Tuesday, I received an email from Meeting Professionals International (MPI), an association of 24,000 meeting and event professionals regarding their upcoming conference WEC (World Education Congress) July 11-14, 2009. The email surprised me as they were offering me a special discount for virtual attendance of $299 for full access to 17 live streaming events. I would also have access to the recordings (video, audio and some synched PPT & audio) to more than 100 education sessions and access to the social conference network from Pathable.
Well, after my mouth fell the floor, I read the email again and thought, surely they jest. Then I thought, oh my, their attendance is down and they are trying to meet budget. They are hurting financially and are doing anything and everything to make money.
Then I thought, “What hair-brained staff member put this in place?” Yes, it was a corporate hairball in action with a decsion made my some executive jerk (joke?) who pulled rank, and clearly wasn’t focused on what’s best for members or providing value to members who couldn’t afford to attend in person. It was probably someone who doesn’t understand the social space and has the scarcity mentality that thinks all non-attendees will willingly cough-up $300 for a virtual attendance. Or they’ve got some supplier who was not smart enough to sponsor free virtual attendance for anyone who could not attend face to face.
Did MPI think this through? Did they honestly think members who were not attending were going to jump up and down with glee that we had the opportunity to pay another $300 for content? Did they think about how upset some of us might be? Obviously, not. Nor did they realize the power of the social space to show that MPI does not control it’s brand anymore.
What struck me as odd was this was the opposite of what MPI did in January 2009 for their “MeetDifferent” conference in Atlanta. Then they streamed the opening general session and other power keynotes and allowed me to particpate virtually for free. They also posted free video clips of the general sessions for everyone to see. They totally won me over and I was a proud to be a member. I had no problem renewing my $375 membership in the Spring because MPI had proven their worth to me and gave me free content in January. I was honored and willing to shout from the mountain that MPI “got it” and valued me as a member. I was willing to encourage others to become a member and became their customer evangelist. Heck, I was even willing to give up a Saturday to speak to MPI’s CLC 2009 about social media strategy. So, I’ve not been an outspoken critic of MPI in the past rather a MPI evangelist.
You see, earlier this year, I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend MPI’s WEC face to face because my 2009 travel and professional development budget was slashed. I didn’t have any money to attend, nor do I have $300 to pay to attend virtually. Nor do I think it’s worth $300 for virtual attendance. I think it ludicrous.
Then I got mad, very mad. I pay $375 a year for membership and what do I get in return? Very little. We’ll save that for tomorrow’s post. And yes, there will be more.
What’s so sad, is that in one act, MPI has turned me from customer evangelist into an outspoken member critic. And if they think I’m going to keep quiet, they are wrong. I’m sure they think I will just go away but my membership goes through almost another year. You see, I’ve already received more than 25 direct messages in Twitter from others who are outraged at MPI’s stance. And I suspect others to speak out too. Has MPI even had to deal with bloggers yet who disagree with them? Doubtful. I expect they think they can ignore me and I will go away.
So I ask you, am I the only one that thinks MPI is going down the wrong path here? Am I the only one that thinks MPI sent a message loud and clear to me that they only value my membership enough if I pay them another $300 to receive content? Am I the only one scratching my head going, “Huh?”
Let them know how you feel. Post a comment here and tell them what you think.
Oh, and by the way, in case you think I’m crazy asking MPI to provide free virtual access to WEC education, see what Seth Godin has to say about free content in today’s world.
For full disclosure, I am a member of MPI and a former 1999 MPI employee. I actually used to plan WEC, PEC and Platinum programs so I’ve walked in those shoes.