It may sound hokey, but I do feel like I'm back with family," says Francine Butler, PhD, CAE, CMP, who was named executive director of the Convention Liaison Council (CLC) in November. Butler helped create and launch CLC's Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) accreditation program in the early 1980s. The formation of the CMP program, which entailed creating a body of knowledge, core curriculum, and qualification and testing procedures, was the work of Butler and others who were members of the original planning committee and the CMP board, which officially formed in 1985. Butler chaired that board from 1992 to 1993, and served on it until 1994. Not one to trumpet her achievements, Butler is nonetheless proud of her long involvement with the CMP.
Long-standing Interest Butler, born in Boston, moved to New Mexico as a teenager, and then to Colorado, where she earned a doctorate in psychology at the University of Colorado. She was clinical instructor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, spending most of her time doing research administration, managing grants and research projects. "I learned a lot about people management. But my interest was in the management of projects and programs--planning, funding, implementation--making it all come together." Not unlike running an association, which was her next career move.
In the early 1970s she was named chief executive of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, which she still manages today. With partner Jerry Bowman, who was CEO of the Colorado Medical Society, she formed the Resource Center for Associations in 1984, an associa tion management firm based in Wheat Ridge, Colo., 20 minutes west of Denver. Today the Resource Center manages the CLC and nine scientific/health care associations.
Butler considers herself a meeting planner and an association executive. "Anyone who manages a small association, and I consider any association with under 5,000 members small, has to be responsible for planning meetings," she says.
She became active in the CLC as a delegate from the Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives, an association of association CEOs, around the same time. That's when her interest in a certification program for meeting planners took hold. Charged with developing a body of knowledge for the embryonic CMP program, Butler had a problem. "It was the early '80s. Because meeting planning wasn't a scientific profession, we had no academic literature."
Butler had met Ruth Ann Zook, the then-librarian for Meeting Professionals International. Together they realized that the meeting trade magazines were an excellent source of knowledge, and they began to catalogue hundreds of articles. The MPI Resource Library today is the industry's most comprehensive information resource.
Around the same time, Bill Just, now executive director of the Association for ConventionExecutives, began to create the core curriculum for the CMP. Butler says the Professional Convention Management Association's textbook on meeting management, Professional Meeting Management, was published a little later. "A lot of roots took hold and began to grow and kind of coalesce in one place at one time," she says. PCMA's textbook, together with the CLC Manual, are still the mainstays for those studying for the CMP.
Butler chooses not to comment on other industry associations' certification programs, including Meeting Professionals International's (MPI's) new Certificate in Meetings Management. "I prefer to focus on our strengths," she states. "The CMP program could be even more powerful. How can we enhance what value it now has, not only for new certificants, but for those who are currently certified?"
She is impressed with the business and marketing plan the current CMP board has created under chair Jim Daggett of the meeting planning consulting company JRDaggett & Associates. More than 30 percent of the current 4,338 CMPs passed the exam within the last two years.
Organization in Transition The widespread industry embrace of the CMP designation has made the program a major revenue generator for the CLC, which encompasses 26 associations in the meeting, convention,, incentive, and travel and tourism industries. But Butler concedes that the CLC has not done all it can to market itself or its products, services, and ideas. "Marketing is not a dirty word. It's a dynamite word," she says.
"The old CLC, under the guidance of ASAE, maintained an economically viable organization. We now need to spend some of that hard-earned cash. You have to spend money to make money," she adds.
One of the ways the CLC intends to spend that money is on a new industry event, the CLC Forum, which is scheduled for November 4 to 5 at the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers. The event is expected to draw 200 planners, suppliers, and government officials to debate key issues.
Butler thinks The Forum, like the CMP, will become another signature of the CLC. George Kirkland, president, Los Angeles Convention & Visitors Bureau, and current CLC chair, will preside. "It's very important that the chair be visible and active," says Butler, who is content to remain behind the scenes. "My challenge is to help create and define the new CLC, she says. "I'm learning as I go along." *