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MPI President’s Letter: June 2024

By: Karen Norris, CMP (She/Her) | Jun 17, 2024

I am writing my quarterly message immediately after attending Ottawa’s City of Om Festival. The festival (which I did not attend in an MPI capacity) is the city’s largest health and wellness festival open to all who want to deepen their passion for overall wellness.

For yet another year, “Event Planner” has been ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the world by Indeed. Like many Event Professionals, I recently began to reevaluate my relationship with my job and I’m actively trying to incorporate more wellness and healthy habits into my daily life to achieve some sense of balance. The City of Om Festival originally started out as a yoga focused event and has since expanded to include overall health and wellness. Because the festival’s genesis is rooted in yoga there is a strong emphasis on community, which is core to the practice of yoga. The practice community known as a “sangha” in Buddhist circles is a group of people who support you in your chosen lifestyle. Most often this support comes as a result of a shared set of unspoken values or ethics that contribute to a healthy way of life.  

When the pandemic hit and hosting events were quite literally illegal across Canada, it was only then where most of the world realized how important these communities were for our development, both personally and professionally. We also realized how fragile they were, in the sense that they can be taken away in an instant. While I was at the festival, I couldn’t help but think of how important the community of MPI Ottawa is and how one of our strongest skill sets is how inclusive, welcoming and supportive we are as a chapter.

We’re not the largest chapter (we’re the second) but I truly believe that is our superpower. We have enough members to make us an attractive chapter to join and expand your professional network but we’re not too large that it’s overwhelming to navigate and form those connections.

I cannot tell you how often I hear external suppliers and planners who attend our chapter’s events say “wow, you are all so warm and know each other so well.” I always confirm this statement and usually name a few members that they know who I just had brunch with that past weekend or met for drinks after work the week prior. Many event industry colleagues from my MPI network have become some of my closest friends.

Since my last President’s message, our chapter celebrated Global Meetings Industry Day (GMID) on April 11. Tonia Jahshan, an award-winning entrepreneur and mental health advocate, was the keynote speaker at our chapter’s GMID lunch and learn event. I was incredibly proud of our chapter’s education committee who created a safe space to have a difficult discussion about mental health. I was even more proud of our chapter members who contributed to the discussion after the presentation and began opening up about their own mental health struggles. The most beautiful part for me were members identifying themselves as “safe containers” for other members to approach and privately discuss any mental health struggles they may be grappling with. There were numerous other members who shared websites, courses and other resources to help their fellow colleagues who may be struggling. So many recommendations were provided on the spot during the discussion that the Education Committee decided to capture them all and circulate a consolidated list of resources following the event for the participants. 

Fast approaching is our chapter’s volunteer appreciation event which is taking place on June 18. Again, I am in awe of the Member Events team’s creativity in arranging their version of the “Amazing Race”. Suppliers and planners will be working together as teams and the event was designed to be inclusive to all—no matter their age, event experience or fitness level. In recent planning meetings, I have heard about the hours of work this committee has done—working on the weekends, asking friends and family to help out, and hours spent on the unique props that have been created—all to enhance the experience of our members and to celebrate our volunteers.

On May 20-22 in Louisville, Kentucky, MPI Global hosted the World Education Congress (WEC). Two members of our Executive Committee, Past President Karen Wiersma and President Elect Bruce Landry, attended and represented our Board of Directors proudly. They met up with other Canadian chapter leaders to discuss best practices, leadership strategies and future planning. Some of the lessons learned will be implemented this November when our Board of Directors meets for our second bi-annual retreat. Not only was our chapter’s presence felt at WEC from Karen’s and Bruce’s participation but it was our very own member Jenny Dao that got the spotlight as she accepted the MPI Rise Award for ‘Member of the Year’.

With MPI’s global membership of 60,000 members this is an incredible achievement and we are proud to have Jenny as a member of our chapter. Congratulations again Jenny! Special mentions to our chapter’s Education Committee as they were a finalist for the MPI Rise Award for Innovative Educational Programming and a special mention to our member Michel Kafrouny who was a finalist for MPI’s Rise Award for Young Professional Achievement.

The end of May also saw the close of our call for applications to join our Board of Directors for the 2024-2025 governance year. I have seen the applications that have come in and I’m so inspired by the talent that has offered to donate their time (potentially) to sit on our Board to help enhance our chapter and continue to build this great community of ours. The nominating committee will be conducting interviews in June and the proposed Board slate will be announced in the Fall for the membership to approve. I assure you; the chapter’s leadership will be in good hands and we have a bright future ahead of us.

In yoga, when you actively join a practice community you not only gain support for your lifestyle but you also take on responsibility for supporting others. Normally, my role would have ended on June 30 of this year, but as some of you know, MPI Global has extended the governance year to all chapters by six months to align the fiscal and governance years for all chapters. When I accepted the role of the President of this chapter almost two years ago, I did not have the new (demanding) role in my day job that I do now. I care greatly about this chapter and my fellow Board members and I want to ensure our Board and the membership gets the support and leadership they deserve. My wellness journey has taught me that it’s important to ask for help when you are struggling. When I asked my Board colleagues, Past President Karen Wiersma and President-Elect Bruce Landry for help to finish the additional six months of my now 18 month Presidential term, immediately they said they would help me with anything I needed.

It was validating to see my colleagues without hesitation rise to the occasion to support me when I reached out. This is the community that I felt welcomed into 16 years ago when I first became a student member. This is the community that I feel privileged to help continue to build. This is why so many of us in the Ottawa chapter have easily bridged the gap between being just members and transitioning into genuine friends. Regardless of our compliance metrics and the ‘chapter awards of excellence’ we are bestowed by Global, the proudest measurement of our success as a chapter to me, is the strong community we have built over the past 40 years that continues to welcome, support and elevate our members. 

Cynthia Headshot Article edited by Cynthia Beaudin, Canada Foundation for Innovation



Karen Norris, CMP (She/Her)
Director, Strategy, Programs and Services at The Canadian Dermatology Association

MPI Ottawa Chapter President 2023-2024






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