Pull together a group of about 20 passionate senior meeting and event professionals to talk about professional development and there’s no shortage of topics. The problem is there’s a shortage of solutions. While the group acknowledged progress has been made, more is needed. That much was clear following a Senior Meeting Executive Group Therapy education session during Smart Monday, powered by MPI, at IMEX America.
Session facilitator Cathy DosSantos (MPI Philadelphia Area Chapter), senior director of operations at Maritz Travel, said Monday’s session was the result of work done by MPI’s Senior Executive Task Force, which has recognized the need to develop and expand education for senior meeting and event professionals.
“We knew that this is one of things this group needs—peer to peer,” she said.
The attendees’ experience range was between 15 and 35 years in the industry, with corporate planners, supplies and third-party planners at the table. It didn’t take long for the attendees to identify nearly a dozen topics of interest before settling on innovation and creativity, rebranding the event planner, industry consolidation and high-level education for more in-depth conversation. The group was split into two, with each group brainstorming two of the topics.
“We talk about taking the individual to the next level,” said Darell Stokes, vice president of strategic sourcing at Prestige Global Meeting Source in San Francisco, who was with the group discussing high-level education. “How can we learn and grow to the next level? Where do we go? How do we get a masters-level degree, not academic, but one where we understand procurement and marketing?”
Ariel Crohn (MPI Connecticut River Valley Chapter), corporate meeting and travel manager at Coverys in Boston, followed the senior-level track at the World Education Congress (WEC) and even attended the MPI Thought Leaders Summit.
“The track at WEC was good, I did notice the difference,” she said. “The audience is different and the topics are different.” A formal mentoring program, for example, is something else that could be considered, she said.
There are challenges all around—lack of understanding of the role of the meeting planner at the corporate office, access to information and diversity of education.
Crohn shared how she attended an event and was finally able to join an exclusive list serv. “I was able to get on the secret list serv,” she said. “I can’t share the list, but I now have 39 people that I can learn from.”
She said that, in addition to a lack of understanding about job role, there often is no clear trajectory for growth within a company.
“Senior executives don’t understand the meetings and events business,” Stokes added. “There’s an opportunity for training senior executives on what we do, too.”
DosSantos said this type of communication is needed to get a greater understanding of growth opportunities.
“We do want to build a community of senior meeting executives and it starts with sessions like this,” she said. “We need to hear what is needed and then our goal is to come up with solutions.”
By Rich Luna, Director of Publishing MPI