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by Sarah J.F. Braley | September 01, 2012

Following the June resignation of executive director and CEO Bruce MacMillan, Meeting Professionals International held its World Education Congress in July in St. Louis, with COO Cindy D'Aoust temporarily taking the association's reins.

"We find ourselves at a transition; we're looking back on 40 years. Sometimes you have to take a step back," Kevin Hinton, executive vice president for Associated Luxury Hotels International and chair of MPI's international board of directors, told the audience in the "Conversation With MPI" session at the WEC. He and D'Aoust were well received by those in the room, despite some grumbling from members about how they feel disconnected from the association's headquarters.

Before finding a new head of staff, a strategic task force has been formed to refocus the group.

"What could our community look like 15 years from now?" Hinton posited. "How do we make sure we deploy our resources in the best way for members today and tomorrow?" After answering those questions, he said, "then we can go forward and decide what kind of leader we need."

D'Aoust, who joined the organization in April, said members have been complaining about how headquarters keeps in touch -- or doesn't.

"They've told us we need to be better communicators," she said. "We're going to try to get better at letting them know our thinking, but it won't be a short road. We're focused on listening, but we will move forward, as well."

The organization does have some repairing to do. Membership is down to around 21,000 people from a high of more than 23,000; and just 2,200 attended this year's WEC. D'Aoust also noted that chapters in Europe are struggling, and the chapter model is not working. "We need to…rebuild and redesign the model for them," she said.