MEDICAL MEETING PLANNERS understand the value of education. After all, we spend the majority of our working weeks planning and implementing events that provide educational benefit to healthcare professionals. But how many of us invest time and energy in our own continuing professional education? Unlike physicians, meeting professionals are not required to attain continuing education credits, but professional development training combined with business networking is essential to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape of medical meetings.

Hoping to advance my own education, last August I enrolled in the Meeting Professionals International Global Certification in Meeting Management program. I had heard good things about this senior-level program and I wanted to undergo business skills training with fellow meeting professionals.

The CMM Experience

The residency was an intense week of sessions focused on strategic business skills, including risk management, financial planning, marketing, and strategic thinking. The post-residency exam served as an excellent refresher for the course, but I found writing a business plan to be the most challenging — and inspirational — component. The purpose of my plan, which included a comprehensive new pricing strategy, is for my company to achieve preferred-vendor status for meeting management services with major pharmaceutical companies. Although this objective remained the same as before I took my CMM, the proposal for implementation changed significantly. I had more tools as well as the confidence to take this business plan to a more strategic level and, ultimately, to raise my profile within my company.

Other participants agree that CMM training is worth the effort. Debbie Page, president of Great Alaska Planning, Anchorage, says, “Since the majority of my conferences are in the healthcare field, the primary target audiences all have initials after their names. I feel [having a CMM accreditation] will put a higher value on my services, and I feel that I'm providing my clients with the best the industry has to offer.”

Debbie Hall, manager, operational services, meeting and event management/business services, Pfizer, Global Research and Development, Groton Conn., had practical reasons for taking her CMM: “I knew that I would need to write a business plan this fall. Since the CMM requires an original business plan, it made sense to take the course when I already had to do some of the work!”

Make Your Education Plan

While the CMM program is not specifically geared to medical meetings, the content can be applied across market sectors, and the attendee demographic promotes the exchange of ideas and general business networking. For senior-level planners looking for specific education and networking opportunities within the pharma planning community, the Pharmaceutical Meeting Planners Forum, launched by Medical Meetings and the Center for Business Intelligence, will provide the opportunity to discuss strategic meeting management issues. (For more information, see the ad on page 32.)

I encourage you to start out your new year by creating a professional development strategy which will take your professional expertise to the next level.

Sue Potton, CMM, marketing director, conference services, MediTech Media Conferencing Inc., Princeton, N.J., has 20 years' experience in marketing, sales, account management, and conference planning in the medical education industry. A native of England, she has managed pharmaceutical and healthcare association meetings and events in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and chairs the International Brand Marketing Committee for Meeting Professionals International. Reach her at