1979.  Meeting Professionals International is the meeting and event industry’s largest association for the $102.3 billion meetings and events industry.  AZMPI offers monthly events providing education, and networking opportunities.  MPI membership is comprised of more than 24,000 members belonging to 80 chapters and clubs worldwide.  To learn more about AzMPI visit www.AzMPI.org or call 602-277-1494.

Masiulewicz

Masiulewicz takes leadership role in MPI

Donna Masiulewicz, a native of Chicago, was named president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International for the 2012 – 2013 year.

Masiulewicz earned her BA from Northern Illinois University in Spanish Translation and International Marketing.  She began her career in the hospitality industry working in association meetings management and tenured in corporate meeting and event operations.  A move to Arizona in 2001 carried over her role in corporate meetings and introduced her to incentive travel programs.

As president at Timeline Meetings and Events, LLC, Masiulewicz manages programs and events in domestic and international destinations with delegations from 12-2500.
Over the years, Masiulewicz has earned several industry awards, including the Rising Star for MPI (both Chicago and Arizona chapters) and the MPI Special Commendation award in Arizona. Masiulewicz won the prestigious 2008-2009 AZMPI Planner of the Year.
She recently sat down with Arizona Business Magazine to talk about the state of the hospitality industry in Arizona.

Question: What motivated you to become a meeting and event producer?
Masiulewicz; I started working the association market as an internal meeting/registration coordinator for a national nursing council. I truly loved the job and all the facets of the meetings industry. Wanting to learn more, I moved to the corporate side of meetings and conferences, got involved in MPI and continued to grow, learn and focus on perfecting each event.

Q: What are your duties and focus as president at Timeline Meetings and Events, LLC?
M: I am an independent senior meeting planner who is proficient in operations management for conferences, events and incentive programs. I manage all facets of program logistics including on-line registration support team, housing, custom program itinerary, ancillary meetings/activities, food/beverage selection, implementation, budget management, client relations, on-site execution and production, accounting and financial reconciliation.

Q: How did you become involved in the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of MPI?
M: I joined the Chicago chapter of MPI in 1997 and served on several committees; also receiving the Rising Star award in 2001. I transferred my membership to the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter when I moved in 2001. I was going to sit back and take it all in, but quickly jumped onto two committees. Over the next few years, I served on several committees including host and hospitality, membership, holiday party, special events/fundraising, and education forum. I joined the board of directors as director of special events/ fundraising in 2006-2007 and served as vice president of finance for a year before becoming president-elect in 2011-2012.

Q: How have some of the political and social issues — SB1070 and the lesbian couple being asked to leave a downtown Phoenix hotel restaurant — impacted the meeting and events industry in Arizona?
M: While we continue to be sensitive to the special interests of all our clients, we have a responsibility to remain focused on the task at hand which is the organization and execution of the best event we can produce. At times this may entail distancing that task from any group’s social or political views. While some may protest such an approach, the resultant neutrality assures both the organizers and the clients a well-run event without the distractions of any alternate agendas.

Q: What are your goals as president of the chapter?
M: My theme for the year is “Meeting Momentum.” We have the energy and resources laid in the foundation for the hospitality industry and it’s up to us as the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter to keep the movement and mobility in motion by doing four things:
* Offering top notch education to our membership.
* Encouraging members to live MPI and share the message throughout the industry and beyond.
* Paving the path for our future leaders.
* Having fun with networking events and helping others via our community outreach efforts.

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Technology expands meeting and conference industry

We don’t catch up over coffee anymore, we catch up on Facebook.

Technology has changed the way we date, invite people to parties, and even watch TV. It’s only natural that technology will change the face of business meetings and conferences.

“As a chapter and in addition to our website, we utilize social media outlets — Facebook and LinkedIn — to promote our meetings and events and to share information industry-wide,” says Donna Masiulewicz. president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. “We also use these means to educate those outside the industry about the power of meetings.”

Mara Weber, global marketing and communications director for Honeywell Process Solutions in Phoenix, has taken the use of technology a step far beyond Facebook.

