Meeting, convention, and event planners coordinate all aspects of professional meetings and events. They choose meeting locations, arrange transportation, and coordinate other details.

Duties

Meeting, convention, and event planners typically do the following:

  • Meet with clients to understand the purpose of the meeting or event
  • Plan the scope of the event, including time, location, and cost
  • Solicit bids from venues and service providers (for example, florists or photographers)
  • Inspect venues to ensure that they meet the client's requirements
  • Coordinate event services such as rooms, transportation, and food service
  • Monitor event activities to ensure the client and event attendees are satisfied
  • Review event bills and approve payment

Whether it is a wedding, educational conference, or business convention, meetings and events bring people together for a common purpose. Meeting, convention, and event planners work to ensure that this purpose is achieved efficiently and seamlessly. They coordinate every detail of events, from beginning to end. Before a meeting, for example, planners will meet with clients to estimate attendance and determine the meeting’s purpose. During the meeting, they handle meeting logistics, such as registering guests and organizing audio/visual equipment for speakers. After the meeting, they may survey attendees to find out how the event was received.

Meeting, convention, and event planners also search for potential meeting sites, such as hotels and convention centers. They consider the lodging and services that the facility can provide, how easy it will be for people to get there, and the attractions that the surrounding area has to offer. More recently, planners also consider whether an online meeting can achieve the same objectives as a face-to-face meeting in certain cases.

Once a location is selected, planners arrange the meeting space and support services. For example, providing services such as wheelchair accessibility, interpreters, and other accommodations may be required. They may also negotiate contracts with suppliers to provide meals for attendees and coordinate plans with on-site staff. In addition, they organize speakers, entertainment, and activities. Meeting, convention, and event planners manage the finances of meetings and conventions within a budget set by their clients.

The following are examples of types of meeting, convention, and event planners:

Association planners organize annual conferences and trade shows for professional associations. Because member attendance is often voluntary, marketing the meeting’s value is an important aspect of their work.

Corporate planners organize internal business meetings and meetings between businesses.

Government meeting planners organize meetings for government officials and agencies. Being familiar with government regulations, such as procedures for buying materials and booking hotels, is vital to their work.

Convention service managers help organize major events, as employees of hotels and convention centers. They act as liaisons between the meeting facility and the planners who work for associations, businesses, and governments. They present food service options to outside planners, coordinate special requests, and suggest hotel services depending on a planner’s budget.

Event planners arrange the details of a variety of events, including weddings and large parties.

Non-profit event planners plan large events with the goal of raising donations for a charity or advocacy organization. Events may include banquets, charity races, and food drives.

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Work Environment

Meeting, convention, and event planners held about 94,200 jobs in 2012. Most worked for private companies; about 1 in 6 were self-employed.                                               

Meeting, convention, and event planners spend most of their time in offices. During meetings and events, they usually work on-site at hotels or convention centers. They travel regularly to attend the events they organize and to visit prospective meeting sites, sometimes in exotic locations around the world. Planners regularly collaborate with clients, hospitality workers, and meeting attendees.

The work of meeting, convention, and event planners can be fast-paced and demanding. Planners oversee many aspects of an event at the same time and face numerous deadlines.

Work Schedules

Most meeting, convention, and event planners work full time. In addition, many are required to work long, irregular hours in the time leading up to a major event. During meetings or conventions, planners may have very long work days. They sometimes work on weekends.

Education and Training

Applicants usually need a bachelor's degree and, increasingly, some experience related to event planning. 

Education

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.

Advancement

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.

Personality and Interests

Meeting or convention planners typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Helping or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a meeting or convention planner, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Meeting or convention planners should also possess the following specific qualities:

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for meeting, convention, and event planners was $45,810 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,560, and the top 10 percent earned more than $79,270.

Most meeting, convention, and event planners work full time. In addition, many are required to work long, irregular hours in the time leading up to a major event. During meetings or conventions, planners may have very long work days. They sometimes work on weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of meeting, convention, and event planners is projected to grow 33 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. As businesses and organizations become increasingly international, meetings and conventions are expected to become even more important.

For organizations with geographically separate offices and members, meetings are the only time they can bring everyone together. Despite the spread of online communication, face-to-face interaction continues to be preferred by many people.

Job Prospects

Candidates with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or tourism management should have the best job opportunities. A Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential is also viewed favorably by potential employers. Those who have experience with virtual meeting software and social media outlets also should have an advantage.

Job opportunities for corporate planners fluctuate with economic activity. When the economy is in a downturn, companies often cut budgets for meetings. Planners who work for the healthcare industry are least likely to experience cutbacks during a recession because attendance at healthcare meetings and conventions is often required for medical professionals to maintain their license.

Event planners can expect strong competition for jobs. Those with related work experience should have the best job opportunities.

For More Information

For more information about meeting, convention, and event planners, including information about certification and industry trends, visit

Convention Industry Council

Meeting Professionals International

Professional Convention Management Association

Society of Government Meeting Professionals

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