Shawna Suckow knows how to build bridges. Between planners and suppliers, that is.
As founder of the Senior Planners Industry Network (SPIN), an association of 2,300 senior planner members, and the author of Planner Pet Peeves, her work has her on the road speaking to both sides about … each other. On Wednesday, January 30 at the Religious Conference Management Association's Emerge conference in Minneapolis, she will be relaying her findings to the audience during a luncheon address.
“After writing about planner peeves, I spent most of 2012 talking to suppliers to get their point of view. A year of listening to their frustrations about planners really opened my eyes!” says the Minneapolis–based former meeting planner, first with Grubb & Ellis and then her own independent company, Compass Events. Suckow’s luncheon speech at Emerge will include new material from her just-released book, Supplier Pet Peeves.
“It will be a lighthearted but candid look at what each side does that drives the other side crazy sometimes. I’ll also share what I learned about how we all can work together more effectively going forward. As Oprah says, “Once you know better, you do better.’”
For example, she sees audience engagement as one of the biggest struggles right now for all types of planners, including religious conference managers. “We all have to focus more these days on generational differences, unique learning styles, and strategic delivery methods to deliver the highest possible R.O.A., or Return on Attention, a huge component of R.O.I. If attendees have spent the time and money to get there, and you can’t keep their attention and keep them engaged, then you can’t possibly deliver .”
Evolution of SPIN
It has been an exciting journey for Suckow since starting SPIN in 2008 as a LinkedIn group, basically a place for her senior meeting manager friends to network. Just a few months after that, she says, she started getting requests to meet face-to-face. Today, SPIN delivers its education in many ways, including live regional meetings and an annual conference, SPINCon.
To meet the needs of her busy audience, she plans to add more virtual events, including what she calls “Mastermind” groups. “They’re small, monthly deep-dive conversations around a certain topic that take place over six months, all done via webcam.” She did her first Virtual Think Tank in December and is also working on an initiative that, she says, “will change the face of our industry, and it’s all based on senior-level education. I can’t reveal more just yet, because it’s still morphing and taking shape.” SPIN will also be offering a small business series, since a majority of its members are independent planners.
“It’s definitely going to be an amazing year.”