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Association view72 / ConferenCe & Meetings World / issUe 66meeting planners and event managers are being challenged with flexibility on a daily basis as they're faced with lower budgets, a "wait and see attitude" and shorter lead times on projects.Another important area for flexibility is in professional development and skills expansion. Meeting and event professionals, destinations and even venue managers must look at new ways of doing things, new services and new skills to bring to the table. Tenured logistical professionals now have to learn how to talk to colleagues in terms of return on investment and strategic planning. Many venues now have to deal with the rapidly increasing demand for reliable wireless connectivity for mobile devices. Not to mention the need for some cities and destinations to find new ways to prove themselves to planners that normally would have flocked to them by reputation alone. All of these scenarios require a flexibility and willingness to not only think outside of the box, but often think outside of the room and explore new ideas and expand capabilities.Meeting Professionals International (MPI) serves more than 22,000 members in Continental Europe and around the world. The MPI Foundation launched the Business Barometer in April 2008 to monitor the meeting industry's most immediate needs in relation to economic concerns. The report is issued every two months and is based on surveys of the MPI Business Research Panel.Think outside the roomMPi President and Chief exeCUtive brUCe MaCMillan Urges Ultra flexibility in thinkings professionals in the meeting and event industry continue to look towards Meeting Professionals International (MPI) for predictive research, professional development and forecasting, the association strives to provide relevant insights into the business of meetings and events.Top headlines out of the most recent MPI Business Barometer show that, despite moderately improving employment conditions in Europe and North America, the global economic uncertainty and continued trend of shorter lead times are continuing to have a steady impact on the industry. While 70 per cent of survey respondents predict favorable business conditions for this year over last, European meeting professionals report the first year-over-year decline in meeting attendance (since June 2010). Yet at the same time in Europe, domestic and international corporate meetings are seeing the most gains for the eighth month in a row.With fluctuating indicators and a variety of factors impacting corporate business, governments or associations, it can be overwhelming for professionals in our sector to know which way to turn. MPI continues to encourage meeting and event professionals to "speak the language of business". Far too often in any specialised field jargon and internal rhetoric can isolate individuals or departments from critical discussions on the course of business. With the propensity that meetings and events have to be seen as expendable niceties, it is vital that professionals stay attuned to the primary business objectives of their clients and organisations. Thinking first as a business professional and then as a meeting or event expert can help individuals navigate through challenging times. The terrain of modern business is decreasingly black and white, and business professionals will need to get comfortable working within the grey. No one is operating with full certainty anymore and that for some can be a daunting scenario. As an association, MPI strives to provide the resources and tools that will enable companies and individuals to prepare them for a variety of business conditions. It is very important at this juncture to stay well connected to colleagues and communities that are supportive. Because the key for all of us to see ourselves and this industry succeed is flexibility.Flexibility in the months and years ahead can manifest itself in a variety of ways. For example, if individuals are diversifying their investment portfolio, perhaps meeting management specialists should evaluate diversifying their event portfolio. Looking at the shift from large annual meetings in Tier 1 cities to some corporations shifting to regionalised conferences in Tier 2 cities for some is providing considerable savings while still achieving core objectives. North American and European government bruce MacMillanBusiness professionals will need to get comfortable working in the greyMPi President and chief executive bruce MacMillanA