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Meeting And Convention Planners picture    Meeting And Convention Planners image

Meeting planners are responsible for planning and coordinating the wide variety of activities needed to produce meetings and related events. They coordinate every aspect of a meeting, including securing the meeting location, acquiring speakers, and arranging for printed materials and audio-visual equipment. There are several varieties of meeting planner, and the exact nature of the job varies by the type of organization for which a planner works. Some of the more common types of meeting planners are as follows:

  • Corporate Planners set up meetings whose attendees consist of employees of a corporation. Corporate planners generally have short time frames in which to arrange their meetings; however, they are usually don't have to concern themselves with boosting attendance, as employees are generally required to attend.
  • Government Planners have a similar function to corporate planners, except that they work in the public sector. As such, they need to operate in accordance with established government procedures and must adhere to government guidelines when procuring materials or booking lodging for government employees.
  • Association Planners, who work for various types of associations, generally have a longer timeframe to do their planning; however, they typically need to market their meetings to association members, and convince the members that attendance is worth their time and expense.
  • Convention Service Managers usually work for hotels, convention centers, and similar establishments. Their job is to act as the liaison between the facility hosting the meeting and the planner on the other end (i.e., the corporate, government, or association planner). They generally present food service options, make suggestions regarding appropriate hotel services, coordinate special requests, and address any other considerations which will facilitate an effective meeting in their facility.

Planners who work in large organizations tend to specialize in a particular aspect of meeting planning. In these settings, one meeting may be handled by several planners, each concentrating on a specific function. Some planners focus on logistics; some handle advance registration and payment; while others coordinate the meeting content, including speakers and agendas. On the other hand, planners working in small organizations tend to perform a wider range of duties, with one person often coordinating an entire meeting. These planners usually require a sufficient level of expertise in all facets of planning.

Responsibilities

A typical process followed by a meeting planner begins with the planner determining the intended purpose and focus of the meeting and its effect on the sponsoring organization. To do this, the planner will often consult with both the management of the sponsoring organization, to get a feel for what the organization would like to communicate; and with prospective attendees, to find out what motivates them and how they learn best. The planner will then choose appropriate speakers, arrange for entertainment if applicable, and construct the program in such a way that the organization's message is conveyed in the most effective manner.

The meeting planner will then seek out prospective meeting sites. Typically, he/she will target a hotel, convention center, or conference center. The planner will make known the meeting requirements (including dates, meeting and exhibit space, lodging, food and beverages, audio-visual requirements, transportation, etc.) to all prospective sites. After receiving responses, the planner will look them over, consider the establishments' proposals in terms of how much space and what services they can provide (and at what prices), and either choose the site or recommend a choice to top management.

After a location is selected, the meeting planner will arrange support services, coordinate with the facility, prepare appropriate personnel for the meeting, and see to it that all forms of electronic communication needed for the meeting are set up. Planners also need to coordinate the logistics of the meeting itself. Attendees must be registered, issued badges, and be looked after in terms of lodging, transportation, and supplies. The planner must also insure that meeting rooms are equipped with sufficient seating and audio-visual equipment, that all exhibits are set up properly, and that all materials are printed. They must also oversee distribution of food and beverages and must make sure that the meeting conforms to fire and labor regulations.

The planner's job is not always finished after the meeting is concluded. Planners are often responsible for deriving metrics which measure the extent to which a meeting was successful. Many times planners will have attendees fill out surveys with specific questions about what they learned, how well the meeting was perceived, and how the attendees felt about the overall experience. Very often the planner is required to quantify the organization's return on investment (ROI) from the meeting. They do this by contrasting the overall cost of a meeting with the benefits the organization received as a result of the meeting. For example, if the goal of the meeting was to motivate a company's employees and improve their morale, the planner might track and compare employee turnover both before and after the meeting.

In many cases planners are called upon to manage finances. They are often required to work within budgets which they are given by their organization. In such cases planners need to ensure that all costs associated with meetings they are responsible for planning stay within that budget. Sometimes planners are required to negotiate contracts with host facilities that include clauses requiring a certain number of rooms set aside for meeting attendees to be filled. In such cases there are often financial penalties imposed if the condition is not met.

