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ISSUE 67 / ConfErEnCE & MEEtIngS World / 23EMEC ReviewInnovating in BudapestMEEtIng ProfESSIonalS IntErnatIonal gathErEd ItS EUroPEan ClanS UndEr thE bannEr of InnovatIon In bUdaPESt, PaUl ColSton rEPortShe meetings industry is operating at levels much stronger than suggested in the general economy, Meeting Professionals International (MPI) President and CEO Bruce Macmillan told a press briefing at the association's flagship annual European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC). The conference, held this year in Budapest, 29 January- 1 February attracted 343 delegates to the Novotel Congress Hotel. EMEC provided a good dose of blue sky thinking, allied to practical examples of how to succeed in today's meetings industry.Innovation and creative risk taking were key subjects on the EMEC 2012 agenda and MPI can't be accused of playing safe with the agenda. The programme was refreshingly packed with speakers not culled from meetings industry central casting. The 're-imagining' approach, with the accent on innovation, represented an attempt, according to Macmillan, to "walk the talk this year, to get outside the comfort zone".The reprise of the Flash Point assembly, a 15-minute blitz taster session offering delegates a preview of content from five of the longer sessions, is something that many conference organisers would do well to copy. MPI went Dutch and three of the speakers were from Holland. Pacelle van Goethem spoke on the art of persuasion in her pitch 'Selling ice cream to Eskomos; Rene Boender shared the wisdom of the new KISS (Keep It Simple, Smart); and CapGemini's Hans van Grieken warned about wasting time inventing the wheel. The other two Flashpointers were Denmark's former male model Christian Bitz who urged us 'to eat right to make your meeting brain bright' and Steven Loepfe who came from Switzerland to tell us to create sweet zone days and block the mundane, at least occasionally.MPI Chief Development Officer Didier Scaillet acknowledged only "a handful" of North American delegates had made the trip to Budapest. It was "a tough sell", he said, to bring US meeting professionals out of their offices for four or five days".Despite the dip in attendance, Macmillan described as a "bold move" the Board decision to bring EMEC to Hungary for 2012. "It paid off big time," he said, in terms of bringing central European delegates closer into the MPI fold. MPI now claims 2,500 members in its European chapters. Coffee RepublicCoffee Republic co-founder Sahar Hashemi delivered as keynote the story of how she introduced US-style coffee consumerism to the British market.Maria Thyien, key organiser of the education sessions, said she had been guided in putting together the 2012 programme "by what other industries were doing that could be applied to the international meetings industry". MPI Manager of Strategic Communications Theresa Davis underlined that the idea of "turning innovation into practice" had been a strong consideration for MPI.The evening welcome reception at the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts offered MPI delegates the experience of 'Molecular Mixology' - the so-called "practice of manipulating states of matter to create new flavours, textures and visuals that enhance the drink and make the experience stimulating". MPI can clearly still walk the esoteric talk as well as the practical. The MPI Foundation, meanwhile, is pressing ahead with a range of global impact studies for the industry. And, with Canadian studies completed last year and Mexico due to report this year, MacMillan said new figures gathered were indicating a global meetings industry now worth US$1 trillion in terms of output. Content from EMEC 2012 is available on the redesigned site: www.mpiweb.org Tabove: Work, rest and a little learning play in budapest for MPI's EMEC delegatesIt's time to walk the talk and get outside the comfort zoneMPI PresIdent and ceo bruce MacMIllan