CEOs Still Prize Planners' Logistical Skills Most

Despite an industry-wide emphasis on the importance of meeting planners being "strategic," there is always a great need for mastery of logistics too. And that sentiment is being expressed by CEOs of trade, professional, and foundation non-profit organizations.

Four out of five such people said in a recent survey that meeting logistics/coordination was a "very important" skill for planners, while only about one in four said the same for strategic planning. The survey, conducted by the Professional Convention Man-agement Association, polled 269 CEOs on the importance of meetings and events to their organization, and on the most important skill sets for senior-level meeting planners.

Budgeting/financial management was ranked the second most valued skill set, with 73.1 percent of CEOs finding it to be very important and 96.5 percent saying that it's fairly important.

Stephen Lieber, president and CEO of the Chicago-based Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, says that while he expects his senior planner to be able to operate strategically within the organization, it isn't the most valuable skill set for the job. "In our case, we don't have a large staff," Lieber says. "It's necessary to have someone with strong foundations in tactical planning, because we can't afford to have a strategic thinker who must depend on someone else to execute. If I had to choose, I'd choose a planner who knows how to execute detail first, and then we'd work to develop strategic thinking."

Dave Fellers, executive director of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, says some of the top skills he expects from senior planners include handling logistics, contracting and negotiations, and developing local supplier relationships. Fellers adds that the ability to function strategically is important to the association's most senior planner, but like Lieber, he feels strong logistical skills are the first priority.

But PCMA Chairman Gregg Talley says many CEOs don't realize how valuable it would be for planners to have a strategic orientation simply because few planners demonstrate flair or initiative in that area. "That makes for a disconnect in how it's perceived," he says. "If planners could get to the [decision-making] table, they could improve their value." He adds that thinking strategically should be a natural progression after planners master leadership and financial skills.

One last finding: 96.7 percent of CEOs rate meetings and events important or very important to the mission of their organizations.