Pros and Cons of a Career as a Certified Meeting Planner
Professional meeting and event planners have a number of responsibilities, including booking accommodations, arranging travel and staffing events. If you are considering a career as a certified meeting planner, there are a few things you may wish to consider.
|Pros of Being a Certified Meeting Planner|
|Above-average job growth (33% increase in employment by 2022)*|
|Above-average wages ($51,000 mean annual salary)*|
|Ability to work as private contractor between full-time jobs*|
|Meetings industry contributes $106 billion to annual Gross Domestic Product**|
|Cons of Being a Certified Meeting Planner|
|Bachelor's degree or extensive experience required for certification**|
|Internships or continuing education requirements to maintain certification**|
|Strong competition for jobs*|
|Demanding, fast-paced work*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Convention Industry Council.
Job Description and Duties
Meeting planners coordinate events for a variety of situations. You may be in charge of arranging transportation, booking accommodations, selecting venues, working with vendors and staffing events. As a meeting planner, venue selection may entail soliciting bids and working with approved budgets. These professionals plan, design and execute conferences, trade shows, corporate training seminars as well as weddings and other special occasions.
Many meeting planners are employed by hotels or other convention facilities. You may also find work as an event coordinator in a variety of other industries, including government agencies, or as a private contractor. Organizations frequently contract work with marketing firms that employ professional event coordinators. Your work may include logistical tasks that involve technical set-up and operation, including providing or contracting audio/video support. Supervision and monitoring of events as well as client follow-ups are also an important part of this work.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to a 2012 report conducted by the Convention Industry Council (CIC), the meetings industry employs 1.78 million workers. With many businesses and organizations placing increased emphasis on meetings and conventions for client service, marketing, fundraising or training purposes, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 33% increase in employment for meeting, convention and event planners in the 2012-2022 decade. Job applicants who possess the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential from the CIC are projected to have the best opportunities.
Based on BLS 2014 data, these professionals earned a mean salary of about $51,000. Meeting planners have the potential for earning a greater income with experience. Payscale.com reports that surveyed professionals in this industry earned about $47,000 at the national average with experienced workers earning 15% more.
Career Skills and Requirements
Meeting and event planning can demand long hours in a fast-paced work environment. You will need to possess excellent communication, negotiation and customer service skills. Your work will also require organizational and problem-solving abilities as well as the ability to maintain composure during stressful situations.
A bachelor's degree in meeting, events, exhibitions or hospitality and tourism management is typically preferred among employers. A growing number of undergraduate degree programs provide training in event planning, including some leading to a bachelor's degree in meeting or event management. In your program, you may learn about promotion, sales, design, production and technology. You may also be able to participate in an internship, where you can gain real-world experience in the field.
Additionally, in order to gain the CMP credential through the CIC, you will either be required to gain three years of industry experience, be an instructor in meeting or event planning with three years of experience or gain two years of experience and possess a bachelor's degree.
Real Job Listings
Careers as a CMP often require a bachelor's degree, industry experience and other specific technical or financial knowledge. You may be required to possess skills in support of video conferencing or the ability to design and execute multimedia presentations. Here are some real job listings for meeting planners from April 2012:
- Milwaukee marketing company seeks event planner/producer to participate in the design and management of trade shows and business events. Preferred qualifications include a CMP credential, agency experience and experience with interactive video equipment.
- Financial investment firm in Florida seeks meeting and event planner to design and execute domestic and international meetings, road shows and corporate events. Bachelor's degree in business administration, marketing, travel and tourism management or related field required plus three years experience. Preferred qualifications include CMP credential, project management and vendor contract experience as well as knowledge of financial institutions and investing.
- A university in California seeks meeting planner for residential and dining services to coordinate academically sponsored conferences, programs and youth camps. Duties include budget development, site selection, logistics, planning, marketing, on-site management, follow-up and billing. Bachelor's degree in business, hospitality or related field required plus five years experience. Preferred qualifications include CMP credential.
- Virginia security contractor seeks conference events planner to support event sponsors in all aspects of planning and execution of symposiums, conferences and program events. Bachelor's degree required plus six years of event planning experience with training in information technology, wireless technology and video interface.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Start Small and Demonstrate Your Skills
Gaining experience in the hospitality or events industry is essential for certified professionals. Many meeting planners gain experience working as support staff or entry-level supervisory roles. Careers in catering can prepare you for some of the most crucial elements of event execution. Advancement in your career may depend upon how well you can excel at basic logistical tasks and take on increasing responsibility. As you gain more experience, you will be able to use your customer service skills to take on greater roles in client relations, contract negotiations, sales and promotions.
Gain Internship Experience
Whether you are pursuing a certificate, associate or bachelor's degree, you will have the opportunity to pursue internships in a variety of industries. Professional meeting planners are often assisted by support personnel that have the benefit of gaining hands-on experience in many facets of event coordination. Eligibility for CMP certification includes the option of completing 200 hours of supervised internship experience in lieu of CIC continuing education credits.
As a CMP, you will need to gain recertification every five years. Requirements for recertification include completing continuing education courses, obtaining a bachelor's or advanced degree as well as membership involvement in a meeting industry organization. These organizations include the Association for Convention Operations Management, Meeting Planners International and the Association of Conference and Events Directors. Other organizations include industry-specific groups such as the Insurance Conference Planners Association, the Society of Government Meeting Planners and the International Communications Industry Association.
Alternative Careers in Marketing and Hospitality
If a career as a meeting planner seems too hectic for you, but you want to remain in the communications and planning field, consider a career as in public relations. Public relations specialists provide a host of communication services to companies and organizations. They write press releases for all types of media, develop imaging or branding techniques and identify ways for a client to reach a targeted audience. Professionals generally earn a bachelor's degree in public relations, communications or journalism.
Based on BLS projections, employment for public relations specialists is expected to increase by 23% between 2010-2020, with increased emphasis placed on social media networking to increase public image and reach consumers. These professionals, according to BLS 2011 data, earned a mean salary of about $60,000.
Like planners, lodging managers perform operational duties in a hotel or motel. They provide customer service and maintain facility and operations standards in all areas of lodging accommodations. As a lodging manager, you may be in charge of hiring, training and supervising a large and diverse staff of front-desk associates, room service attendants, banquet service staff, cooks as well as maintenance and cleaning workers. Many positions for lodging managers require a bachelor's degree in hospitality or hotel management.
Earning a 2011 mean salary of about $55,000, employment growth for lodging managers is expected to slow in the coming years due to streamlined operations and fewer full-service hotels. According to the BLS, employment for lodging managers is expected to increase by 8%, slightly below the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that 40% of lodging managers are self-employed proprietors.