How to Become a Certified Meeting Planner in 5 Steps

Meeting planners have fast-paced and demanding jobs that requires a high level of organization plus problem-solving skills. Read on for the steps to entering this career, which include earning a degree and accumulating a wide range of skills. Schools offering Hospitality Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties of a Meeting Planner

A meeting planner brings people together for a common purpose by organizing and executing large-scale gatherings. Job duties can include obtaining speakers, space and equipment, as well as preparing meeting materials. You'll also be responsible for making sure that the appropriate people are attending, that the convention has a clear message and that the environment is suitable for the schedule of activities. Related job titles include executive or assistant director, director of event services, events coordinator, convention planner or meeting coordinator.

Step 1: Research Career Outline

As a meeting planner, you may work for a specific venue, or you may be required to travel and stay overnight in hotels while planning meetings for your employer. You may also need to spend more than 40 hours a week at work, with much of that time spent on your feet and moving around. In 2012, there were about 94,200 meeting, event and convention planner jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Only about one in six meeting planners worked for themselves.

Step 2: Complete a Formal Education Program

The BLS reports that many employers prefer job candidates with at least a bachelor's degree in an area such as marketing, communications, public relations or another related field as well as some professional experience. Programs specific to this career, such as a certificate program for meeting planning or a degree program with a focus on hospitality and event coordination, can teach you how to manage budgets, work with clients, request vendor proposals, review contracts and solve problems. In addition to event planning certificates, programs can be found at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels.

Step 3: Learn Job-Related Skills

As a meeting planner, your most important training occurs on the job. Experienced meeting planners can teach you the basics, including registration procedures, logistics management and how to define objectives. Your first tasks may involve organizing small meetings, such as committee meetings.

Step 4: Gain Experience

You must have excellent interpersonal skills to create a large network of contacts. With time, you can improve your communication and management skills. As you become more experienced, you can also hone your abilities to multitask and work under pressure. The most successful meeting planners might also endeavor to learn new languages to expand range of work options, including new clients and locales.

Step 5: Obtain Your Certification

Professional certifications for convention, event and meeting planners are available from organizations like the Convention Industry Council and the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP). The former offers a Certified Meeting Professional credential, and requirements include having at least three years of relevant experience, with the most recent position in meeting management, as well as documentation of continuing education. You'll also have to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of facilities, financial management, logistics and services, among other topics. Although not required, this voluntary and well-known certification may help with career advancement.

The Certified Government Meeting Professional, offered by the SGMP, is also voluntary and can provide useful information about purchasing policies and travel regulations for meeting planners employed by the federal, local or state government. Requirements include having at least six months of membership in the organization and one year of professional experience, as well as completing a 3-day course and passing an exam.

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