My CMM Journey

I like the term, bucket list. It conjures up all sorts of smart and interesting adventures. Some ideas might include a “Sound of Music” trip to Austria, or being dunked in the ocean within a shark-protective cage. How about a cameo appearance on American Horror Story…? Whatever your dream bucket list is, it sure is fun to think about the possibilities.

We have bucket list thoughts for our retirement years. And, we certainly have many for our younger, working years. One career bucket list item that’s been on my hope-to-do list has been obtaining my CMM designation. For years I’ve wanted to sit for the CMM, but work schedules, family, finances and all those things that can get in our way, did. Then, in 2015 something great happened. I had availability!!

I don’t know how it happened but the one week the CMM program was being offered in Anaheim, California worked for my schedule. I wasn’t traveling and everything was in order. So, I contacted the CMM office and discovered that I qualified to participate in the educational journey.

While I earned my CMP designation back in 1989, the CMM was always an educational career goal of mine. I have such respect for MPISCC-member CMMs such as Laurel Coote, CMM; Darlene Evans, CMP, CMM; Judi Froehlich, CMM; and Carroll Reuben, CMP, CMM, to name a few. I wanted to follow in their footsteps and take my industry learning to that next level.

The CMM Education Process

My CMM journey involved strict course work, MUCH reading and preparation, team exercises, presentations, budget processing and so much more. It began with an application and approval process, a 4-day intensive educational experience with 40+ industry professionals, a written CMM paper which I refer to as a “mini-thesis”, and much homework and research. In March 2016 I was notified that that I earned my CMM, and I could not have been more proud and pleased.

I think of myself as a constant student of life. Reading, travel, new food choices and volunteer opportunities are my passions. The CMM educational process is not just about the education and process, it’s so much more. It’s all about the people and organizations we serve. It began with an understanding of how I do things in my day-to-day work world. Spending time with my fellow CMM students, we learned to take our planning and program management to a higher level as we considered the strategy behind the meeting. We identified problems, and in discussion strove to understand the root of the issue. We didn’t just discuss meeting situations and employer challenges, we dissected them.

On the final day of our CMM journey, we were completely exhausted. Throughout long days we were collectively “on our toes” at all times, knowing that we could be called upon at any time for a stand-up explanation and scenario of the discussion at hand. I’m certain that everyone in that conference room at the Anaheim Convention Center felt their blood racing at all times. That final day, we selected our individual CMM project topics. And mine was Risk Management for the Meetings Industry.

Thesis Topics

For me, it was a workable topic. I fundamentally want my meeting attendees to be safe at all times. My workplace team and I strive to mitigate risks both financially,  with IT and with security. From alcohol consumption to sweeping a meeting room at the conclusion of a conference for leftover print materials – my 100-page CMM paper was jam-backed with detailed information, graphs, charts, figures and situations. It was NOT an easy process. And, to be quite honest I often thought, “What did I get myself involved with?”

But, in the end, after working with that amazing CMM faculty staff and crew, after partnering with all those brilliant meeting professionals from all over the globe, after learning that I earned my CMM designation, I found it to be a great and fulfilling reward.

“Accept that you are a life-long student. We are never complete. Each and every day there are opportunities to learn, teach, share, experience and become better.”

Learning comes in all shapes and sizes. The CMM program is not for everyone. It’s not inexpensive and it takes quite a bit of time if you want to successfully pass.

How To Be a Lifelong Learner

With the theme of life-long continuing education, here are my tips to live by:

Accept that you are a life-long student. We are never complete. Each and every day there are opportunities to learn, teach, share, experience and become “better”.

Read anything and everything that you can get hold of. Read about our industry. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read about politics, technology, business and personal empowerment. ALWAYS have a book, publication or article with you. Never be without your next “read”.

Talk, network, visit and “get out there”. Meet for coffee. Start a networking group and share ideas and learnings.

Attend MPI programs. Stay until the meeting concludes. Ask questions. Pick up the brochures placed on the information tables. Arrive early. Attend those networking receptions prior to start of the actual meeting.

Help wherever you can. Stretch yourself. Sign-up for a task that you’ve not done before. Reach out to industry leadership and ask for their advice, thoughts and council. People want to help. Let them know what you need and they will be there.

Be smart with your social media. Post and share articles. Like and share smart information. Be a part of the educational process. Think and do “less is more”. Only post and like relevant materials and stray away from items that is tasteless and not relevant.

Finally, be open. Be open to new ideas, ways of learning, new people and situations that are out of your comfort zone. Push yourself and feel the excitement of that new and unique educational experience. Meeting professionals are facilitators, producers, teachers and masters of many crafts. First and foremost always be a student.

I applaud our industry CMPs, CMMs and all who embrace on-going education, mentors, and teachers.

Thomas Smith, CMP, CMM

Thomas V. Smith, CMP