Education and Training: Varies—see profile
Salary: Median—$39,620 per year
Employment Outlook: Very good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Meeting planners are professional decision makers who manage all facets of meeting preparation and presentation. Depending on their employer, meeting planners may be known as association executives, corporate meeting planners, or independent meeting planners. An association executive plans meetings for a small business association or organization. A corporate meeting planner is employed by a large company or business. An independent meeting planner works on a freelance basis for businesses that do not have meeting planners on staff.
All meeting planners have similar responsibilities, which include establishing meeting objectives, selecting and inspecting the meeting site, scheduling the meeting, budgeting expenses, lining up speakers, and negotiating with suppliers of materials, food, and entertainment. In addition, meeting planners may make travel arrangements and provide audiovisual and technical equipment when needed.
Education and Training Requirements
Although a college degree is not always required for a meeting planner, many large corporations and associations prefer to hire college graduates. Courses in business management, economics, hotel and hospitality management, and communications are recommended. Meeting planners should have good interpersonal skills to communicate well with attendees, good quantitative skills to formulate and follow budgets, and good organizational skills. Meeting planners with three years' experience and a good track record may choose to earn the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation, which is given on the basis of experience and an examination. This certification, awarded by the Convention Industry Council, may help with career advancement.
Getting the Job
Most entry-level positions will be as a member of the administrative or planning staff at a large corporation or business association. A good way to locate job openings is through the college placement office or on the Internet. Interested candidates can also check the newspaper classified ads for clerical or administrative positions or contact a company's personnel office directly.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Planning staff members can become head meeting planners at large corporations or business associations. After gaining experience and further education, they can establish their own consulting firms.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meeting planners held forty-three thousand jobs in 2004. Employment of professional meeting planners was expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2014. The increase was expected to be due in part to a rise in the number of conferences in the health-care and high-technology industries. The continued globalization of big business will also likely fuel the need for more conferences. As businesses spread out around the world, more and more meetings will be needed to bring employees together for important face time with one another. Freelance meeting planners will be especially in demand as smaller companies opt to hire outside consultants on an as-needed basis.
Meeting planners work in pleasant offices. They often travel to inspect meeting sites to evaluate all aspects of the site. They must be good negotiators in order to make the most cost-effective arrangements for their employers. On the whole, meeting planners' schedules can be erratic. They can work eighteen-hour days in the weeks leading up to a big meeting. Afterward, however, their workload may drop drastically. Planners also need to be adaptable and creative. They must work well under pressure and be able to deal with unexpected problems.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries for meeting planners depend on the size of the company and the amount of responsibility the planner has. Freelance planners who have a good reputation, many years of experience, and an established clientele earn the most money. The median annual salary for all meeting planners was $39,620 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Where to Go for More Information
Convention Industry Council
8201 Greensboro Dr., Ste. 300
McLean, VA 22102
Meeting Professionals International
3030 Lyndon B. Johnson Frwy., Ste. 1700
Dallas, TX 75234
Professional Convention Management Association
2301 South Lake Shore Dr., Ste. 1001
Chicago, IL 60616
Full-time meeting planners generally receive benefits that include paid vacations and holidays, medical insurance, and a pension plan. Freelance planners must provide their own benefits.