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December 1, 2009

MEETINGS:review Personality of the Year 2009

No one thought the downturn was going to be a bundle of laughs, but it’s unlikely anyone would have predicted the vitriol and attacks that have been aimed at the meetings, events and incentive travel industry over the past year. This assault has not only come from the media, but also, more importantly, from government, particularly in the US.

Rather than lying down and taking the flak, the meetings industry has risen to the challenge and has stoutly defended its position. Many people have been instrumental in rallying the sector, but one woman stands out as a real catalyst, galvanising the US – and in fact the world – behind the Keep America Meetings initiative, which has helped change five pieces of proposed US legislation that would have had a devastating effect on the meetings industry. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of our MEETINGS:review Personality of the Year 2009, each one has been either revised or withdrawn.

Delivering the message
“Our industry is under attack,” warned Meeting Professionals International (MPI) chairman and chief executive, Bruce McMillan, earlier in the year, “despite George P Johnson and MPI research that proves it produces the highest ROI of any marketing platform.”

Not only did MEETINGS:review’s Personality of the Year take this message forward through Keep America Meeting, she also stressed three further key points.

“We must validate the importance and value of meetings, events and incentive travel programmes and the impact they have on business,” she told MEETINGS:review, “along with the revenue the industry generates for local communities, and the direct affect it has upon the individuals it employs.”

And with 2.4 million people working in a sector worth $39 billion to the US economy, it became clear, despite the media hype, just how important meetings, events and incentive travel really is.

Impressive pedigree
But then her success in delivering the Keep American Meetings message can come as no surprise to those who know her, as our Personality of the Year heads up one of the largest meetings, events and incentive travel management companies in the world. Managing more than $700 million in revenue, she is responsible for ensuring the highest level of service quality is delivered to clients, to help them achieve their unique business objectives.

She has served on the MPI Board of Directors for six years and was appointed 2005-2006 chairwoman of the board. She also founded MPI’s Women’s Leadership Initiative, served as its inaugural chairwoman, and has been a regular speaker for the industry on women’s leadership.

When referring to the success that Keep America Meeting achieved in uniting the meetings, events and travel sector, Bruce McMillan must have had her front of mind when he said: “I recognise my colleagues around this industry for bringing it together as one global community.”

Future focused
But despite being a stalwart of the industry, our Personality of the Year is also under know illusion about how it needs to change to prosper.

“It’s critical we have commitment to continue the work that has been done to educate government on the economic impact of any reforms put forward,” she told MEETINGS:review earlier in the year. “We have to speak the language of business, track carbon savings, integrate virtual technology into live events and prove ROI. The future is going to be very different for our industry, but I believe there are lots of opportunities in store.”

The MEETINGS:review Personality of the Year is:
Christine Duffy, president and chief executive of Maritz Travel

Christine Duffy: Brought the global meetings industry
closer together to show strength in advertsity

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