“We held a global sales and service kickoff meeting on a virtual platform, with live broadcasts of a general session in two time zones,” Weber says. “The objective was to align our global team on growth initiatives, portfolio offerings, key messages and how to sell the value to our customers.”

While Weber says virtual meetings — which experts expect to triple in the next five years — give companies the ability to create a global footprint and bring content to an audience when and where it’s convenient for them, there are logistical challenges that need to be overcome.

“To be honest, the time and energy required and cost is far more than people realize,” she says. “You need to start with a very specific plan of attack, keeping goals and results in mind and making sure you are creating the right content in the right format. Video format, platform format, firewalls, testing in varied browsers and software versions, ability to convert files and stay flexible at all times is just the start. You also need to think past the technical to the end-user experience and also branding to create a visual environment and help messages that guide attendees or they quickly get frustrated and jump off. It’s not like being lost at a trade show and being able to view a map and ask people for directions. The audience is largely on their own and you have to think about their experience every step of the way, how they behave, how you want them to behave, download, ask, engage.”

Weber believe the best use of virtual meetings are as a component of a live, face-to-face event, extending the value of the content through the web to attendees who cannot travel or have abbreviated schedules.

“We chose to do a fully virtual kickoff meeting because we have over 3,500 sales and service team members in more than 100 countries,” she says. “The cost and logistics of face to face meeting is not reasonable.”

Weber says Honeywell has piloted virtual meeting a couple of times with customers when they can focus on a specific, targeted topic. And even in the high-tech world that Honeywell does business in, change isn’t embraced easily.

“Our customer base does not seem to be accepting,” Weber says. “By nature, they are engineers and like live demonstrations, talking face to face with experts and networking.”

TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS THE MEETING INDUSTRY

Here are five way ways experts say the use virtual technology is changing the face of the convention, conference, meeting, event, and trades how industries: ways he says you can use virtual technology to enhance your meetings.

WEB CONFERENCING: Connects meeting attendees and speakers in different locations by using VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), which allows real-time streaming of audio and video. More hotels and business centers are also adding high-definition virtual conference rooms that can be used to host hybrid sessions.

ONLINE COLLABORATION TOOLS: Open source your meetings and events by allowing virtual participants to share documents, Web pages, whiteboards, slide decks, audio, and video … all in real-time. Some Web conferencing systems allow you to record your events, thereby creating a collective knowledge base. These tools can be used for small meetings or for larger groups of thousands.

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS: Often called the “backchannel,” social media represent the virtual conversations taking place in the background before, during, and often long after your live meeting or event. Take the time to set up and promote social media activity through things like assigning a specific Twitter hashtag for your event, creating event-specific Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and setting up Foursquare check-in locations.

REMOTE PRESENTERS: Use a streaming video feed of a speaker who is in a different physical location. This can be done as a realistic 3-D hologram, or a live feed of your guest speaker. Remote presenter options can be a great way to attract high-profile speakers who may not have the time to travel to a physical event.

LIVE WEBCASTS: Broadcast your keynotes, general sessions and breakouts by streaming your live audio and visual presentations via the Internet in real-time.

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Meetings and conventions drive tourism industry

Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, knows his industry is big business.

“If Arizona’s tourism industry were a publicly traded entity,” he says, “it would be the third-largest company in the state—just behind Avnet and Freeport-McMoran, and just ahead of US Airways and PetSmart.”

Despite the economic downturn and the hit that the state’s tourism industry has taken because of human rights concerns, the numbers back up Moore’s statement. According to a study released this year by Dean Runyan Associates:
* Total direct travel spending in Arizona was $18.3 billion in 2011. Travel spending increased by 5.4 percent in current dollars compared with 2010.
* The tourism industry employs 157,700 people in Arizona. Combined with secondary employment that is generated through this direct travel spending, total job generation for Arizona is nearly 300,000. Tourism-related employment increased in 2011 by 1.7 percent – an addition of 2,700 jobs. This is the first increase in employment since 2006.
* The re-spending of travel-related revenues by businesses and employees supported 136,000 additional jobs outside of the travel industry, with earnings of $5.4 billion.
* The biggest economic boost came from conferences, conventions and business travel, which accounted for more than $6 billion in spending, or the equivalent economic impact of hosting a Super Bowl every month.

