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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So what is it and how and why do I want it?

I received a comment from someone who isn't familiar with the CMP designation asking for more information. I have created this forum to specifically address those who are in the process of trying to earn the designation. If you would like more information I invite you to visit the following web sites or email me and I will happily point you in the right direction!

For a great unbiased explanation visit:
http://eventplanning.about.com/od/eventcareers/f/cmpdesignation.htm

Convention Industry Council:
http://www.conventionindustry.org/cmp/candidates.htm

Meeting Professionals International:
http://www.mpiweb.org/Home.aspx

Professional Convention Management Association:
http://www.pcma.org/x9.xml

Contact me at: stacylharvey@vt.edu

Monday, May 3, 2010

Multiple Choice Questions.

A comment often heard after completion or leading up to the CMP exam is that the questions are vague, ambiguous, tricky, or unclear. To which the answer is……. wait for it….. Yes. No question that some of the questions are tricky, ambiguous and unclear. However, it is your challenge to dissect the question and determine what the BEST answer is. I find it unhelpful to bemoan this point because it is what it is. You may think I’m being unhelpful but in fact what I am saying is there is a way to prepare yourself to deal with the questions the way they are written.
OK, deep breath, we’ve gotten past the unfairness of dealing with this imperfect system, so let’s look at what the writers of these questions do. By the way, the writers are your fellow CMP folks who have jumped this hoop to go on and earn the honor of creating questions for you and those like you to jump over! Certified Meeting Professionals who attend the annual CMP conclave create questions for the exam bank. When you have jumped this hoop you can join the ranks of question makers and who knows maybe you can contribute the perfect questions which will remove this objection from the minds of all those with CMP aspirations.
Back to tackling those minxy multiple choice questions. Here are some key things to keep in mind when taking multiple choice tests:
1) Read the question and answers thoroughly. Circle key words if necessary.
2) If the answer is not immediately evident you can typically eliminate 2 of the choices leaving 2 remaining choices. Read the question again to ensure you are focused on the key words to select the best answer.
3) Wrong response answers are on the test, they are there to separate the wheat from the chaff. Expect it!
4) If you are going through the exam and hit a tough question. Skip the question and keep a list of questions to go back and review. Remember to make sure you stay on the correct number question and answer sheet bubble, especially if you are going to skip a question and go back. In addition to revisiting questions this is a good place to indicate questions which you feel are particularly vague, tricky, ambiguous and unclear. There is a place for you to indicate your objections after you complete the exam. This could lead to a question being thrown out if they receive enough well supported feedback.
5) If you are still not sure, ask yourself if the answer or question ties back to the goals of the meeting. If it does this is typically the path to follow. Meeting goals are key.
6) Expect questions to target higher level thinking processes. You will be expected to know the information and given a scenario you must be able to apply this information and come up with the appropriate response. This is harder than it seems and why it is so important that learning happens when reviewing the material not just rote memory. It is also important to remember that the answer must agree with the study materials. Even if you have done something successfully a different way for 20 years, you are not creating the tests, so the material is the content expert!
7) All or none of the above. I believe these questions should be removed, however, I am not the authority on that so be prepared to see them. Attack the question in the same way as the others. Process of elimination. If you cannot remove any of the answers then maybe the All of the above is correct, if you can remove one then it is probably not the correct answer.
I found practice tests to be the most effective way to become accustomed to tackling these test strategies. This is an area that some who have taken the CMP exam disagree with. I waited to start practice tests until I had completed all the study materials and was about thirty days out from the exam. Others feel the exams are not written in the same method and can lead to making someone feel over confident or confused if the questions are written intentionally confusing. This will have to be a personal choice and I recommend talking to those in your circle who have taken the exam and asking for their perspective!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Learning Styles – What is yours?

If you have not studied for a period of time it is advisable to refresh your understanding of what your learning style is and use it to your best advantage. There are a lot of web sites that can help you do an inventory to learn your most developed style. Google “Learning Styles” for more information.

Are you a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner? Visual learners process information by visual stimulation which can be enhanced with colors, graphics, and note-taking. Auditory learning experiences are enhanced with spoken material. Listening to CD’s while driving can increase the comprehension for auditory learners. Kinesthetic learners like to do. Engage them and do hands on activities when possible.

As a highly kinesthetic learner I employed enhancements for all three learning styles. The act of “doing” this helped me retain much more efficiently. There is no getting around the fact that studying for this certification exam is a lot of rote memory. Volumes of it! I suggest stacking the deck in your favor. I created note cards, read the chapters, wrote notes, typed the notes and then read them into a digital recorder to listen to while driving. Overkill? Maybe but it worked. The CD’s really helped me burn the information in my brain. I find Rote memory extremely challenging and this exam requires little bits of information in a lot of areas. I don’t want to scare you away but I encourage you to employ strategic study methods! In our CMP Boot Camp we do games, practice tests and as many fun exercises to support the acquisition of the material. Fellow CMP’ers please post any methods you have used that you found useful.

I want to but.....

Deciding to sit for a certification exam is a tough and personal decision. There are so many reasons why it isn’t a good time or next year is a better time. I had been in the business for fourteen years but I still wasn’t sure if it was “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Why should I expend all of that energy if this is not what I was going to be doing? In addition it costs money!!! So now I am considering something that will make me have to study and spend some hard earned cash. I live at the beach remember? So let’s see study 2 HUGE textbooks or go to the beach. You can see where I am going with this! That being said it is my responsibility to continue to grow and improve my skills. Ultimately it makes me a more valuable employee.

I worked for myself in 2004 so the money came out of my own pocket but I had flexibility with my time. If you are in a position where your employer doesn’t financially support you taking the exam have a discussion with them about allowing you two hours a week for study time. I have spoken with many of our CMP study group members who have said that customers were more comfortable knowing they were working with someone who had the designation. With that knowledge as ammunition I recommend a frank discussion with your employer. Be prepared! Ask some of your top customers how they feel about the designation. Do they consider it when looking at other locations? Bring these examples to your discussion. Ideally your employer would support your growth both financially and with study time. Do not be surprised if they have a caveat on their support. I.e. they may reimburse expenses 1) if you pass the exam, 2) after 6 months of employment or 3) cover a portion of the expenses. These are fair requests.

For me six years have passed and I still wonder if I know “what I want to be when I grow up.” Who wants to grow up anyway! If this is something you have been considering take the next step and remember: "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Confucius