by By Michael J. Shapiro | November 01, 2008
Kari Kesler 
 Kari Kesler
The Alexandria, Va.-based National Business Travel Association has announced it is developing a new strategic meetings management program certification, to be known as SMMC, which should be ready to launch in time for the association's annual convention in mid-2009.

NBTA's Groups and Meetings Committee has been developing the tenets of strategic meetings management programs (SMMP) since 2004, when it began publishing white papers on the subject.

This past July, a 25-member task force convened during NBTA's Inter­national Convention & Exhibition in Los Angeles to discuss the  possibility of creating a certification course for the methodology. Participants included members of industry organizations such as the Convention Industry Council, Meeting Professionals  International and the Pro­fessional Convention Man­agement Association.

According to Kari Kesler, head of the four-member facilitation team developing the specifics of the certification program, "There are a lot of reasons why now is a good time to do it. For one, SMMP has reached a maturity state. There is a constituency out there that needs more in terms of qualification and discipline pertaining to what they have chosen to do as a career, and there is really nothing out there for them."

Kesler, global manager, meeting solutions, for Morristown, N.J.-based Hon­eywell International, said the term "strategic meetings management program" has been defined differently by a number of organizations, leading to inaccuracies. NBTA's SMMC course, she noted, aims to bring clarity to the role.

"Strategic meetings management has almost nothing to do with planning," Kesler explained. As opposed to the logistics and execution of meeting planning, she added, SMMP is an "enterprise-wide strategy to drive and maintain standards, processes and policies" with respect to meetings spend throughout an organization.

The for-fee program might consist of a combination of course work and projects. To obtain their certification, candidates will need to prove a measure of competency in eight core areas: application integration, business management, communications, data analysis, leadership, risk management, strategy management and trend analysis.

Lisa English, CMP, CMM, director of operations for Carlsbad, Calif.-based Concepts Worldwide, a strategic meetings management and consulting company, said the SMMC is being designed for those in a position to implement strategic meetings programs. She added that the certification will be marketed and available to anyone in the industry, not just NBTA members.

"I absolutely think that [SMMC] is going to be worthwhile to meeting planners," said English, a longtime NBTA and MPI member who also serves on the facilitation team. "I see it as an additional way for them to take that next step to the strategic level."