Professional Meeting Planner Certifications

cmp-logoProfessional Meeting Planners have a variety of industry certifications available, depending on their area of experience and expertise.  CMP, CMM, CTSM, CSEP and CGMP are the most common, although there are others, depending on each association’s unique niche.  Given the recent controversy over changes to both the CMP and CMM programs, a quick review of event planning certifications may be helpful.

What Are They?

Most certification programs are created to designate those professionals who have achieved a high level of competency and experience in an industry.  The sponsoring organization creates criteria for application and knowledge standards required for gaining the designation.  Typically, the criteria include professional experience, years of service and continuing education credits.  After a period of study, applicants’ knowledge is measured, usually through a rigorous test.  Once awarded, many certifications require continuing education to maintain the designation over an extended period of time.

Why Do they Matter?

Professional Meeting Planners that have gained industry certification are typically the most experienced and knowledgeable individuals in the industry.  The certification proves that they possess a high level of expertise and stay current on industry changes and best practices.  As a result, when companies hire a CMP or CSEP, they are selecting a trained professional who will provide the highest level of service and the greatest return on investment.

What Are the Most Common Designations?

Certified Meeting Professional

The CMP program is administered by the Convention Industry Council, a collaboration of 33 meeting, convention, and exhibition industry associations.  To earn the CMP designation, the meeting professional must have a minimum of five years professional experience (recently changed from ten years), demonstrate their knowledge in the field and pass a rigorous exam. Those who hold the CMP designation are considered the leading experts in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry.

Through the CMP program, individuals who are employed in meeting management pursue continuing education, increase their industry involvement, and gain industry-wide recognition.

CMM – Certificate in Meeting Management

Jointly administered by MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) the updated CMM Designation Program delivers one global standard of excellence for business management and leadership skills in the events industry.

The CMM program is an intensive curriculum that offers insight and guidance from university professors associated with renowned business schools. The program covers critical skills for meeting managers, including risk mitigation, business analytics and compliance and strategic negotiation.  The CMM study program concludes with a final project in which applicants address a real-life challenge they face in their current professional role.  Applicants must have five years of professional experience (recently changed from ten years) and prove significant financial oversight.

CTSM – Certified Trade Show Marketer

CTSM (Certified Trade Show Marketer) is the only university-affiliated professional certification program in the exhibit marketing industry.  First and foremost the CTSM program trains candidates in trade show and event marketing.  Candidates are required to complete a curriculum of 28 sessions which equals 42 hours of classroom study.

All candidates must be currently working in the field of trade show or event marketing. They demonstrate their application of knowledge gained through the program by means of a Candidate Portfolio.  Candidates also complete a three-hour comprehensive exam which tests them on the basic knowledge skills required of trade show marketers.

CSEP – Certified Special Events Professional

The Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP)® designation recognizes event professionals who have successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills and ability essential to plan and execute all components of a special event.

The International Special Events Society (ISES) endorses and administers the CSEP program for those who meet established standards.  To qualify, candidates for the CSEP exam must have a minimum of three (3) years of full-time professional employment in the special events industry.  The CSEP is a four and one-half (4.5) hour computer-based examination.  The exam consists of two (2) parts: a 100 multiple-choice question portion and a written portion, both based on the CSEP Content Outline.

CGMP – Certified Government Meeting Professional

The Certified Government Meeting Professional designation (CGMP) is designed for planners and suppliers whose work is governed by the rules and regulations of the federal government.  Individuals who have earned their CGMP have obtained the highest designation available that is specifically for government meeting professionals.

The CGMP course teaches recognized industry practices cited in the Convention Industry Council (CIC) Manual.  In addition, the course materials include government-specific instruction, including ethics, Federal budget and appropriations, acquisition and contracting, Federal travel regulations, RFPs, risk management and protocol.

If you are looking for a Professional Meeting Planner to help you with your next event, consider a certified planner.  The letters ensure that they have the knowledge and experience you need to maximize the return on your investment.

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Trade Show Management: Keeping Sponsors Happy

Trade Show ManagementTrade show management requires a broad range of skills far beyond booth setup, ordering utilities and materials handling.  It requires the ability to view the event as a community of stakeholders, each with their own needs and goals.

After the attendees, the most important people on the floor are your sponsors.  Without their support and investment, trade shows would not be financially viable.  Whether you refer to them as sponsors or exhibitors, they are the companies who have paid to be at your trade show, sometimes at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

My work is primarily with large corporations on private events where specific exhibitors are invited to attend and the show is not open to the public.  The booths are set up by companies that support my client and are an integral part of their business operations.  On set-up and tear-down days we often have several hundred booth personnel in addition to the requisite union labor force.

As we have all seen over the years, accurate pre-show and on-site communication is essential, but the nature of that communication has changed.  Today’s communication allows no excess verbiage, no hunting for answers … people want fast answers and easily accessible information.

So, how do I keep my sponsors happy?

•  Communicate clearly and succinctly.  I provide a complete schedule with load-in and load-out times, show hours, and times they have access to the show floor.  If I am holding an exhibitor meeting, I make sure that the date, time and place is included in sponsor schedules.

•  Provide basic refreshments, especially outside of show hours when convention center concession stands or coffee shops may not be open.  In my experience, cambros of coffee and water are not expensive, generate a lot of good will and are greatly appreciated during set-up and tear down, especially when dock doors are open and it may be very hot or cold on the exhibit floor.

•  Consider the sponsor’s perspective. One of my shows opens at 7am, runs through mid-afternoon and must be loaded out that evening.   It’s a long day for everyone without the chance to get away for food or a chance to sit down.  I go the extra mile and provide a continental breakfast and light lunch in a supplier lounge.    Not surprisingly, this rest area is always rated high in post-event exhibitor surveys.

•  I provide my phone number, not the phone number of the show decorator or exposition service, but my number.  Sponsors often have questions that cannot be answered by the decorator, especially for private shows and events.  I find it significantly lowers their anxiety level when I provide a list of who to call for different types of questions.

•  Don’t be afraid to offer helpful suggestions.  There are a lot of booth staff who are very new to the trade show routine.  Don’t be afraid to make a helpful, non-critical suggestion such as, “You know, we’ve found that putting the table at the back of the booth welcomes people rather than being a barrier if put at the front.”  You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know the simple rules of effective exhibiting.

•  Remember to thank your exhibitors.  I always make a point to stop by each booth on the last day to say “thank you” for participating and ask for feedback to make the show better.

None of this is earth-shattering information or anything you haven’t heard before; but these are the things that sometimes get lost in the shuffle.  The best way to ensure that you have happy sponsors is to take a minute and ask yourself the simple question … “If I were an exhibitor, what would make my life easier?”

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