“Conventions and meetings are essential to Phoenix’s economy,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton says. “Their attendees stay in our hotels, go shopping at our local businesses and eat in our restaurants, which generates revenue and creates jobs.”

In many ways, experts says, conventions and meetings are a key indicator of the state’s ongoing economic recovery.

“Our industry is in a unique position in that our economic recovery has a direct effect on the recovery of the country as a whole,” says Donna Masiulewicz, president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. “For most organizations, the first step in such a rebuilding phase is to regroup, reorganize and set out plans for the future. What better place to accomplish these things than at a company-wide event or convention? That means, in essence, that when we are hired to set up these events we are not only helping our own industry get back on financial track but we are serving as a conduit for other organizations to do so as well.”

The gross domestic product of Arizona’s travel industry was $7.3 billion in 2011, according to the Runyan study, making it the state’s top export-oriented industry, ranking above microelectronics, aerospace, and mining.

A big chunk of that revenue comes from meetings and conventions, which account for about two-thirds of the total revenue at Phoenix hotels and resorts, according to Douglas MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“That’s higher than the national average,” MacKenzie says, “because our destination holds great appeal as a meeting destination.”

MacKenzie is quick to point out that when a big event like Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game or the Super Bowl comes to Arizona, the public hears about the economic impact it has on the community because those events get a lot of media attention. But people often don’t realize that big conventions similarly bring thousands—and in some cases tens of thousands —of visitors to Phoenix on a regular basis.

“When a large convention comes to the Phoenix Convention Center, it’s like entire small town moving into downtown for a week,” says Douglas MacKenzie, director of communications for the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And each one of these temporary ‘residents’ directly puts dollars into the economy and generates tax revenue. By a very conservative industry estimate, each convention attendee who comes here spends more than $1,500.”

Meetings not only play a critical role in Scottsdale’s $3 billion tourism industry, according to Kelli Blubaum, vice president of Convention Sales & Services at the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, they are economic catalysts that extend beyond the singular event.

“Meetings and events not only help fill thousands of resort and hotel room nights each year, but also provide an opportunity to introduce new visitors and business decision makers to the area,’ she says. “These events often lead to repeat visitors and even economic development opportunities for the city.”

Scottsdale Mayor W.J. “Jim” Lane says that meetings and conventions sometimes open the attracting new industry to Arizona.

“Sometimes, people who get a taste for Scottsdale end up buying a home here, or even moving a business here,” Lane says. “In fact, (convention-goers) may represent larger groups and businesses who may ultimately do more business in Scottsdale based on an initial stay here.”

MacKenzie says Arizona’s robust meeting and convention industry brings people into the state who might not otherwise be exposed to the benefits of doing business in Arizona.

“Many conventions and corporate meetings deliver to our doorstep the very manufacturing and knowledge industries economic developers want to attract to the city,” MacKenzie says.

And while meetings and conventions represent about one-third of the tourism revenue in Tucson, city officials have used their success as an attraction in the meetings industry to attract more revenue in the future.

“Many of Tucson’s larger resorts and hotels rely exclusively on group business to maintain occupancy and revenue throughout the year,” says Graeme Hughes, director of convention sales for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are also very successful in converting meetings attendees into leisure visitors.”

Since 2008 and 2009 — the low point for Arizona tourism in the wake of the economic downturn — tourism-related tax revenue has risen across the state and as much as 60 percent in some regions of Arizona.

“The hospitality industry is a primary driver of the Arizona economy,” says Andy Ernst, regional vice president of Robert Half International, a professional staffing and consulting service. “We anticipate that Arizona will continue to experience healthy growth in the coming years as hotel occupancy continues to rise, and business comes back to the state.”

With a bright financial outlook for the meeting and convention industry nationally, experts expect Arizona to ride the momentum.
“At this point, Arizona is positioned to follow the national trend,” Hughes says. “As the economy improves, travel increases. Organizations will soon be willing to reinvest in the positive outcomes that meetings and conventions provide.”

