SMM – Moving Beyond ROI to Understand How Adults Learn

Published by Robyn Mietkiewicz | Topics: Conferences

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Both the recession and increased expectations by senior management for improved team productivity, cost savings, and ROI, have changed the way meeting professionals plan and executive meetings. The ability to demonstrate value to senior management has become increasingly important. This value goes beyond ROI as meeting professionals serve as educators, driving meeting content and educational imperatives.  Furthermore, the bar has been raised by the fast
moving initiative, Strategic Meeting Management (SMM), a new “value and accountability” model for meeting planning, travel and procurement teams.

What is SMM?

SMM is defined as a disciplined approach to enterprise wide meeting management and drives meeting value, cost savings and risk reduction. But SMM goes beyond meeting budgets and bottom line savings, as meeting professionals must focus on meeting architecture, design and the overall attendee experience. Performance based outcomes are taking center stage and evaluating the big picture goals now includes increased team productivity.

SMM clearly, is our industry’s hottest initiative, but often too much emphasis is placed on cost savings and not enough emphasis on meeting design, architecture, content and learner outcomes. As meeting professionals work hard to maximize overall meeting value, Return on Event (ROE), will be an important piece of the puzzle. Understanding the value of “people, productivity and profitability” will be critical to getting senior managements’ buy-in to total meeting value. ROE takes into account the behaviors, attitudes and skills, which are all tied into learning enhancement.

Understanding How Adults Learn

It is essential for meeting professionals to have a strong understanding of how adults learn to be able to effectively design meeting content and learning environments to meet the needs for each meeting. Adragogy, which is the art and science of helping adults learn, defines the adult learner as someone who:

  • Can direct his or her own learning – wants to be involved in the planning of the meeting content
  • Is a rich resource for learning due to their own life experiences and knowledge
  • Whose social roles will affect their learning needs
  • Is interested in immediate application of the knowledge learned
  • Is motivated by internal factors rather than external (problem centered vs. content-oriented)

 Adult learning is made up of the following four cornerstones:

  • Action Learning
    • Action learning acknowledges classroom training as inefficient. It incorporates work on a real project allowing participants to work in small groups or teams with the help of a learning coach or facilitator. Attention to the diversity of the group is critical to enhancing the learning process.
  • Experiential Learning
    • Instead of just thinking and talking about the material, experiential learning allows the attendee to “learn by doing.” This learning style allows the attendee to build on their own experiences via a more holistic approach. The attendees have the opportunity to set goals, plan, make decisions, take action, and review and reflect on the outcomes.
  • Project Based Learning
    • Attendees have an opportunity to work in groups to solve problems. The attendee has a chance to work on real-life scenarios using group chosen strategies that would be effective in an actual work environment. It facilitates teamwork and collaboration skills which are applicable to many adult learning situations.
  • Self-Directed Learning
    • Allows individuals to determine their own learning needs and identify the resources to achieve positive outcomes. This style of learning allows the individual to integrate learning into their daily routine and promotes reflection and action.

Re-Engaging Event Attendees

So what does this all mean for the meeting professional? It is time to re-evaluate event learning models and determine new ways to re-engage your attendees. Understanding adult learners and your specific audience for each meeting will allow you to maximize the impact of learning outcomes, which are transferred into company culture. Engage your attendees in the overall meeting content design and incorporate “hands-on” learning experiences. Provide small-group activities that allow attendees to share and reflect on their learning experience. Most importantly, understanding the importance of coaching and follow-up support adult learners need to turn their learning experience into a sustained daily practice will be the key to your success.

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About Robyn Mietkiewicz

Robyn M. Mietkiewicz, CMP, is a Director, Accounts & Global Meeting Management Services, at Meeting Sites Resource (MSR), a global specialist in meeting site research and hotel/contract negotiations. MSR also offers on-line registration, professional on-site staffing, meeting industry education, SMM consulting and advanced meeting technology solutions. Robyn currently serves on the Board of Directors for the MPI Orange County Chapter as the Immediate Past President. She can be reached at 949-250-7483 x 300 or via email at

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