How to Become a Meeting, Convention, or Event Planner
An important part of a meeting planner’s job is choosing venues and negotiating rates.
Applicants usually need a bachelor's degree and, increasingly, some experience related to event planning.
Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree and some work experience in hotels or planning. The proportion of planners with a bachelor's degree is increasing because work responsibilities are becoming more complex and because there are more college degree programs related to hospitality or tourism management. If an applicant’s degree is not related to these fields, employers are likely to require at least 1 to 2 years of related experience.
Meeting, convention, and event planners often come from a variety of academic disciplines. Some related undergraduate majors include marketing, public relations, communications, and business.
Planners who have studied hospitality management may start out with greater responsibilities than those from other academic disciplines. College students may also gain experience by planning meetings for a university club. In addition, some colleges offer continuing education courses in meeting and event planning.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
The Convention Industry Council offers the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential, a voluntary certification for meeting and convention planners. Although the CMP is not required, it is widely recognized in the industry and may help in career advancement. To qualify, candidates must have a minimum of 36 months of meeting management experience, recent employment in a meeting management job, and proof of continuing education credits. Those who qualify must then pass an exam that covers topics such as adult learning, financial management, facilities and services, logistics, and meeting programs.
The Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) offers the Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) designation for meeting planners who work for, or contract with, federal, state, or local government. This certification is not required to work as a government meeting planner; however, it may be helpful for those who want to show that they know government buying policies and travel regulations. To qualify, candidates must have worked as a meeting planner for at least 1 year and have been a member of SGMP for 6 months. To become a certified planner, members must take a 3-day course and pass an exam.
Entry-level planners tend to focus on meeting logistics, such as registering guests and organizing audio/visual equipment. Experienced planners manage interpersonal tasks, such as client relations and contract negotiations. With significant experience, meeting, convention, and event planners can become independent consultants.
Communication skills. Meeting, convention, and event planners communicate with clients, suppliers, and event staff. They must have excellent written and oral communication skills and be able to convey the needs of their clients effectively.
Composure. Planners often work in a fast-paced environment and must be able to make quick decisions while remaining calm under pressure.
Customer-service skills. Planners must understand their clients’ needs. They must act professionally in a variety of situations, know how to keep an audience engaged, and help participants network with peers.
Interpersonal skills. Planners must be good at establishing and maintaining positive relationships with clients and suppliers.
Negotiation skills. Planners must be able to negotiate service contracts to get good prices for their clients.
Organizational skills. To provide high quality meetings, planners must be detail-oriented and be able to multitask and meet tight deadlines. Many meetings are planned more than a year in advance, so long-term thinking ability is vital.
Problem-solving skills. When problems arise, planners must be able to come up with creative solutions that satisfy clients.