The U.S. meetings industry is an economic powerhouse, with 1.9 million meetings in 2016 contributing $845 billion in economic impact, according to the Event Industry Council’s 2018 Economic Significance of Meetings to the U.S. Economy Report.
Meetings require qualified, educated, knowledgeable planners who understand budgets, contracts, ROI and value, not to mention design, F&B, space requirements and transportation issues. Many planners must also understand legal and other intricacies of particular industries, as well as changing regulations that impact meetings.
Staying current with relevant continuing education and attaining certification makes planners more valuable in the meetings marketplace and arguably better at performing their jobs. Whether new to the industry or experienced, planners have many ways to ramp up their skills.
The most recognized industry certification is the CMP. Karen Kotowski, CMP, CAE, chief executive officer of the Events Industry Council (EIC), says, “Events Industry Council has delivered the CMP program since its inception in 1985. The CMP recognizes industry professionals who meet the established prerequisite education and experience requirements and pass a rigorously comprehensive exam designed to assure baselines competencies and to differentiate professionals. CMPs continue to demonstrate their professional competency through continuing education and experience every five years in order to maintain the credential.”
Candidates must have three years of event planning experience and a full-time job in the industry in order to apply.
“Recruiters and prospective employers recognize CMP Certification as the most prestigious designation in the growing industry.”
The value of the CMP program is in part monetary for planners — those with CMP certification earn about $10,000 more per year in salary than planners without it. Additionally, it may help with jobs.
“Certification opens the door to better and more opportunities. Clients’ expectations for meetings are higher than ever, and recruiters and prospective employers recognize CMP Certification as the most prestigious designation in the growing industry.” — Karen Kotowski, CMP, CAE
Yet the CMP’s value to the industry is even greater, raising the bar on professionalism in all areas.
“The CMP program aims to increase the professionalism of meeting management professionals in all sectors of the industry by identifying a comprehensive body of knowledge in the profession,” says Zibby Aman, senior manager, education, with PCMA. “The certification also works to promote industry standards, practices and ethics, which are designed to advance the art and science of meeting management. The certification helps to increase the value of Certified Meeting Professionals to their employers by maximizing the value received from the products and services provided by CMPs.”
PCMA is a preferred education provider for the CMP exam and offers an online CMP prep course. “The course is designed with pre-test/post-test handouts, as well as a full-length, timed practice exam to help learners prepare to take the exam, all while earning 68 clock hours to sit for the exam,” Aman says. “The EIC requires that 25 hours of continuing education credit is earned prior to registering for the exam. Our prep course enables learners to earn those credits while studying for the exam.”
For planners interested in focusing on special events, there’s CSEP certification. “The CSEP is the only other openly recognized certification in the event planning industry,” Aman says, “and focuses more on special events than meeting planning. Just like with the CMP, candidates are required to have three years of experience in the industry and must be currently employed, or have been employed, in the special events industry in the last 12 months.”
The CMM is different than the CMP. To start, it’s a certificate program, not a certification. “It’s important to note the distinction between certifications and certificates,” Aman says. “Certification is an accredited designation that demonstrates event planning expertise and experience. It’s a title that a planner earns after passing an exam after a set number of years of experience in planning events. A certificate is a document that proves you’ve taken a course for the purpose of learning about event planning; and that you’ve passed that particular program’s requirements for showing that you understand the material.”
The assessment-based CMM certificate is offered through MPI. “Our CMM certificate program prepares meeting professionals for leadership roles in the industry,” says Jessie States, CMM, manager of professional development at MPI. “It’s an intensive, three-phased executive education program that packs the highlights of a world-class graduate degree program into four days, followed by eight hours of advanced-level online coursework and a final project focused on solving a real-world, work-based problem. Taught by Indiana University faculty, the entire program takes 15 weeks to complete. Upon successful completion of the coursework, attendees earn 48 clock hours and 4.8 university CEUs. They also have the opportunity to earn three graduate credit hours, which can be applied to the Indiana University Kelley School’s Executive Degree Program (EDP) Business Management Certificate.”
The CMM, States adds, “is structured to complement the CMP and focuses on strategic initiatives and executive decision-making.”
