PCMA Education Gets a Boost: On the record with John Nawn, VP of education, Professional Convention Management Association

Originally published October 2006, Successful Meetings

Successful Meetings: Where were you before becoming the new VP of education at PCMA?

John Nawn: I'm an industrial/organizational psychologist by training and I've been a learning professional for 20 years. I started out in associations, developing distance learning programs at the American Medical Association for private practitioners, and then I went on to the Centers for Disease Control. Later I went into the high-tech industry.

I liked these fields because the information needed by practitioners becomes obsolete quickly, so their learning needs are intense.

SM: What are your plans for PCMA's educational direction?

Nawn: I've only been on board for a few months, so we're doing a needs assessment. Our target audience is senior-level meeting planners. We'll continue to increase the quality and quantity of educational opportunities we offer to that audience.

From what I've determined, PCMA members are passionate about the education they've already been receiving. But just because we're doing some things right doesn't mean we don't need improvement. There are opportunities for us to create new curricula that will raise the profile of meeting planners within their organizations and the industry.

SM: Why has the association created this new position?

Nawn: The executive team of PCMA is aware of the association's reputation as the provider of top-quality education, but they want to take it to new heights. They're interested in tying learning to the association's business objectives, such as generating revenue and increasing membership and retention rates. That's a new way of thinking, and it involves assessing members' challenges, needs, and capabilities.

SM: How does this differ from more traditional adult education?

Nawn: The old paradigm focused on people's knowledge and skill. But that only represents about 20 percent of the performance challenge. The other 80 percent deals with things like performance tracking, feedback mechanisms, incentives, and environment. Most training doesn't address those elements, but we intend to.