Job Characteristics

Meeting planners work long and irregular hours. During the period of time leading up to a meeting, their work week can easily exceed 40 hours; after the meeting has taken place, their work week can be closer to normal or even consist of fewer than 40 hours. While the meeting is underway, planners may work very long days, possibly starting before dawn and not ending until midnight or later. There are some periods of time where planners are required to work on weekends. Although much of their time is spent in an office, planners also travel regularly to scout prospective meeting sites and to attend meetings. During the time when meetings are taking place, planners are present at the meeting site.

Every job has its good and bad aspects and meeting planning is no exception. The job is fast-paced and energizing, but it can also be demanding and stressful. There is seldom a dull moment, as planners are continually multi-tasking and orchestrate the activities of several parties in the face of looming deadlines. Planners get to go to interesting places and meet lots of people. They also enjoy a relatively high level of autonomy. On the other hand, the job can be physically taxing; there are often long hours of standing and walking required, as well as some lifting and carrying of boxes containing exhibits and/or supplies.

In order to be successful in this profession, an individual needs to have excellent "people skills", as well as an ability to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. Planners also need a very high level of organizational talent. They must be skilled at multi-tasking, and they need an ability to maintain their composure in a fast-paced environment while facing the pressure of deadlines. Other very important attributes in this job include strong quantitative and analytic skills, which are needed to deal with budgets and to understand and negotiate contracts; and computer skills, particularly an ability to make use of specialized software to help with things like finances and registration. For planners who work on an international scale, an ability to speak multiple languages is a definite plus.

Employment Outlook

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS) anticipates that employment of meeting planners will grow faster than the average for all occupations over the upcoming decade. As the reach of businesses continues to expand on an international scale, the need for meetings grows and their importance is magnified. Face-to-face interaction will continue to be necessary even in the era of videoconferencing and e-mail communication; in fact, these forms of electronic communication actually serve to increase the demand for meetings because they tend to expand the scope of human connectivity and foster interaction among parties that previously would not have collaborated.

Industries which are expected to experience high growth will require a corresponding growth in number of meetings held. Consequently, more planners will be needed. Also, professional associations that serve these industries will hold more conferences and conventions to offer continuing education, training, and opportunities for industry representatives to exchange ideas.

A mitigating factor to consider when projecting employment prospects for meeting planners is that the profession can be highly susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. As a general rule, meetings are among the first expenses cut when budgets are tight. Although a downturn in the economy will affect job prospects for most types of planners, there are exceptions. For example, association planners for industries such as health care, in which meeting attendance is a requirement for professionals to maintain their licensure, are the least likely to be victims of cutbacks during adverse business cycles.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Although not a universal requirement, most employers prefer applicants who hold at least a bachelor's degree. Some examples of undergraduate majors which are useful for this profession include marketing, business, public relations, communications, and hotel or hospitality management. There are presently several universities which offer degree programs with majors in meetings management. In addition, some universities and colleges offer continuing education programs in meeting and convention planning. These programs are targeted towards both working professionals and individuals wishing to enter the occupation. Program length can vary anywhere between one semester to two years.

Much of the actual training for this profession is done informally on the job. Entry-level planners often start their careers performing small tasks under the direction of senior meeting professionals. Sometimes these tasks tend to deal, at least initially, with a limited number of planning functions. As time goes on, planners may be asked to increase the scope of their duties. Planners who start their careers working at small organizations generally learn more quickly since they are usually required to take on a larger number of tasks early on.

Some meeting planners enter the occupation after having worked in a related profession; for example, in hotel sales or as marketing or catering coordinators. These types of individuals tend to hit the ground running, as they are already familiar with negotiations for hotel services, and they have usually worked with numerous meeting planners and have seen what they do. Workers who enter the occupation in these ways often start at a higher level than those who start out straight from college with no prior work experience.

There are a number of voluntary certifications available which can boost a meeting planner's chances for career advancement. The Convention Industry Council offers the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) credential, a widely-recognized industry certification. To qualify, candidates must be currently employed full-time, have a minimum of three years of meeting management experience, and proof of accountability for meetings which were successfully completed. Those who qualify must then pass an examination that covers a number of topics including financial management, logistics, facilities and services, and meeting programs.

