Susan Katz, director of corporate events and travel at True Value Co., is the 2011 chairman of the Professional Convention Management Association board of directors. She’s serving PCMA during its roll out of a new strategic plan, bringing with her a special interest in helping the association expand its educational focus to serve the full spectrum of the meetings industry. Corporate Meetings & Incentives spoke with her recently about her plans.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: What are the most important elements of PCMA’s new strategic plan?

Susan Katz: We didn’t really change the basic tenets of what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization, but we did make it much more member focused. First and foremost, we want to be the source for quality education for our membership across the board. Not just planners, but suppliers as well. And not just association and corporate planners, but what about people planning educational content at sessions—who’s providing education for those people? And what about the educators who are training the next generation of planners and suppliers? We want to be the organization to provide them with information on what’s going on in the real world and the marketplace so they’re giving the right information to their students.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: And of course PCMA also attracts a lot of students.

Katz: Yes, we have wildly successful student chapters that we want to provide information to as well. Our recent meeting in January in Las Vegas had the largest number of student members ever—275. We do have to be all things to all people, to be perfectly honest, because we have multiple generations attending our meetings.

I’m a huge proponent of two-way mentoring. I think we have as much to learn from the next generation about how they work and how they like to learn as we have to teach them about what’s going on in the marketplace and how meetings are conducted.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: In practical terms, how do you manage to get relevant content for all these audiences?

Katz: Our annual conference program committee is made up of the chairs of numerous task forces that each focus on their area of expertise. This was new last year, and it has worked tremendously well. For example there is a corporate task force whose role is to look at educational content for corporate planners; there’s a trade show and convention center task force that will talk about what’s going on in that part of the market. There are also task forces for medical meetings, independent planners (a huge and growing segment), and most recently, new professionals.

Corporate Meetings & Incentives: Tell me about the task force for new professionals.

Katz: PCMA is very good a serving the seasoned professional and has a very strong, engaged student membership, but where we see a gap is with new professionals—those in the first five years of their career. My goal with the task force is to hear directly from new—not necessarily young—professionals about what we can do better to engage them in the organization. I believe people in this industry truly believe in education, and I want them to choose PCMA as their source for life-long learning, starting with their student experience all the way through their seasoned professional years when they can give back to the organization from a different perspective.

We had a great kick-off meeting for the task force at the meeting in Las Vegas, and the PCMA Board of Directors has taken two steps that will help new professional get active and involved: They’ve created a guest spot on the board for a new professional an approved a new award that will recognize new professionals who are moving the organization forward. In addition, the PCMA Foundation has approved funding for a grant that will allow us to pay for the new professional task force members who do not have financial backing within their organizations to attend the midyear educational conference in Baltimore so they can have another face-to-face meeting.

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