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MPI opens Golden Gate for WEC

MPI's World Education Congress opened yesterday for more than 3,000 attendees ready for professional progress with San Francisco savoir faire.

At the Opening General Session, Mayor Willie Brown welcomed guests to the city that promises to serve the best food in the world and shopping guaranteed to "exceed your credit card limits."

Keying on the lively opening musical segment from the '60s hit "Hair," Theresa (Terri) Breining, CMP, MPI's 2003-2004 chairwoman, acknowledged a year that had been "tranformational" for the organization, yet promised "a new dawn" in the form of new initatives to advance the meetings profession and a new staff head, Colin Rorrie. If the challenges that meeting professionals face today are "put on the back burner, we will become irrelevant," she warned.

Some 600 attendees packed a seminar room for "Booking Outside the Box," addressing the controversial issue of attrition. Planners complained of facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in attrition fees, while the hotel industry maintained that its goal was to fill rooms, not penalize clients. Both sides agreed on the need for more communication and education for attendees. "The job [for us] begins when we book the group," noted Larry Luteran, vice president industry relations, Hilton Hotel Corp., Beverly Hills, Calif. Mary Power of the Convention Industry Council urged particpation in group's efforts to learn the whys of attendee behavior that prompts attrition fees. She urged planners to share success stories with the organization at

The day ended with a lively party at Pacific Bell Park that included acts ranging from disco roller-skaters to jazz combos to drag divas, each representing a distinctive San Francisco neighborhood. San Francisco-based Key Events created the event, which included Airstar balloons on centerfield, lasers from Los Angeles-basesd TLC, and a performance by Mickey Thomas, formerly of veteran rock band Jefferson Starship.

Today's events include the opening of the trade show floor, along with the announcement of the 2003 Meeting Professional Awards, which recognize members who are models of professional excellence and who make signficant contributions to the industry.

Steve Kemble, of Steve Kemble Event Design, Dallas, has been named International Planner of the Year; Brian D. Palmer, president of the National Speakers Bureau, Libertyville, Ill., has been named International Supplier of the Year.

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