Government planners can strive to earn the Certified Government Meeting Professional credential, awarded by the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP). Although not required to work as a government meeting planner, this certification will help demonstrate proficiency in issues specific to planning government meetings, such as knowledge of regulations and policies governing travel and procurement. To qualify, candidates must be employed as a meeting planner at the Federal, state, or local government level, or for a firm that works on government contracts. They must also have at least one year of membership in SGMP. In order to earn the certification, qualified individuals must take a 3-day course and pass an exam.

Resources

Major Employers

Approximately one in four meeting planners works for some type of organization (e.g., civic, professional, religious, etc.). A large number of planners are employed by hotels and motels. Other large employers of meeting planners include educational services, convention and trade show organizing firms, and governments at various levels. A small percentage is self-employed.

Schools for Meeting And Convention Planners are listed in the column to the left.

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for:
Meeting and Convention Planners

Listed below are metro areas sorted by the total number of people employed in Meeting and Convention Planners jobs , as of 2015

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

     
Metro Area (Alabama) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Huntsville 40 N/A
Fairhope 40 $35,020
Foley 40 $35,020
Daphne 40 $35,020
Tuscaloosa 40 $38,460
Montgomery 40 $45,760
Hoover N/A $52,800
Birmingham N/A $52,800
     
Metro Area (Alaska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anchorage 80 $49,590
     
Metro Area (Arizona) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Scottsdale 1450 $42,260
Mesa 1450 $42,260
Phoenix 1450 $42,260
Tucson 270 $32,180
Flagstaff 50 $41,120
Prescott 40 $42,560
     
Metro Area (Arkansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Conway 150 $40,040
North Little Rock 150 $40,040
Little Rock 150 $40,040
     
Metro Area (California) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Long Beach 4000 $53,520
Los Angeles 4000 $53,520
Anaheim 4000 $53,520
Hayward 2130 $55,470
San Francisco 2130 $55,470
Oakland 2130 $55,470
Carlsbad 1100 $45,590
San Diego 1100 $45,590
Ontario 650 $36,520
Riverside 650 $36,520
San Bernardino 650 $36,520
Sunnyvale 530 $60,440
Santa Clara 530 $60,440
San Jose 530 $60,440
Arden 450 $48,310
Sacramento 450 $48,310
Roseville 450 $48,310
Arcade 450 $48,310
Santa Maria 180 $53,910
Santa Barbara 180 $53,910
Santa Rosa 170 $48,710
Thousand Oaks 130 $43,490
Ventura 130 $43,490
Oxnard 130 $43,490
Salinas 130 $52,630
Modesto 120 $42,470
Napa 120 $65,380
Fresno 110 $41,460
Arroyo Grande 70 $40,830
Paso Robles 70 $40,830
San Luis Obispo 70 $40,830
Santa Cruz 50 $44,710
Watsonville 50 $44,710
Chico 40 $35,370
Lodi 30 $42,540
Stockton 30 $42,540
Bakersfield N/A $46,900
     
Metro Area (Colorado) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Aurora 1670 $39,190
Lakewood 1670 $39,190
Denver 1670 $39,190
Colorado Springs 250 $39,670
Boulder 240 $41,420
Fort Collins 120 $37,780
Greeley N/A $32,760
     
Metro Area (Connecticut) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Hartford 420 $67,040
East Hartford 420 $67,040
West Hartford 420 $67,040
Bridgeport 240 $67,440
Norwalk 240 $67,440
Stamford 240 $67,440
New Haven 100 $65,420
Waterbury N/A $38,770
     
Metro Area (Delaware) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Dover 30 $45,950
     
Metro Area (Florida) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Sanford 1260 $43,400
Orlando 1260 $43,400
Kissimmee 1260 $43,400
St. Petersburg 930 $37,920
Clearwater 930 $37,920
Tampa 930 $37,920
Jacksonville 380 $41,050
Bradenton 170 $42,140
Sarasota 170 $42,140
North Port 170 $42,140
Immokalee 160 $62,650
Marco Island 160 $62,650
Naples 160 $62,650
Titusville 110 $32,660
Melbourne 110 $32,660
Palm Bay 110 $32,660
Daytona Beach 110 $40,520
Deltona 110 $40,520
Ormond Beach 110 $40,520
Tallahassee 100 $43,790
Fort Myers 80 $42,170
Cape Coral 80 $42,170
Port St. Lucie 60 $49,130
Pensacola 50 $38,810
Brent 50 $38,810
Ferry Pass 50 $38,810
Gainesville 50 $44,110
Fort Walton Beach 40 $45,780
Crestview 40 $45,780
Destin 40 $45,780
Miami N/A $43,370
West Palm Beach N/A $43,370
Fort Lauderdale N/A $43,370
     
