To the Point

What Meeting Professionals Can Learn From CFOs

Bean counters? Says who?

Chief financial officers may have gotten a bad rap over the years. Often called “number crunchers” or “bean counters,” CFOs might know their organization’s balance sheet likethe back of their hand, but they haven’t been perceived as understanding the way the entire organization works outside of money matters.

But that seems to be changing.

CFOs are rising up the corporate ladder, commanding more respect than ever and being tapped to oversee everything from supply-chain logistics to data security, as pointed out in a recent article in The Washington Post. And the demand for good CFOs is high, according to new data from The Wall Street Journal, which shows that raises for top CFOs outpaced raises for CEOs last year. What’s more, an increasing number of CFOs are being promoted into chief-executive positions — United Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes and Oracle CEO Safra Catz are just two recent examples. 

What’s this got to do with meeting professionals? I’m well aware of how many of you aspire to elevate your role and to gain a seat at the table for many more of your organization’s decision-making processes. Some of you have been able to rise to that strategic level. But I think more meeting professionals can use their role as a stepping stone to other executive positions, if they choose.   

One way to get there is to expand your grasp of skills outside of meetings. Certainly, finding the time and resources to do that is a challenge, but PCMA Business School at our annual Convening Leaders and Education Conference events offers an easy way to gain valuable expertise in other areas. We tap into experts from top business schools to teach accounting, leadership, ethics, and decision-making as part of our events’ education program.

Once you’ve gained that expanded knowledge, take every opportunity to demonstrate it at your organization. Share with your boss and colleagues what you’ve learned. Then seek out ways — either on your own or with their assistance — to put what you’ve mastered to work on the job. 

It’s also important to keep raising awareness of the value of face-to-face meetings. PCMA and the entire Meetings Mean Business Coalition are working actively on this front, but it’s an effort that has the most lasting effect if more in the industry join in.

Perhaps you can be doing more to prove the value of your face-to-face meetings to your organization’s bottom line, other than sharing revenues from last year’s annual meeting. Do you collect data that helps you tell your story? For example, how many people cite your meetings as a reason for joining your association? Or if you’re on the corporate side of the industry, how did sales spike after face-to-face education and training? How is this information shared throughout your organization?

Elevating the role of face-to-face meetings and meeting professionals requires continuous effort. What else can PCMA do to help? I welcome your thoughts.

Deborah Sexton

Deborah Sexton is president and CEO of PCMA.