Learning Curve

Whether you're planning your first meeting or your hundred and first, there's always something new to learn. And, in this industry, there's more than one association to teach you. Between national conferences and local chapter events, 2004 is shaping up to be a very educational year.

American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)

Feb. 9-11: Winter Meeting/Management and Technology Learning Exchange and Business Expo, Baltimore, MD

Aug. 14-17: Annual Meeting and Exposition, Minneapolis, MN


ASAE holds two major meetings in summer and in winter. This year, the association's winter meeting will be pushed back to February from December and is tailored to provide exclusive programming for Certified Association Executives. Accordingly, the 2004 winter meeting will cater directly to top-line executives and examine how technology and management strategies can expand and improve performance across the association. For everyone else, there's ASAE's annual meeting, set for August in Minneapolis. That meeting's educational program will address all levels of the association's membership. This year, says spokesperson Chris Vest, there will be a "bigger push to provide educational programming for meeting planners specifically." Of course, of the 25,000 members ASAE counts among its ranks, only some 6,000 attend the annual meeting, and just half that number attends the winter meeting. So it's safe to assume that the remaining 75 percent of the membership is most active on the chapter level. One of the most active chapters, the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives, has styled its educational calendar to reflect the preoccupations of the general business community. Special topics include organizational performance in the age of transparency in business as well as the application of new technologies. March brings the Washington Society's second annual Great Ideas Conference, in which attendees will learn quick ways to innovate and improve performance by learning directly from the experiences of their peers.

Meeting Professionals International (MPI)

Jan. 18-20: Professional Education Conference, San Antonio, TX

July 25-27: World Education Conference, Denver, CO


In 2004 and beyond, MPI is aligning its educational content with its overall strategic plan, which is to elevate the role of meetings in business. "The thinking is that as an industry, we've really perfected the logistical and tactical element of meetings," says spokesperson Kelly Schulz. "Now we're helping the meeting professional at a higher, more strategic level to make meetings a critical part of the strategic planning of every organization." To that end, Schulz says, MPI will offer courses on core business competencies such as leadership development, marketing communication, strategic skills, financial plan writing, and budgeting, to form a sort of mini MBA program for planners. "We want to give them the skills to communicate better with their executive teams and better articulate the value of meetings within the overall strategic goals of the organization," Schulz says. MPI will continue to offer its traditional meeting planning courses as well.

This year MPI will continue its quarterly Emerging Issues Online, an audio Web series that will explore industry "hot topics." Attendees will watch the presentation over the Internet and listen by calling an 800 number. Topics will be decided one month in advance of each session.

Finally, MPI is also developing a third level to its residential immersion program, called Institutes, to create a stepping stone between the second level and the more advanced Certification in Meeting Management (CMM) designation.

Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)

Jan. 11-14: Annual Conference, Indianapolis, IN


PCMA's central educational offering on the national level will be its 2004 annual meeting in Indianapolis in January. The meeting will offer 12 tracks (focusing on topics ranging from independent meeting planning to executive convention management) of educational courses that can be taken for credit. PCMA offers a nine-week Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE) course from February to April, which combines online education, conference calling, and one in-person review. On the local level, PCMA chapters offer regular educational seminars. Frank P. Lynch, president of the New York area chapter, says he'll run eight board meetings and six educational meetings in 2004, on topics that are yet to be decided.

International Association of Conference Centers (IACC)

Mar. 27-31: Annual Conference, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX


In 2004, IACC will continue to offer its regular multi-day professional development workshops, regional roundtables, and local learning networks, as well as its education-focused annual meeting in March. Jerry White, director of member services, says that the association will highlight several topics in the next 12 months, including safety, contingency planning, and risk management. But the real emphasis, White says, will be on food. A new series of seminars will explore using food and beverage to draw business and as teambuilding exercises. This year, IACC will hold its first "Conference Center Chef of the Year" competition. White says each member country chapter will hold its own contest to select a top chef, who will then compete head-to-head for the title of Conference Center Chef of the World. Finally, IACC is adding an educational focus on the issues surrounding managing and integrating Spanish-speaking employees.

