What makes a senior planner senior?

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Joan Eisenstodt is asking some interesting questions (no big surprise there!) over at the Meetings Focus blog: What constitutes a "senior" planner, and how do you develop education that will meet their specific needs?

Here are some of my thoughts (also left as a comment on Joan's post):

I tend to think of senior as more on the strategic than logistic level—i.e., how it all ties into the organization's goals and mission. But shouldn't content on how to do that be offered to everyone, regardless of their experience level? These days, I think no one can rest on getting the logistics right if those logistics don't tie into the big picture in a strategic way.

I don't think certifications, designations, and degrees confer senior status. Especially in this field where there really weren't degrees, etc., back when today's seniors (speaking age-wise, anyway) were starting out, I think actual experience trumps anything else. Though that may be changing now...

Some of the best learning experiences for seniors are the more informal ones, I think. Our Pharma Meeting Management Forum's closed sessions for senior planners give them a space to talk with each other about challenges and strategies, and they seem to get a lot out of just being able to share with others who "get it." Not to mention being able to build networks for when questions pop up after they return to their offices.

But that's just one example. I've seen it over and over again at pretty much every conference, whether part of the official program or not--it's those "let your hair down and dish" sessions that seem to have the most impact on senior planners (and those less seasoned as well--we all need the time and space and opportunity to share with those who can feel our pain and possibly even show how they made that particular pain stop).

How do you know when you've crossed the line into senior territory? What do senior planners need to learn that newbies or those in between don't? For topics all levels need to know about, how do you shape education to be accessible to those in different stages of their careers? Do senior planners get a discount on registratation if they show their AARP card? (Just kidding on the last, though that's not a terrible idea either.)

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