Choose to learn--at any cost!

Recently, a meeting planner, referred to me by an industry colleague, called. The planner (I’ll call her “Tanya”), hungry for knowledge, eager to provide insights to her employer to advance their meetings, and desirous of learning all she can, is being denied time and funds and worse, respect, for professional development.   

Tanya’s employer will not support learning – they don’t believe, it seems, in professional development for their staff even though the organization’s business is…providing professional development for their profession!  Tanya reads industry trade publications, follows lots of people and hashtags like #eventprofs and #meetingstoday (and me) on Twitter, and reads the posts at  It’s not enough.

She wants to join an industry association, attend programs and sit for her CMP.  Of the five planners in the meetings department in which she works, not one is a member of any meetings industry associations nor do they attend industry meetings. Tanya is willing to pay for membership and attendance, for CMP study courses and taking the exam.  What she doesn’t have is support from her employer to learn and apply what she learns and to take the time to do so.

Days later, I had the privilege of speaking at Commencement at The George Washington University School of Business and International Institute of Tourism Studies to those who had completed the Professional Certificate in Event Management. Sixty-four people, supported by their employers, who took time while working and raising children or grandchildren to complete a course of study to better themselves and their organizations.

Then there are those who are given the dollars and time to learn: they attend sessions and are ‘present’ and little more. They don’t absorb the impact of the events, people, and conversations around them, returning to their places of work with little more than bellies full of food and drink.

I suggest:

  1. Write a plan for learning. In it, set personal goals and goals for the person paying for the education. (That person could be you – and you need those goals to show growth.)
  2. Include in your plan what and where you want to learn and what it may cost in time and dollars.
  3. Include a benefits column in which you can show the impact of the learning experience on your work. This may be a conversation with someone over lunch who knows more about a city to which you’re taking a meeting, or a meal that delighted you and could be replicated at your own meetings, or a tip on better contracts. Just show it and where it happened and the benefit to your organization.

Learning can be intentional or serendipitous. Take advantage of it. And employers: provide opportunities and time and funding to all to learn and participate in the industry. Provide a platform in your staff meetings for sharing, daily through email or weekly at a staff meeting,  something someone learned and how they’ll use it to benefit your organization and your meetings.

Meetings can change – our industry can grow – if we support and nurture it.   

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