International Association of Exhibition Management (IAEM)

Dec. 1-3: Annual Meeting and Exhibition, San Antonio, TX


IAEM segments its educational programming into three levels. First-level courses presume no prior experience in or knowledge of exhibition management and takes students from "launchpad to familiarity," according to president Steven Hacker. Hacker says most of the educational activity centers around second-level courses, which presuppose a minimum of three years of industry experience. This level includes the Certified in Exhibition Management program, which Hacker says is seeing the most member activity. CEM certification is achieved upon completion of nine one-day sessions, each followed by a one-hour exam. The CEM program operates domestically, as well as in China, Europe, and Korea, and may soon extend to Japan and Mexico. Other midlevel educational offerings include workshops on selling exhibition space, crisis management, attendance promotion, and other operational issues. Third-level courses offer a strategic management focus for senior management in a variety of formats throughout the year.

New in 2004 is IAEM's Leadership Development Institute. According to Hacker, this new program is for "younger, less experienced people identified by their peers as potential future leaders of the industry." IAEM will solicit names through a nomination process several times throughout the year. The Leadership Development Institute will then offer nominees free leadership training and "fast track" them into roles on chapter boards and committees to "begin the percolation process for them to rise to the national or international director level," says Hacker. And IAEM will still fund its local chapters for their educational programming.

Convention Industry Council (CIC)

July 8-10: CMP Conclave, Colorado Springs, CO


The bulk of CIC's educational programming falls under the heading of its APEX, or Accepted Practices Exchange, initiative. APEX focuses on seven "problem core" areas and devises best practices for them. These best practices are determined through an ongoing series of City Discussion Groups, organized by member organization chapters and involving planners and suppliers. Two of the seven topics, Terminology and History and Post-Event Reports, have already been addressed. This year, the CIC will complete the City Discussion Groups in the remaining five areas: Resumes and Work Orders, Requests for Proposal, Housing and Registration, Meeting and Sites Profiles, and Contracts. CIC also holds an annual CMP Conclave, for CMPs only, which also contributes credits toward recertification and is scheduled for July in Colorado Springs.

Insurance Conference Planners Association (ICPA)

July 22-24: Summer Educational Forum, Washington D.C.

Nov. 14-18: Annual Meeting, Maui, HI


ICPA's main educational events are its annual meeting, scheduled for November 2004 in Hawaii, and its Summer Educational Forum, scheduled for July in Washington D.C. ICPA supports five regional chapters, each of which holds a minimum of one educationally driven annual meeting that lasts up to two days. The Northeast regional chapter has scheduled two 2004 meetings, in January and in August. The Southeast regional chapter will meet in Atlanta in March, and the Great Lakes regional will meet in Milwaukee in August. Meetings for the Midwest, West Coast, and Canadian regions are yet to be scheduled. ICPA executive director Karen Hopkinson says the specific educational content for each event will be announced one to two months in advance.

International Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus (IACVB)

Jan. 31-Feb 2: Professional Development Institute, Kissimmee, FL

July 14-17: Annual Convention, Boston, MA


IACVB has several large educational events planned for 2004. Its Professional Development Institute, in Kissimmee, FL, at the end of January, includes CDME core courses, the IACVB Sales Academy, and a wide variety of educational seminars on topics dealing with destination management, including marketing research, convention services, sporting events, and technology. IACVB has three Destination Showcases in 2004: in Washington D.C. in February, in New York City in April, and in Chicago in August. April's three-day Visitor Services Shirt-sleeves in Louisville will focus on selling to the leisure side and promoting within the local community. IACVB's 90th annual convention takes place in Boston in July. IACVB communications manager Kristen Clemens says the specific educational content for events later in the year is yet to be determined, but she predicts an increased focus on technology.

Society of Incentive and Travel Executives (SITE)

Nov. 4-7: International Conference, Merida, Mexico www.site-intl.org

SITE's international conference is scheduled for November 2004 in Merida, Mexico. But, as president Brenda Anderson says, "the chapters are the lifeblood" of the organization. SITE's board of directors sets out the society's vision for the year, which is then implemented at the chapter level. At presstime, that vision was still being determined, but Anderson says that in 2004 SITE and its chapters will be focused on generating new partnerships and alliances as a way to revitalize business in an industry that has, as she puts it, been "devastated." Anderson cites the Mexico and Chicago chapters, who developed a "sister chapter" relationship to share resources and exchange ideas, as examples of these beneficial coalitions. This year, Anderson expects the chapters to educate their members on more ways to use partnerships to revitalize their businesses.