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NEW YORK Being chairman of the Meeting Professionals International (MPI) may not sound like a dangerous job. But new MPI chairman and hospitality veteran Jerry Wayne found himself balancing a set of twirling plates on his head while jugglers tossed machetes on both sides of him. He certainly had the attention of the audience at the opening session of MPI's World Education Congress, held in Las Vegas' Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino. The high-risk juggling performance was designed to show how hard it is to run meetings and events.
The juggling act, the Passing Zone, (booked by the Goodman Speakers Bureau) also served as M.C.s at the event, which was the largest gathering of meeting professionals in the world ever. More than 3,500 MPI members showed up from across the globe to network and learn about the latest in technology trends, leadership strategies and meeting management.
Speaker after speaker at the conference highlighted the great work of MPI, including its programs on women's leadership initiatives, diversity and membership incentives. MPI announced its 19,000th member, and the event's big awards were presented to New Information Presentation's Bobette Gordon as meeting professional supplier of the year, and BiZBash's own president Richard Aaron was named International Planner of the Year.
When the opening ceremony began, guests entered the Venetian's ballroom while more than 20 performers stood in mannequin poses until a laser program began. The MPI logo was projected into the audience in front of streaming water that looked like a rain storm.
Danny Glover was the keynote speaker, but the entertainment high point was the finale, when the Passing Zone guys juggled three MPI member volunteers, who were suspended on wires in what looked like space suits. And although Wayne survived his own experience with the jugglers, he said he wasn't sure if next year's chairman, Disney's George Aguel, would follow in his entertaining footsteps.
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