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The Rock Star of Program Reimagination

How 2018 Changemaker Marci Thompson revitalized her organization’s programming with a little talking, a lot of strategy building, and a ton of idea activations.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 20 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Marci Thompson
Vice President, Knowledge and Professional Development
Society for Marketing Professional Services

For redesigning the future of SMPS’ learning business

Making Change
When I joined SMPS, I immediately saw an opportunity to revitalize our programming. Understanding that I was a business within a business, I first created a vision for our team: to inspire devotion through learning. Then I assessed our gaps and started building and aligning our content accordingly. After a year of being the senior director of education, I was promoted to vice president—and I requested that my title and my department name be changed to “Knowledge and Professional Development.” Details matter, and I needed my title and team to point to the future of our learning business.

I experimented often and won my staff team and leaders over by consistently winning—not just by generating revenue, but also by affirming our position as the go-to resource for marketing and business development training in our industry, elevating the volunteer/subject-matter expert experience, and cultivating emerging leaders. I did a little talking, a lot of strategy building, and executed a ton of ideas. Since year one I have developed a dozen or more new learning opportunities and led the charge to reinvent our 2017 annual conference. The SMPS learning business remains on a path of growth.

Of course, I did not do this all on my own! I have supportive leadership, dynamic colleagues, and exceptional peers in the industry who encourage me, challenge me, and keep me thinking differently.

What’s Next
I am creating a plan to draw the untapped rock stars of our industry. My goal over the next several months is to launch a thought leader recruitment campaign that will encourage emerging faculty and presenters to serve as subject-matter experts. The roll out of this campaign will include special training and development. 

Giving Back
I am a champion for learning and experience design. As an educator and mentor, I aspire to be the answer that I needed as I was growing into the professional I am today. 

Managing Change
The natural composition of growth is change. If you or your business is not growing, then you are dying. In this rapidly changing world, speed to market with fresh content and new experiences are your competitive advantage.

Role Model
Shawn Boynes, FASAE, CAE, executive director, American Association of Anatomists, saw my potential and offered me projects and opportunities to pull out the brilliance from within. He trusted me to try new things related to learning and event design and offered me a safe place to experiment. Shawn models leadership.  

Best Business Advice
Seth Godin said it best: “The cost of being wrong is less than the cost of doing nothing.”

Thinking Differently
If you look up the opposite of “play it safe” in the dictionary, you’ll see my picture. 

Got an Hour to Spare?
You need time, energy, and mental capacity to be innovative and creative.  So, every free moment, I am thinking, daydreaming, learning, and mentally curating my next great idea.




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