20 THE MEETING PROFESSIONAL DECEMBER 2016
the perspective of time on how MPI has evolved and grown
over the years, Stevens is well focused on what he would like
to see happen in MPI under his board leadership.
“Basically, as a new board chair, I’m hoping to do no harm.
I think that the real value proposition is to stabilize our re-
sources—also, to make sure that we’re engaging all of the
proper constituencies,” he says. “I’m seeing a few suppliers
that are absent. I’d like to re-engage. And, you know, we have
a new story to tell. I think that for people who have been away
for a while, they need to come back and see the new MPI.”
Stevens would also like to see some senior planner mem-
bers that have left the MPI fold come back.
“In terms of membership, I’m looking more for the quality
than the quantity of members,” he says. “I’d like to get the ra-
tios back to the good old days when it was 50-50 planners and
suppliers. It seems like when I attend a chapter meeting these
days most of the attendees are suppliers. I have a feeling that
we can do better engagement on the planner member side.”
Stevens sees a strong bene;it of having the right balance of
members, in that suppliers tend to bring economic resourc-
es to the table and planners and senior planners with strong
portfolios of events tend to attract supplier members who are
eager to build planner relationships.
“I am really looking to make this a little bit more of a business marketplace, and my concern is that we have to be aware
that the business of MPI is largely supported by the supplier
community,” he says. “There were a great deal of hard costs
involved with hosting the 2016 World Education Congress
(WEC). If each of us had to pay for what we enjoyed at WEC,
we would need to pay $10,000 per attendee. I don’t think the
members realize that. So, my take on it is we need to pause for
a second and to say to ourselves, ‘OK, we are enjoying the largess of our sponsorships, and that will go away if we don’t pay
them some attention.’ I think that over the years we’ve kind of
taken that piece for granted. And truthfully it could go away.
If that happened, we could be eating mac and cheese in a convention center somewhere with no carpet.
“At some point, somebody’s got to talk about the bottom
line and talk about how the enterprise works,” Stevens con-
tinues. “The enterprise works because of the fact that as long
as quality meeting professionals are in attendance, the sup-
plier community will come with their gifts and treasures. For
instance, if we were solely a membership made up only of
college students, it would take a very philanthropic supporter
from the supplier community to write a check for money that
would go a long time with no return.”
At the heart of Stevens’ plan to make the enterprise of MPI
strong is to vigorously engage both the planner and supplier
sides of the membership.
Stevens is also on the board for the National Catholic Partnership on Disability (NCPD), and, a longtime supporter of his
alma mater, Stevens has served on the Saint Mary’s College of
California Board of Trustees since 2011.
“As far as volunteerism is concerned, I ;ind that making
money is easy and making a difference is hard. And I think
the older I get, the more I see that being able to help grow
an organization that’s helping others is very important to our
communities,” he says. “But I also think that when you look at
the dash between your date of birth and your date of death, I
don’t want it to read, ‘He worked so hard his whole life.’ I want
to add more to it than that.”
Early Years in the Industry
Although he grew up in the East Coast, Stevens went west
to attend Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, from
which he graduated with a B.S. in business administration in
1977. He was then brie;ly enrolled at Saint Patrick’s Seminary
in Menlo Park, Calif., before joining the Oakland Hilton in 1978
as a sales trainee.
Over the following 20 years, Stevens ascended the ranks of Hilton Hotels Corp. (HHC). He
was director of sales at the San Francisco Hilton
in 1980. Two years later, he became the company’s regional director of sales. In 1985, he was
promoted to director of industry relations, and in
1987 he climbed to vice president of sales, which,
Stevens co-founded ConferenceDirect with Brian Richey
in 1998. He is also the co-founder of Searchwide, an executive search company, as well as the NBTA Foundation, now the
An active volunteer and fundraiser, Stevens has been a
member of many industry boards: the American Society of
Association Executives (ASAE), Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and PCMA Southwestern Chapter. He also served as the chairman of the ASAE Foundation
and the PCMA Foundation.
Stevens is a member of Burning Tree Country Club in
Bethesda, Md.; the Los Angeles Country Club; the California
Club; and O’Donnell Golf Club in Palm Springs. He is also a member of The Battery in San Francisco, the Knights of Malta and the
Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. In 2010
he was inducted as a Knight Commander into the Order of Saint
Check out the digital edition of this
issue to watch Brian Stevens discuss
volunteering, collaboration and
re-engaging supplier members.