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VT Cast #33: Meetings & Conventions and VolunTourism


How is the meetings & convention market engaging in VolunTourism? What are some of the reasons meetings & convention groups are developing these types of programs? What resources are currently available to meeting professionals to support them in better serving their clients? These questions and more will be addressed during this episode of The VolunTourist.

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Past Webcast - April 22, 2008

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Elizabeth Henderson, CMP, M.Ed., CMM, Director of Canadian Development, Meeting Professionals International [Bio]; Barbara Scofidio, Editor, Corporate Meetings & Incentives [Bio].


[What is Meeting Professionals International (MPI) doing in regard to getting VolunTourism into meetings and conventions?]

"Yea, MPI has been doing, or integrating, some VolunTourism into its events for a couple of years now. And, of course, I think that started mostly with New Orleans; and I think New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, became a poster child, right, for VolunTourism, and I think people started hearing that word more and more. They've certainly been able to do some great things in that community on that concept. We, of course, when we had our meeting in New Orleans, we were able to incorporate community service projects into what we did as a conference; and we've continued to do that since then. We've had community service events in Montreal, in Houston, we're planning one in Las Vegas.

So, it's something that, I think, once people realize hey, this is a good thing; this isn't just because there was an event that, we obviously, captured the concern and the imagination of people like Hurricane Katrina. But all of the communities we do business in, it's in our best interest to make sure that those communities are made a better place when we leave; so really contributing to the sustainability of those communities. And, now that we've got a new corporate social responsibility focus at MPI, you're going to see more of that and more of that focus on sustainability - whether it's environmental sustainability or social sustainability through things like VolunTourism and community service projects." Elizabeth Henderson

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[What are some of the reasons meetings and convention groups are developing VolunTourism programs? Do you have some thoughts on this?]

"I do. Long before this was the thing to be doing, there were a couple of industry leaders that have been championing giving back, since I've been in the industry. One is a gentleman named Ray Bloom who actually founded a trade show called IMEX that is going on this week in Germany, in Frankfurt. And, he started greening awards for green meetings, long, long time ago; he added something called the "commitment to community" award. And, it is similar to what I told you about with the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE). They just, for example, one company, it was a European company on a trip to Zambia, they actually built a home for a teacher in this village because it was so hard to attract teachers. And, the hotel matched the cost of the event; so they actually worked, partnered with, the hotel where they were staying for that event.

But Ray has been behind this for many, many years. There's also, he worked with a woman named Louise Hall Reider, who as long as I've known her has, and her company is built around giving, events that give-back. So there are champions out in the industry and I do think that people are finally taking notice because it is the thing to do, but it's been around for a long time. And I agree with you completely, Elizabeth, that it is also accessible now. It can be something that you do on a lunch hour as part of an event. It's been made so available and so easy to implement." Barbara Scofidio

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Guest Bios

Elizabeth Henderson, CMP, M.Ed., CMM, Director of Canadian Development, Meeting Professionals International


Tuesdays 10am ET/7am PT

Elizabeth Henderson is the Director of Canadian Development and Global Champion for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for Meeting Professionals International, a global association with over 23,500 members.

Elizabeth has an eclectic background. She holds three university degrees, including a Bachelor of Arts in History, a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geography (with Distinction), and a Masters Degree in Environmental Science. In addition she has two industry designations, the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) and CMM (Certification in Meetings Management).

In her role as an association manager, she liaises with and supports volunteer leaders as well as working to raise the level of industry and association awareness in Canada. As CSR champion, she is working to integrate the principles of people, planet and profit into association operations, using the UN Global Compact, of which MPI is a signatory, as a guideline.

Elizabeth has a husband and three cats, who, due to the amount of travel she is currently doing, are threatening to dismiss her from their staff.

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Barbara Scofidio, Editor, Corporate Meetings & Incentives

Barbara joined Corporate Meetings & Incentives in 1991 and has served as its editor since 1994. She is an active member in many meeting and incentive industry associations, including serving on the education committee for the 2007 SITE International Conference, judging the SITE Crystal Awards for the past 10 years, and serving on the media committee for SITE's 35th Birthday Celebration at the 2008 Motivation Show. A frequent speaker at industry events, Barbara is a past winner of journalism awards from SITE, ASBPE, and Folio. Before joining Penton Business Media, she was managing editor of Computer Design magazine, and a staff writer for Spotlight magazine (now Westchester magazine), in New York. She graduated with honors from Binghamton University in 1984.

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