The Professional Convention Management Association, Chicago, is about seven months into a process of developing a list of core competencies its members need to improve and expand their meetings in today’s increasingly competitive environment. "We’re about halfway through the process," says Marsha Hawk, vice president of education with PCMA. Also to come is a self-assessment tool, developed in conjunction with Temple University in Philadelphia, that members can use to figure out where they fit in the continuum so they can better design their continuing education to meet their needs at their current level.

The competencies were developed based on research collected by the PCMA Educational Advisory Committee. That research includes a project that scientifically analyzed the competencies of six industry certification programs to find where they overlap; the Developing a Curriculum study, which gathered 20 event management leaders of various backgrounds to identify core competencies; and a case study of how Microsoft Corp., which has one of the largest meeting planning departments in the Fortune 100, manages events within its organization.

The committee has identified a number of core competencies that go beyond the technical and logistical skill sets identified in the Certified Meeting Professional designation, says Valerie Sumner, president of The TCI Cos., Washington, D.C., and chair of the PCMA Educational Advisory Committee. "We’re taking it beyond knowing how to do a BEO and write a meeting resume which, while important, are not everything that’s needed to be a well-rounded leader in the events field. That would include more business skill sets, such as strategic planning, business development, finance, operations and procedures, and human resources--how all that fits into a meeting." One of the competencies, she says, will be continuing to pursue lifelong learning, "whether it’s through advanced career achievement, advanced education at a university, speaking, or writing."

"People tend to understand the process of events and meeting management, but they often don’t understand the importance of bringing business skills to their meetings business," says Linda Higgison, founder and CEO, The TCI Cos., who also has been involved in the research behind this project. "You need the same skills to grow an event that you need to grow any business—-just think of a meeting as a business with a short shelf."

She adds that the levels within the meetings industry are similar to those in business in general: "You can be a hands-on technician, someone who manages the process but doesn’t do the hands-on work, or the visionary who’s always looking for ways to move it forward. We’re looking to find ways to integrate those three levels of skill into the educational process." The challenge, all agree, is that people come to educational programs at different levels-—which is where the self-assessment tool will come in. "We’re looking at testing models people can use to see the level at which they’re coming in so they can set their curriculum at that level," says Higgison.

The next step, says fellow committee-member Joe Jeff Goldblatt, PhD, executive director for professional development and strategic partnership, School of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Temple University, who also is on the committee, is to survey senior professionals within PCMA to validate the committee’s findings. "It also has been proposed that there be a seminar on the core competencies at the January PCMA conference in Honolulu."

For those who might be daunted at the thought of all these core competencies, Hawk says, "We don’t expect a single individual to master all of the sub domains that will created under each broad topic. But an individual can look at where they are and develop an individual learning plan that will move them forward." She adds that, once the competencies have been vetted within PCMA, "the next logical step would be to go out and share our findings with other industry organizations to get additional input."

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