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Are you a senior meeting planner? SPIN is for you!

12/03/2012

If you could wave a magic wand and create an association that would deliver exactly what you need as a senior-level planner, what would it look like?
An Interview with Shawna Suckow, CMP, Founder of the Senior Planners Industry Network (SPIN)

Shawna Suckow, CMP, has a pretty good idea, since she has created just such an association.  SPIN, the Senior Planners Industry Network, began in 2008 as an idea for Suckow to stay connected with her senior-level planner colleagues via a private group on LinkedIn.  She shared the idea with a few of them, and asked them to spread the word.  They certainly did, because the group has grown to over 2,200 members worldwide today…all planners with at least 10 years of full-time experience (although the average is 20 years, just like Suckow herself, a former corporate planner).

When the group reached 500 members within just five months, Suckow realized that she had stumbled upon something that senior-level planners responded to: the need to connect with their peers in a way that wasn't available elsewhere in the industry.  The group is supplier-free, to keep the focus on the planners.  When the group reached 1,000 members, Suckow closed her lucrative company to follow where SPIN was leading her.

"It's been a challenge to create something from nothing, especially something that is so different from the norm," said Suckow.  "I've never been happier though – I feel like what we're doing is really making a difference."

"We're turning the typical association model on its head," said Suckow.  "We like to think of ourselves as an un-association because we don't do things the way you might expect.  We are not all things to all people; we're just for senior-level planners.   Basic membership is free.  Elite membership is optional and only for members who see the value in what we're offering."   

According to SPIN's web site (www.spinplanners.com), their ‘Board of Directors' is all 2,200 members, not the typical dozen of a normal association.  The group also has no mission statement, and is proud of that. "We are constantly evolving and modifying based on member needs, because we are senior-level planners, too," explains Suckow.  "We don't believe in adhering to 100-year old ideas for how we should run things today."

SPIN small staff of three prides itself on its innovative ideas.  This month, they are launching the industry's first Virtual Hosted Buyer Program, where planners and suppliers hold one-on-one appointments via video conference over the course of an entire week, from their own offices.  With no need to travel, Suckow says planners are being very responsive.  "With today's demanding work schedules, senior-level planners have a hard time leaving the office to travel to Hosted Buyer events," explained Suckow.  "We believe this is a great solution to get them access to the suppliers they want to meet, to do business all over the world from their own office."

SPIN also launches Virtual Mastermind Groups this month.  The groups are designed to help members set and achieve their goals with the help of peers in small groups that share candid advice, accountability, and a strict code of privacy.  The program will arrange groups of four to seven members who all share the same challenge or goal (marketing, SMMP, accountability, book writing, etc.) or share the same planner type (Corporate, Association, etc.).   Once per month for six months, members meet via video conference, so busy planners can 'meet' with their group even if they're on the road.

The group started in North America, but is now expanding all over the world, to foster a collective exchange of ideas, resources and support for her senior-level peers.  

"I love being able to network with planners at the same experience level! It is so wonderful to have a planner-only platform," said SPIN member Sue Stein, an association planner from the U.S.

Member Christy Lamagna adds, "I appreciate that the goal of SPIN is truly to open doors, assist in communication, find new ways to do things and help each of us learn, grow and improve."

Where does Suckow see the group in five years?  ""It's not up to me," says Suckow.  "It's entirely up to the group.  I may be the president, but I'm also just a member like everyone else!"




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