According to Aman, “The CMM is an MBA-level executive education program for meeting professionals with more than seven years of experience, including a minimum of three years in management positions.”
Planners wishing to pursue a CMM have several options. “Many planners work toward their CMM by attending local colleges that have disciplines or curriculums designed to focus on the business events industry,” Aman says. “Other planners use the MPI program to complete the required course work and hours needed to gain the certification. In any program that prepares you for the CMM, courses are designed to develop the event professional’s ability to analyze business data, explore the skills necessary to succeed in managing teams and to gain exposure to finance, risk analysis and other components of managing a business. Any program that offers these types of higher business programs will be effective in preparing the event professional for the certification.
“For planners looking to build a career path that includes management and positions requiring thought leadership and c-suite positions, the CMM may be a great path toward building the core competencies required for these positions,” Aman adds. “It also demonstrates to potential employers your seriousness in becoming an industry leader.”
Planners in the medical and pharma industries need additional skills and knowledge. These meetings are highly regulated by the government and medical industry, here and internationally. There are regulations related to where these meetings can take place, who can sponsor them, who can lead education sessions, what kinds of giveaways are permitted to attendees and more.
The CMP-HC tests planners on the specifics of planning meetings in the healthcare space. “Events Industry Council launched the CMP-HC subspecialty in 2013 to respond to the need for event professionals in healthcare meeting management to have a way to distinguish themselves in the marketplace,” Kotowski says. “Since all CMP-HC holders must also hold a valid CMP certification, clients can see the CMP-HC as the badge of excellence in healthcare meetings management.”
To be eligible to take the CMP-HC exam, she says, “An individual must hold a valid and current CMP, have three years (36 months) of experience in healthcare meeting management and complete five hours of professional development specifically related to healthcare meeting management.”
“The DES credential,” Aman says, “is designed for event and meeting planners who want continuing education and training on the management and product of digital events. The DES certification course covers planning, producing and measuring results of live stream and digital engagement events.”
The desire for that credential may grow as technology continues to disrupt and influence how meetings are designed and experienced.
“Current education trends for meeting planners align with those of the education industry in general,” says Melissa Majors, director, MPI Academy. “Technology is disrupting everything we do and is significantly influencing the way learners prefer to learn. They desire modernized experiences that provide immediate access to information needed to solve problems and delivered in a personalized way.
“As a result, we’re seeing a rise in use of digital learning solutions and increased demand for online courses, virtual events, online social learning, curated content and AI-powered experiences that predict your interests and make relevant recommendations.”
Aman agrees. “As we approach the digitalization of almost every industry, PCMA is always looking forward to how technology and digitization can inform the way we build education content. Specifically, how digital education and face-to-face education can inform each other to build greater participant engagement and interest through an open feedback loop that is constantly providing data and information to the types of content most relevant to participants.”
But it’s not just about tech. “While this past year was an innovative one for the events industry with technological trends taking center stage, the most frequent education request for content and resources I received this year were topics tied to event safety and security planning,” Aman adds. “And while risk and crisis management is not new, recent high-profile crises and headlines have led event planners to re-evaluate how they manage their event security. I believe many are coming to the realization they are not as prepared or comfortable as they would want to be. The EIC documented last year that the topic leading trend shaping event industry education is around safety and security.”
Risk management, Kotowski notes, has been a CMP domain for quite a while. “However, what that means has expanded as we deal with issues such as physical security, cybersecurity and the General Data Protection Regulation, for example. EIC’s Industry Insights Committee (formerly APEX), has taken on many of those issues and offers education and resources.”
EIC is exploring other areas, as well. “We’re tackling all the challenges that clients are asking CMPs to address in their events — micro-learning opportunities, virtual meetings, on-demand training and game-based learning,” Kotowski says. “That uniquely positions Events Industry Council to tackle these challenges head-on and try innovative approaches through education, especially at this year’s CMP Conclave, where we give our CMP participants an environment (to) test and experience these learning trends.
EIC is also looking at new specialty designations.
“We already offer the CMP-HC for healthcare meeting professionals,” Kotowski notes. “But we’re exploring other specialty certifications that would be valuable for our CMP community.”
Planners, stay tuned. C&IT