The groups that met at the Phoenix Convention Center in 2011 accounted for more than 240,000 attendees and $350 million in estimated direct spending, according the MacKenzie. That surpassed the previous year’s direct-spend total by nearly $10 million, and it reflects the drawing power of the renovated and expanded convention center and additions to downtown, including CityScape.

“However, that’s a performance that likely will not be repeated soon,” MacKenzie says. “The number of convention attendees we’ve booked for 2012 is down 20 percent compared with 2011.”

MacKenzie attributes the decline to the recession, a 30 percent cut to the CVB’s budget, the removal of half of our Prop 302 marketing funds, and client backlash from Arizona’s role in the immigration debate, and the “A.I.G. effect,” the tendency of corporations to cut down on lavish expenditures and luxuries in areas like travel and meetings to avoid appearing wasteful in times of economic downturn. The A.I.G. effect became a reality because of the negative publicity generated by some practices of the insurance giant A.I.G.

“Keep in mind: This year’s and next year’s conventions were booked from 2008 to 2010, during the depths of the recession and during the first year of the immigration debate,” MacKenzie says. “The typical booking window for citywide conventions is two to five years out—i.e., a group usually selects the site of its 2012 convention by 2010.”

Despite some challenges, experts agree that the long-term appeal of Arizona should allow the state’s convention and meeting industry to fluorish.

“We’re seeing an increase in business from third-party planners, and the corporate segment is strengthening as well,” Blubaum points out. “Plus, healthcare continues to be a strong segment. Canada also is a growing market for Scottsdale, which is why we are increasing our efforts to drive additional meetings business from key Canadian cities.”

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Businesses in Meeting Industry Exceed Goals

Business is booming in the meetings industry!  The Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (AZMPI) announced it exceed its goal of $5 million of business within its membership.

The My MPI ROI, an internationally recognized award-winning system, created for AZMPI is where members record the business they do with each other.  For the 2011-2012 year, 31 of the 392 members recorded $5,452,612.13 of sales with each other in Arizona.

“AZMPI has gained momentum creating excellence within the meeting industry through education, certification, advocacy and business-to-business networking opportunities for our members,” said AZMPI President Donna Masiulewicz, CMP.  “We look forward to continuing the momentum of education and professional development of our members.  Anyone who plans or supports meetings in any capacity, whether an administrative assistant or a caterer, can benefit from what AZMPI offers.”

The 392-member Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International was established in 1979.  Meeting Professionals International is the meeting and event industry’s largest association for the $102.3 billion meetings and events industry.  AZMPI offers monthly events providing education, and networking opportunities.  MPI membership is comprised of more than 21,000 members belonging to 71 chapters and clubs worldwide.  To learn more about AZMPI visit www.AZMPI.org or call 602-277-1494.

Rochell Planty - president of AzMPI - AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

Q&A With Rochell Planty, AzMPI President

Rochell Planty, AzMPI President, discusses her role in the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, its goals and more.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your professional background.

I have more than 18 years of experience in the industry. My scope of expertise includes public relations, meeting planning and special event coordination, and trade show management. I have served as the director of public relations for the Arizona National Livestock Show which also encompassed event planning and after some years of expanding my experience we launched Rockin R Meetings & Events, LLC, in 2004.

Q: What motivated you at the start of your career? What motivates you now?

I have always been involved in coordinating events since youth. Today, the passion to be a part of the hospitality industry coordinating events is still alive. What continues to motivate me today are the wonderful clients I work with and drive to create an amazing event.

Q: How did you first get involved with the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter?

I became a member of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of MPI in August of 2001. I jumped right in feet first and joined the Holiday Party Committee. After that, I had the pleasure of chairing the education forum for five years and was on several other committees.

Q: What are your present goals for the Chapter?

Elevating the value of meetings; Increase the awareness of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of MPI throughout the hospitality industry, local media, business community and Arizona Government; Engaging our members through the education, certification and business opportunities AzMPI offers; Increase our membership in the Chapter and their level of satisfaction; and Continue to increase the awareness and participation in the Global Community Challenge which has already exceeded over $1.3 million dollars in referral business between AzMPI members.

For more information about Rochell Planty and the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of MPI, visit www.azmpi.org.

 

Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011