MPI honors 2018 RISE Awards recipients

This week, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) announced the recipients of this year’s RISE (Recognizing Industry Success and Excellence) Awards during the association’s 2018 World Education Congress (WEC18) in Indianapolis. The recipients were selected for exceptional achievements in the meeting and event industry and recognized at various pep rallies.

This year, the RISE Awards feature seven awards in two categories: individual achievement and community achievement. Recipients are recognized for innovation, global transferability, impact and influence within the industry, and will join the MPI Community of Honorees, a group composed of past MPI award winners and distinguished leaders.  

“Congratulations to the 2018 RISE Awards recipients! We commend each of these leaders and chapters for their exceptional and inspiring accomplishments, which have had a positive impact within our global community,” said Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI.”

The RISE Award for Young Professional was presented to Alex Plaxen of the MPI Potomac Chapter. Plaxen is the president and founder of Little Bird Told Media in Washington, D.C., where he coordinates executive-level meetings and events and organizes data driven event marketing campaigns. He started his career as a conference management consultant after receiving a master’s degree in Tourism Administration at George Washington University’s School of Event and Meeting Management in 2014. Plaxen has eagerly taken on leadership roles with the MPI Potomac Chapter, serving from 2015 – 2017 on the board of directors as regional conference director and director of marketing. He has also been invited to speak at various industry events including BizBash LIVE, IMEX America, Connect Marketplace, MPI’s WEC, and the ASAE Annual Meeting, and has been recognized by Connect Association’s 2017 “40 Under 40” class.   

The RISE Award for Member of the Year was presented to Wojciech Liszka of the MPI Poland Chapter. Liszka is a founding member of the MPI Poland Chapter and has served as the chapter’s president and vice president of education. He is the founder of Z-Factor, a hospitality business consultancy in Poland, and previously worked in hotel sales and marketing management for 11 years with three Radisson Blu hotels. Liszka is co-creator and co-organizer of the charity, Poland Business Run, and led the development of Meetings Week Poland. He served as chairman of the Business Council at the Warsaw School of Tourism and Hospitality Management as well as lecturer for the university from 2011 to 2015. Liszka was recognized as MICE Poland’s "Personality of the Year" in 2010.  

The RISE Award for Meeting Industry Leadership was presented to Michael Owen of the MPI Tennessee Chapter. Owen is managing partner of EventGenuity, LLC, which produces business events for corporate and association clients throughout North America. He has more than 20 years of experience in the industry and his impact can be felt globally. Owen has held a number of volunteer leadership roles for MPI, including past president of the MPI Tennessee Chapter and past member of MPI’s International Board of Directors. He currently lends his expertise as a chapter facilitator, assisting with MPI chapters with organizational leadership and project management. Owen was instrumental in creating the MPI Chapter Advisory Council, which was later renamed the MPI Chapter and Membership Advisory Council. He also previously served as vice chair of the Events Industry Council APEX Standards Review Committee.  

The RISE Award for Innovative Educational Programming was presented to the MPI Southern California Chapter for creating (WE)CON, an innovative education and professional development conference. The chapter formed strategic partnerships with the MPI Northern California, MPI Washington State and MPI Oregon chapters over the past year as part of an initiative to step up communication and promotional efforts as well as grow sponsorships. With its unique location at the Island Hotel, Newport Beach, various learning formats and a redesigned hosted buyer experience, (WE)Con has transformed to become the premier regional educational event for the west coast, boasting remarkable attendance growth – with a 20 percent increase from 2016 to 2017 and a 15 percent increase from 2017 to 2018.   

The RISE Award for Marketplace Excellence was presented to the MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter for its annual Sales Blitz Program, which was established in 2012 and is focused on face-to-face, planner to supplier relationships. It connects supplier members with planners leading to professional partnerships and recruits new corporate meeting planner members. Specifically, the chapter’s Sales Blitz Program team reaches out to planner partners to secure appointments for supplier team members who offer varying services. Through their connection, the team can breach the door to companies, which might otherwise be closed to new business partners, thus increasing participating supplier reach to potential new income. For planners, the Sales Blitz Program provides an opportunity to learn about innovative offerings in the corporate meeting planning field while conserving their valuable time. Following their appointment, planners are provided with a certificate granting them complimentary registration to an MPI Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter educational meeting so that they can personally experience the benefits of MPI membership and motivate them to become a new member. Historically, the program occurs in the fall and has an average of 15 supplier participants. During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the chapter added a second program in the spring, which had a total of 60 supplier participants resulting in more than $12,000 in income.  

The RISE Award for Industry Advocate was presented to the MPI Chicago-Area Chapter for its Industry Xchange 2017, which was delivered in partnership with Choose Chicago and brought together eight industry partners to execute a Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) education and networking event. More than 1,000 attendees participated in the event, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel made a special appearance to read a proclamation naming April 6, 2017, as Global Meetings Industry Day in Chicago. In addition, the event received coverage across several news blogs including AV Chicago, OLC Events and Freeman XP blogs. Since its inception in 2013, the MPI Chicago-Area Chapter’s Industry Xchange has involved collaboration with all of Chicago area meeting and event industry organizations and has grown from 200 to 500 registered member participants within the last five years.  

The RISE Award for Membership Achievement was presented to the MPI Tennessee Chapter for outstanding membership growth, engagement and retention. The chapter’s “Get to Know You” Campaign was conducted at select meetings throughout the year, where members were invited to drop their business cards into a hat and then committee members would follow up and invite them to connect one-on-one. The program generated more than 50 business cards at each event and helped increase member retention. Another initiative that helped boost the chapter’s membership was their “New Year, New Membership Recruitment Event,” which provided complimentary registration for both non-members and members who brought non-members as guests. About 50 non-members, or “Future Members” as coined by the chapter, attended the event – eight of which decided to join and become new members. Overall, the chapter achieved an 18 percent growth in membership (60 new members) and a 2 percent increase in retention. In addition, as of May 2018, 130 of the chapter’s 380 members (29 percent) serve in volunteer roles.

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