Influential meeting planners group converging on city

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Visit Indy and city officials are preparing to host Meeting Professionals International, an influential group that books more than 10,000 meetings and events annually for large companies.

They’ll roll out the red carpet for 2,400 delegates (half are meeting planners) Saturday through Tuesday by showcasing the city and what it has to offer.

Though the number of MPI members is small, compared to many of the other groups Visit Indy brings to the city, the Dallas-based organization is the largest meeting and event industry association worldwide, according to its website.

MPI was founded in 1972 and controls more than $26 billion annually in meeting buying decisions. By having the organization in Indianapolis for its annual meeting, the hope is that members will recommend the city to client companies, which will want to book meetings here.

“It’s a perfect example of seeing is believing,” Visit Indy Vice President Chris Gahl said. “How does Indianapolis put its best foot forward and showcase the city?”

Visit Indy will do that by hosting several events, including an opening night celebration on Saturday at White River State Park, where Indiana’s own Straight No Chaser a cappella group will perform.

The event will close on Tuesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where group members can travel around the track as passengers in Indianapolis 500 pace cars.

“Out of the 550 conventions the city will host this year, this is arguably one of the most unique,” Gahl said, “in that it provides Indianapolis the ability to book future convention business by virtue of hosting the meeting itself.”

Visit Indy has never before hosted MPI and has not had a meeting planners group come to Indianapolis since the Professional Convention Management Association visited in 2004.

The Chicago-based PCMA represents large, national associations whereas MPI focuses on the corporate side of the meeting business. MPI members who will be at Indianapolis represent such companies as Boeing, Comcast, Google, Home Depot and Toyota, Gahl said.

To host MPI, Visit Indy needed to raise $1.6 million to cover transportation and event costs that the meeting planners require. Contributors include the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County, Indiana Economic Development Corp., Hamilton County Tourism Inc. and the Indianapolis Airport Authority, Gahl said.

Visit Indy in July 2014 began courting MPI, which agreed the following year to hold its annual meeting in Indianapolis, he said. MPI last year was in Las Vegas and in 2019 will be in Toronto.

Of the 2,400 MPI delegates coming to the city, 1,200 are meeting planners and the other half are executives with companies, such as trade-booth manufacturers, that support the meeting industry.

Visit Indy has recruited nearly 2,000 volunteers to ensure the event runs smoothly.

“It’s somewhat intimidating,” Gahl said, “yet we feel confident we’re putting our best foot forward to showcase Indy.”

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