Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 2012

CMP Series: Learners will Drive Their Own Learning’

By Susan Sarfati, CAE
We will move away from structured keynotes to interviews. We will help people understand that some of the best content isn’t in the Power- Point presentations, but in the story that the expert shares.

I think technology allows us to capture events and then create micro moments that become viral. I did one interview with U.S. Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno, and [one segment of it was watched by] 300,000 people. I never would have projected that would have been the high-point moment.

You lead a consortium of 200-plus learning leaders, many of whom are chief learning officers of Fortune 500 companies. Please describe this consortium model, and share some of the cutting-edge issues the members of the consortium are exploring.(bold)

Early on, I decided that I didn’t want to hire myself out for five days as a consultant. I was more interested in building sustainable learning communities. My original model was 20 companies, and now, 25 years later, we are up to 242 organizations. What we do is really simple: We look at problems that we face and explore how we can collaborate to figure out a better way of doing things.

Let me give you two existing projects we are working on now in the consortium. One is about how you get someone’s expertise from their previous job to become an asset to the organization. So we hire Patti, who has great experience in the last company she worked for. How do we get that information transferred to the new company? Put it up on Facebook, on a special site? When you talk to our members — who include people from Microsoft, Intel, IBM, and John Hancock — they are fascinated with doing this. So we are facilitating their thinking.

The second one I am working on now, which is an extension of a trip we just took in China, is how do we get organizations to prepare people to work globally? So, if you have someone working in a factory in Shanghai or an office in Thailand, how do you get that person comfortable picking up the phone and talking to a colleague in Brazil or Texas or Toronto? Just giving them an email account or a SharePoint account is not enough.

We are looking at having our consortium do things around collaborating. The other thing is that we don’t endorse the solution but we are harvesting the next question. I am not interested in saying the answer is “put videoconferencing in every facility,” as an example. We think our role is to get at the right question, not necessarily having the right answer. Finally, we have members for 20 years and trust is key. If you look at the work of Stephen Covey and others, what makes learning most effective is the trust that people have. We have to do a better job in our associations and at our events in building trust and helping people understand that this is an environment where people are interested in what you have on your mind, even if it is contrary or disruptive.

How would you define the kind of trust you are talking about?

Trust is a learned competency. I don’t think it is a personality trait. It is the ability to listen clearly, the ability to be a good learner, and, in some cases, a good negotiator. Look, if five friends go out to dinner, nobody has to take notes. If I want to make them laugh, I don’t think it will take me many hours to come up with something funny. Often at meetings there is an assignment in common but not necessarily trust. I actually think you build it.

A really good magazine is trusted by everyone. An organization can get ripped to shreds in the publication and still trust the magazine as a place to advertise. There are models out there for building trust.

The dilemma for associations and for conferences is that we sometimes sell access with a big check, and five years later that company is not paying the check anymore—and their absence becomes a void. The big buzz this morning at a large association event was that this may be Microsoft’s last year [as an exhibitor]. That’s not what the buzz should be about, but rather how their industry is continuing to change the world. We need to position ourselves as trust leaders.

Here’s how to earn your CEU hour:

Once you finish reading this CMP Series article, watch this series of short video clips in which Jonathan Kopp, partner/global director of Ketchum Digital, and a presenter at Learning2011, talks about the convergence of social media and digital tools and learning: learningwiki.com/kopp11.

Then, to earn one hour of CEU credit, visit pcma.org/convenecmp to answer questions about the information contained within this CMP Series article and the videos.

To earn additional credit, you can take more more tests in our series here: pcma.co/ConveneCEUs

The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Convention Industry Council.

More Resources:

For more information on Learning2012, being held Oct. 21–24 in Orlando, visit learning2012.com.

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