Laura Scheller, CMP, not only is a member of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International, she also is the chapter’s president-elect. In the course of the 18 years Scheller has been involved with MPI, she has held numerous other roles, including chair of various committees and director positions within the organization.

Scheller says the biggest benefit by far of her involvement with MPI is the relationships.

“MPI provides three things: world-class knowledge for our industry, a marketplace to promote our services and products, and, probably the most important to me, a human connection for both personal and professional development,” she says. “In an economy like this, where the entire profession has been knocked to its knees, through no fault of its own, relationships are critical to my success. MPI provides a platform to increase our contacts and tools and provide the maximum ROI for every meeting and event we touch.”

As president and founder of Solmonte Hospitality, which offers full meeting planning services, Scheller says MPI has been critical to the development and expansion of her business.

“Without the support of my fellow MPI members, my company would not be in existence today,” she says. “We are running a business and our members are our clients. We have to provide value to our members through education and opportunity and still be profitable. All of these skills help me to be a better businesswoman in my company.”

Scheller admits that the economy and the “AIG affect” have decimated the meetings and event market. The AIG effect refers to the public backlash to corporate meetings and events following the disclosure last fall that insurance giant AIG was still planning lavish get-togethers for employees even after it received a massive bailout from the federal government. The public and media outrage did not take into account that corporate gatherings make up an important part of the tourism industry — especially in places such as Arizona.

With the help of MPI, Scheller is hopeful the AIG effect will disappear.

“There are significantly fewer meetings occurring, and those that do still exist are often cut back dramatically in scope. MPI, along with other industry organizations, has created a campaign called Meetings Mean Business,” she says.

“Our goal is to dismiss the notion that meetings are fluff and to help educate the business community on the value of meetings and events, and to create guidelines and best practices that support positive impact to our economy. As a chapter leader and local businesswoman, I am proud to be a very small part in this endeavor.”