Meeting and Convention Planner

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Meeting and Convention Planner

Education and Training: Varies—see profile

Salary: Median—$39,620 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

An upsurge in the meetings and convention business has created a strong demand for planners to arrange, manage, and promote these activities. An event may be a one-day seminar or a weeklong series of meetings and social gatherings. The success of these events depends largely on specialists whose tasks range from negotiating contracts to making hotel and conference room reservations to handing out name badges. The work is detail oriented, and each meeting or convention must be planned to meet the specific needs and interests of those attending. For example, translation services must be provided for guests who cannot speak English, and appropriate day care and entertainment must be available if young children have been invited.

A meeting and convention planner may be employed by the company or organization sponsoring the event or by a convention-service company, tourism bureau, travel agency, hotel, or resort. The planner specifies the type, scope, and budget of the convention, finds possible accommodations and activities, makes the necessary arrangements, and promotes the event to potential participants. Often a planner who works for an organization will work with another planner who works for a convention center.

Education and Training Requirements

Meeting and convention planners come from a variety of backgrounds including public relations and communications, travel and tourism, and hotel and restaurant management. Training programs are sometimes available through professional associations and travel agencies. A college education is not necessarily required, although a bachelor's degree in hospitality management, meetings management, marketing, or public relations can be helpful. Because a planner negotiates contracts with hotels, convention centers, and other suppliers, knowledge of financial documents and financial systems is becoming more central to the job. With more companies expanding globally, familiarity with foreign languages can be a plus, too. For those who work for state, county, or city tourism bureaus, a thorough knowledge of the area and its resources is required. For all meeting and convention planners, verbal and written skills and organizational ability are essential.

Getting the Job

Jobs in the public sector may be listed in civil service bulletins. Those with private companies may be found in trade journals related to the industry or on Internet job sites.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Meeting and convention planners are often promoted from within an organization, particularly if they have proven to be skillful at arranging meetings or trips. They may become directors of conference-planning departments. Some specialists open their own consulting firms or become directors of city or state convention bureaus.

The employment outlook for meeting and convention planners is expected to grow faster than the average through the year 2014. Companies and professional associations hold many meetings and conventions, and the public sector strongly supports the industry because local economies benefit greatly.

Working Conditions

Evening and weekend work is frequently required, and planners may be on call for emergencies or to arrange last-minute bookings. This work also requires flexibility and problem-solving skills because unpredictable difficulties may arise. Unless they work for a local convention bureau, meeting and convention planners may have to travel on a regular basis.

Where to Go for More Information

Convention Industry Council
8201 Greensboro Dr., Ste. 300
McLean, VA 22102
(703) 610-9030

Destination Marketing Association International
2025 M St. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20036
(202) 296-7888

Meeting Professionals International
3030 Lyndon B. Johnson Fwy., Ste. 1700
Dallas, TX 75234-2759
(972) 702-3000

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings for meeting and convention planners vary according to the size and location of the meeting or conventions being planned. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, planners earned a median salary of $39,620 per year in 2004. Experienced specialists earned more than $50,000 per year. Benefits for those employed by companies or consulting firms include paid holidays and vacations and medical insurance. Self-employed convention planners must provide their own benefits.