Most people in the meetings industry associate strategic meetings management with the Groups & Meetings Committee of the National Business Travel Association. After all, that's the group that burst on the scene five years ago with its first SMMP white paper.

On the other hand, SMMP is now common parlance, with many practitioners putting their own spin on its original concepts and components.

In an effort to formalize NBTA's centrality with regard to SMMP, Bill Connors, NBTA's former executive director and CEO, suggested a certification program. Kari Kesler, president and chief strategist, KK Strategic Solutions, took that suggestion and ran with it.

“When the idea came about, the Groups & Meetings Committee had an overflowing list of objectives already,” Kesler notes. “So we created a task force outside the committee, but invited the entire committee to brainstorm with us.” In an effort to get a truly broad cross-section of the industry, many members of the task force were not members of NBTA. Ultimately, the group was whittled down to 11 members plus three lead facilitators — Kesler; Janet Sperstad, program director, Madison Area Technical College; and Lynda Garvey, business development manager, American Express — and one curriculum specialist (Amanda Cecil, PhD, CMP, from Indiana University/Purdue University Indianapolis).

The group has been working on the program for the past year, and at the NBTA annual convention this month, the Strategic Meetings Management Certification (SMMC) will be unveiled.

“It's very exciting for everyone involved to come to the point where we will offer a professional certification,” Kesler says, “and to see strategic meetings management go from an idea to a career.”

Applicants accepted into the program will need to complete two weeks of coursework and five electives within a two-year period. For more on the Groups and Meetings Committee, see page 17.

Pay-Per-Use Telepresence

Marriott International and Starwood Hotels &Resorts Worldwide have plans to install pay-per-use Cisco TelePresence videoconferencing suites in properties worldwide.

Using multiple screens and high-quality audio and video, telepresence gives participants an experience close to being together in a room, but until recently the systems have been available only to companies that purchase the technology.

Starwood will open telepresence suites in 10 hotels by the end of 2009, starting in Sheraton hotels in New York; Sydney, Australia; and Toronto; as well as at The Westin Los Angeles Airport and W Chicago-City Center. Marriott says it will open 25 telepresence locations, with the first three in San Francisco; Bethesda, Md.; and New York.

Calendar:

Aug. 23-26

NBTA International Convention & Exposition
San Diego
www.nbta.org

Sept. 9-10

HSMAI Affordable Meetings National
Washington
www.affordablemeetings.com

Sept. 29-Oct. 1

The Motivation Show
Chicago
www.motivationshow.com

Jan. 10-13, 2010

Professional Convention Management Association Annual Meeting
Dallas
www.pcma.org

Feb. 9-11, 2010

Greening the Hospitality Industry Conference
Green Meeting Industry Council
Denver
www.greenmeetings.info

Feb. 20-23, 2010

MeetDifferent
Meeting Professionals International
Cancun, Mexico
www.mpiweb.org