NBTA Convention: The Year Of The Meeting

Just back from a session- and event-packed week at the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), and I have to say that it was one of the more enjoyable and effective NBTA conventions that I can remember attending (No need to tell you how many NBTA annual conferences I've got under my belt). It was enjoyable for me because I got to touch base with lots of friends and meet new contacts on both the buyer and supplier side representing the corporate meetings industry. [more]

The location couldn't have been better, too--San Diego. Come on now, who doesn't like San Diego? Sunny and perfect temperatures every day. Plus the logistics were ideal, with minimal bussing, and, depending on where you stayed, you could walk everywhere!

And I say the show was "effective" because I really felt like the association packed the three-day event with something for everyone--a variety of sessions for entry-level travel and meeting managers, all the way to senior-level managers in charge of global corporate travel and entertainment and meetings budgets. For a convention that size (5,600 attendees, including 1,240 travel buyers from 30 nations), that's quite a feat to provide educational forums for all levels of our profession.

And this was the year of meetings at NBTA. When I say that, I mean that there were numerous classes dedicated to learning about and building Strategic Meetings Management Programs (SMMPs), designed to help companies centralize and automate budgeting, planning, sourcing, attendee management and data review and management for group events. At the conference, the NBTA's Groups & Meetings Committee also officially launched its Strategic Meetings Management Certification (SMMC) program, a formal multi-week education program, akin to NBTA's CCTE program for corporate travel managers. In fact, as a founder of the Groups & Meetings Committee, I was thrilled to make a few comments at a special reception unveiling the SMMC program last Tuesday night. It was a great evening, co-sponsored by StarCite and Starwood, and a wonderful opportunity to thank all the "superstars" of the committee who put in countless time and energy over the years developing the official certification.

Kari Knoll Kesler, who just ended her term as NBTA Board Director, former co-chair of the Groups & Meetings Committee and lead thought developer of the SMMC, who I often refer to as the "Mother of SMMP," was of course there (Kari always jokes that if she's the Mother of SMMC, then I’m the Father!  Nothing scandalous I promise!). From the beaming smile on her face, I could tell it was a glorious moment for her.  Joni Miyashiro was there, too. Joni, former Global Travel Category Manager at Amgen, Inc., is not only my cousin, but she was also very instrumental in laying the groundwork for SMMC. Both Kari and Joni now run their own consulting outfits. And it was great to see Tracey Wilt, manager of Global Travel, Meetings & Conference Solutions at Xerox, also a strong voice for meetings management, an original co-chair of the committee and an SMMC task force member. Notably absent, however, was Madlyn Caliri, Global Procurement Director at Reed Elsevier, and that was a shame, because Maddi was also one of the original co-chairs of the committee that I appointed, along with Tracey, and she put a good amount of blood, sweat and tears into making the committee and its educational resources what they are today.  To read the story of the evolution of the NBTA Groups and Meetings Committee, read a recent article in Corporate Meetings and Incentives that chronicles the evolution of the committee and development of SMMP & SMMC.

It may seem like I'm name-dropping here, but I think it's so important to acknowledge some of the incredibly instrumental hard-working Groups & Meetings Committee volunteers. Believe me, I'd like to list more if I had the space. For me, it was important that people got to see the talent behind the work. At the reception, I looked around the room and thought about the early days of the committee and how what started out as a concept about the convergence of the business travel and meetings management worlds has now crystallized into concrete, innovative programs to benefit travel and meeting managers who want to save their companies money and implement better control over meetings expenditures.

Looking around the audience at the SMMP reception was a pretty powerful moment for me.  It was equally as meaningful as the Industry Icon award I received during the conference.  It is a perfect example of what I said in my acceptance speech, that we accomplish things in life not as individuals, but as a grand group effort. But more on that in my next post.

What were your impressions of NBTA this year?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management.