You already have a job as a meeting/event planner. It’s even possible to move up in your company over the coming months and years if you work hard. So why, then, do you need to pursue a CMP, CIS, DMCP or other certification? Why do you need to take time out of your already over-scheduled schedule to attend industry education sessions?
The answer is that the benefits are substantial, even career-changing. But don’t just take our word for it. We went to the experts — industry stars who have taken the time to get certifications in their respective areas of expertise within the meetings and incentives industry. All of these credentialed meeting planners, incentive specialists and destination experts are believers in education and certification and can tell you exactly how education and certification benefitted them — and why they know they will benefit you, too.
Lori Pugh Marcum, CMP, CMM, manager of global education and event production for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), puts it this way: “Continuing education is critical to staying relevant in our industry. I knew that the knowledge and skills I would gain through pursuing my CMP and CMM would help to advance my career. The designations act as a visual resume and I am taken more seriously when our event attendees and stakeholders see the designations on my email signature and on my name tag. I’ve used the education I received in my CMM program to make improved process changes in my department.”
“Not only do I have the tools to perform my duties with advanced education and training, but I am also more efficient due to the skills and knowledge I’ve gained.” Jane Scaletta DMCP, CIS
Planners should certainly make the investment in themselves to pursue both the CMP and CMM certifications today to advance their careers and to improve upon their meetings and events, Marcum says. But there’s another reason as well: “To help mentor junior planners with the knowledge they have gained.”
Marcum also points to interaction among peers as an important element of education classes, especially at conferences and industry events. “There are so many peer-to-peer learning activities at a conference such as WEC that you simply can’t learn from a book or webinar,” she says. “The knowledge-sharing, creative brainstorming and attendee connections that take place at conferences and industry events can be game-changers for your career advancement.”
It goes without saying that all education sessions are not equal in terms of supplying exactly what planners need. The most successful sessions, Marcum notes, are those that are interactive and provide time for reflection as to how the content can best be used in a planner’s professional as well as personal life.
And regardless of how good an education presentation may be, planners need to augment and use what they learn, and setting goals is a good way to do both. “Give yourself professional development goals that need to be met yearly,” Marcum advises. “Some examples could be: watch one webinar quarterly, attend one conference this year or earn enough clock hours to qualify for the CMM/CMP this year.”
Michelle Crosby, CMP, DMCP, general manager of Hosts Texas, a DMC focusing on events in San Antonio and Austin, emphasizes that learning is a lifelong proposition. “I personally believe that a person is never done learning. My pursuit to obtain and maintain both my CMP and DMCP certifications are my desire to keep myself on the cutting edge of education both for myself and for the clients we serve.”
She says certification has definitely advanced her along her career path. “Having and maintaining my certifications provides both a sense of accomplishment for myself and proves to the clients I work with that I am committed to the industry that I love so much. It also provides a sense of camaraderie. When I’m working with a fellow CMP or DMCP in the industry, there is an unspoken sense of comfort. Each of us have been through the study sessions, read the books, taken the exams and worked hard to maintain these certifications. It’s like a rite of passage.”
To planners and others in the industry who are unsure of why to pursue certification, Crosby provides multiple reasons for doing so.
“First, this industry is constantly evolving. Education and certification help maintain a handle on this evolution and provide the tools to keep a person on the forefront and not left in the dust. Next, additional credibility is a plus among peers and with clients and vendor partners. Who doesn’t like that?”
And finally, she says, “If nothing else, do it for personal accomplishment. It’s so gratifying to say that you took the time to invest in yourself and that you will continue to do so by maintaining a designation in the field that brings you joy.”
As for continuing education, Crosby emphasizes the importance of that as well. “One never knows when the next big idea or solution to a problem you might be experiencing will pop up. Continuing education is a great way to bounce ideas off of colleagues, learn about new cutting-edge technology and get insight into upcoming trends.”
Seeing education in action, she adds, is one of the most successful ways that adults learn. “I personally have found that it’s all about immersing yourself in an education experience with friends and fellow industry colleagues that provides the best return on my education investment.”
But we’ve all been at industry events where some education sessions become the buzz of the event and others are merely so-so. What makes the difference? “The elements that make a successful education session,” Crosby says, “lie in the details of the room layout and delivery method. Knowing the audience demographics and attendees’ learning style in advance plays a large part in getting a positive outcome from any education offering.”
