Working knowledge: Must-have skills of today’s event professional
Shorter lead times, complex contracts, big data, duty of care requirements – today’s meeting professional has to juggle a lot of information and demands way beyond the logistics of the event itself. We know that meeting professionals are detail-oriented, calm under pressure and have great interpersonal skills. But, whether you’re a seasoned CMP navigating the evolving landscape or new to the field, you will probably have to refresh your skills continuously over the course of your career. As the industry shifts in the face of new economic and political realities, here are five must-have skills that today’s meeting professional will need to add to their résumés.
Harvard professor and strategic expert Michael Porter once famously said, “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” Strategic thinking is the big picture approach that enables a meeting professional to analyze the feasibility of an event and establish the mission and objectives that will guide decision-making further down the road. It’s the “why” that comes before the “how”. It’s no wonder that strategic event planning is the most heavily weighted skill on the CMP certification exam.
Some would argue that event planning is essentially a specialized form of project management. In many ways, it is. From the initial project plan to the post-event audit, meeting professionals need to establish a critical path to success and map the milestones along the way. More than ever, the ability to document progress, control costs and work within accelerated timelines will be critical to event success and happy stakeholders. Need to refresh your skills? Most universities offer free online courses or accelerated on-campus courses in project management.
Show me the money! No matter the size of your organization or meeting, your stakeholders want to see the ROI of events. The best way to back your decisions, foresee budget problems brewing and showcase the good work that you and your team have done is to develop the financial literacy you need to make your numbers talk. Who doesn’t love a growth chart that goes up, up, up, right? Online courses like the University of Pennsylvania’s Intro to Financial Accounting can give you a leg up.
From web site and mobile app statistics to social media monitoring and beacons, we are collecting more data than ever on our attendees’ registration habits, booking patterns, physical movements and consumption rates. Big data may be a big opportunity but without the means to decipher the numbers, we might as well go back to paper surveys and clickers. Know your “KPIs” (key performance indicators) and other critical data points and learn how to track and report on them. This will not only make you shine at that next board meeting, it’ll give you the insights to make your meetings rock.
Build it and they will come? Yeah, not so much. Savvy meeting professionals know that if they can’t get their message out to the right people at the right time, their numbers will suffer. Knowing the ABCs of marketing and the basics of building a communication plan to roll out over the entire process will give your event the best shot at being a smashing success. From the first newsletter to the last Tweet, well-crafted messages timed to critical phases of the project plan will attract influencers and speakers, recruit volunteers and boost attendance and engagement. There are lots of great online courses – many of them free! – to get you started.
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