Written by Arttu Kallio
Producer and Meeting Planner at Tapahtumantekijät
VP in Sponsorhips 2015-2016, MPI Finland Chapter
Member of MPI Northern California Chapter
Google, Apple, Visa and 28 other Northern California’s Fortune 500 companies - the list of companies represented in Meeting Professional International Northern California Chapter (MPINCC) is impressive.
With nearly a thousand members and a whopping collective buying power of 295 million dollars MPINCC is the largest MPI Chapter in the World.
MPI being an international organization, I was able to move my membership from the Finland Chapter to MPINCC as our family recently moved to San Francisco. I attended their Education Program at Waterfront Hotel in Oakland on 24 January 2017, and had a thoughtful talk with their President, Marilee Sonneman, CMP, DMCP.
Marilee is a long-term MPI member with a solid background in the meeting industry. After founding the award-winning full-service firm Spotlight Events, today she runs her own strategic consulting business, Spotlight Sojourns.
During our conversation Marilee told me that, as the President, she wants to ”find out the ’whys’ of our members, their ultimate motives to engage with MPI” in order to serve them better.
I decided to ask Marilee her own ”why”, which took her by surprise: ”Nobody has ever asked me that before! Well, to be honest, my first ’why' was that my employer told me to join MPI because it’s good for business”, she confessed.
Very soon after that another "why" became apparent to her: ”I realized that in MPI I can take myself professionally to another level”.
Gradually, as she worked in different tasks in MPINCC, a third ”why” emerged. That ”why" is something I could actually see from Marilee’s eyes and hear from her words as she addressed us in the beginning of the event: it is about her desire to make a difference for others and to help them to grow professionally.
After the meeting, driving back to our Berkeley home, I started to think about my own ”whys”. Like many other MPI members, I’m looking for professional development, networking and business possibilities.
However, there is also something else, something that is not so evident, something that can be described as a "personal why”.
Many of us never stop to think about our ”personal whys" and even if we do, we might not be able to grasp them. Sometimes, like in Marilee's case, the "personal why" develops over time and becomes the driving force of commitment.
My "personal why" has something to do with my professional identity and sense of belonging: because the meeting industry in Finland is quite small, scattered and also underrated in many ways, I feel there aren't enough places where I could seek for collegial understanding, take pride in my work, be inspired by the work of others and feel a sense of community.
For me, MPI is that kind of place, whether I’m in Finland or here in the U.S.A.