As an example, she notes, “Last year, our company held our annual client forum, which provided an internal company meeting and a client meeting experience during the event. Both were approached differently with a variety of seating styles, perimeter décor, snacks and mood lighting. The internal company meeting was brightly lit and featured lots of low-seating options in the front of the room and high-table seating in the back of the room. There were power outlets available in all areas of the space and lots of high-energy snacks available to keep attendees operating at peak efficiency. Presentations were fast paced and always started and ended on time.
The client experience, she continues, was more organic. “We had a variety of table sizes, soft-seating options for lounging, greenery around the perimeter of the room, warm lighting concepts, light music and more comforting snacks to ease everyone into each education session. All elements were uplifting, insightful and presented by various industry minds and educators to provide a well-rounded experience for everyone in the room. Each group walked away with positive comments about how easy it was to collaborate with others at their specific breakouts and how much they learned throughout the week.”
In terms of advice for those debating whether to continue their education to pursue certification, Crosby has this to say: “My biggest tip if you’re considering certification in the industry is to not hesitate. Do it now. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to do it or wait until it’s necessary to obtain it. Figure out what will help catapult you to the next step in your career and aim for that certification. Go for the gusto! You won’t regret it.”
For Jane Scaletta, DMCP, CIS, president at Dolfin Destinations Inc., certification is a way to stand out from the competition. “I wanted to have a competitive advantage over my competitors by differentiating myself and my company from other professionals. It was important for me to demonstrate my commitment to the industry that I work in. I also wanted to learn more and stay current with the latest industry information. This advance training allowed me to gain professional credibility with our clients and show them that I have the commitment and dedication to our industry.”
Like our other credentialed industry stars, Scaletta is unequivocal that certification has helped to advance her career. “Absolutely it has,” she says. “Not only do I have the tools to perform my duties with advanced education and training, but I am also more efficient due to the skills and knowledge I’ve gained. It has also opened the doors to many opportunities as I’m recognized as a peer to clients who seek to work with a similar network of people.”
As to the primary reasons planners should move forward toward obtaining certification, Scaletta is succinct. “It will increase your learning potential and update your knowledge and skills,” she says. “It will give you a competitive advantage over your competition and it will help you build professional credibility.
While certification is certainly important, it’s not the only critical component of standing out. Like the others, Scaletta is a proponent of continuing education for those in the meetings industry, and she says there are added benefits to participating in education in person.
“We need to continue our education because there is always a faster, more efficient and highly successful way of doing business. You’re either going to stay on top of it with continuing education … or get left behind. Our industry is forever changing and it’s vast,” she points out. “We can’t know everything about it.”
In addition, she says, “We also need motivation on a regular basis to keep us fresh and alive as our industry has high demands on our professional and personal lives.”
There are of course many ways to deliver education and one design she favors is interactivity. “Continuing education is fast becoming more interactive as it’s proven that this type of learning experience helps increase the retention of material learned. So having continuing education at industry events and in interesting venues can actually draw more attendance than a three-hour computer test.”
In addition to interactive sessions, Scaletta thinks the most successful education session is the one where you actually implement what you’ve learned. To that end she provides an example from her own education experience.
“I attended a Positive Impact training session on how to create a Roadmap for Sustainability through SITE Global as I am on the SITE Global Sustainability Committee,” she says. “Through this learning, I’ve taught other SITE chapters how to implement their own Roadmap. I’m the president-elect for SITE Florida & Caribbean’s chapter. Last year we implemented the Roadmap to Sustainability for our chapter and we now work off it continuously. I have helped other chapters such as Texas, Canada, Mexico and Chicago with their Roadmap as well and they’ve all shown their passion for sustainability in the events industry.”
If you’re on the fence about whether or not to go for certification, Scaletta has three things for you to consider — and ways in which you can achieve the success you want. It all starts with choosing the right certification for you.
No. 1, she says, “Pick a certification program that enhances your day-to-day job. For instance, if you work with incentive programs, get your CIS and then your CITP. If you do meetings, then get your CMP followed by your CMM and CSEP.”
No. 2 on Scaletta’s list: “Join an association that helps you network and allows you to learn from people in your industry. There are many possible organizations to join and you need to join the one that best matches your industry and that you feel comfortable with. I’m a member of SITE, MPI and FICP because they all speak to my industry and my clientele.”
No. 3, Scaletta says, “Go big! Attend the large conferences of your association or industry. Each association takes great pride in pulling together fabulous speakers, learning experiences, destination activities and networking opportunities. I try to attend at least three to four conferences each year that are all different from each other. The result is that I come away with amazing connections, learning experiences and friendships.”C&IT