Metro Area (Georgia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Atlanta 1800 $47,400
Roswell 1800 $47,400
Sandy Springs 1800 $47,400
Savannah 70 $49,140
Brunswick N/A $48,350
     
Metro Area (Hawaii) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Urban Honolulu 290 $46,900
Lahaina 170 $47,380
Wailuku 170 $47,380
Kahului 170 $47,380
     
Metro Area (Idaho) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Boise City 190 $35,590
Coeur d'Alene 50 $55,960
Idaho Falls 30 $44,210
     
Metro Area (Illinois) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bloomington 230 $29,740
Urbana 50 $50,700
Champaign 50 $50,700
Rockford 40 $37,130
Springfield 40 $61,760
Peoria N/A $35,870
     
Metro Area (Indiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Anderson 520 $48,050
Indianapolis 520 $48,050
Carmel 520 $48,050
Bloomington 70 $28,530
Fort Wayne 60 $35,170
West Lafayette 60 $42,180
Lafayette 60 $42,180
     
Metro Area (Iowa) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
West Des Moines 330 $47,480
Des Moines 330 $47,480
Iowa City 110 $38,460
Waterloo 60 $34,650
Cedar Falls 60 $34,650
Cedar Rapids 40 $38,170
     
Metro Area (Kansas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Wichita 150 $37,730
Topeka 40 $39,090
Lawrence 40 $39,170
     
Metro Area (Kentucky) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lexington 90 $38,960
Fayette 90 $38,960
Bowling Green 30 $34,230
Fort Knox N/A $23,060
Elizabethtown N/A $23,060
     
Metro Area (Louisiana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
New Orleans 310 $41,640
Metairie 310 $41,640
Baton Rouge 50 $40,850
Bossier City N/A $43,510
Shreveport N/A $43,510
     
Metro Area (Maine) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Portland 110 $35,630
Portland 110 $35,630
     
Metro Area (Maryland) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Towson 1320 $51,600
Columbia 1320 $51,600
Baltimore 1320 $51,600
     
Metro Area (Massachusetts) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Barnstable Town 50 $67,150
     
Metro Area (Michigan) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Warren 910 $45,410
Detroit 910 $45,410
Dearborn 910 $45,410
Wyoming 260 $46,760
Grand Rapids 260 $46,760
Lansing 240 $42,070
East Lansing 240 $42,070
Ann Arbor 220 $46,750
Portage 40 $45,240
Kalamazoo 40 $45,240
Benton Harbor 30 $43,330
Niles 30 $43,330
     
Metro Area (Minnesota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 60 $49,990
St. Cloud 50 $36,410
North Mankato 50 $40,660
Mankato 50 $40,660
     
Metro Area (Mississippi) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Jackson 80 $33,920
Pascagoula N/A $36,650
Biloxi N/A $36,650
Gulfport N/A $36,650
     
Metro Area (Missouri) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbia 130 $46,230
Springfield 90 $38,070
Jefferson City 40 $43,600
     
Metro Area (Montana) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Billings 130 $44,320
Missoula 70 $28,170
     
Metro Area (Nebraska) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Lincoln 90 $42,520
     
Metro Area (Nevada) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Paradise 660 $46,530
Henderson 660 $46,530
Las Vegas 660 $46,530
Reno 130 $40,890
     
Metro Area (New Hampshire) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Manchester 80 $42,500
     
Metro Area (New Jersey) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Atlantic City 210 $40,460
Hammonton 210 $40,460
Trenton 190 $50,900
Ocean City 30 $45,760
     
Metro Area (New Mexico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Albuquerque 290 $44,990
Santa Fe 60 $46,840
     
Metro Area (New York) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rochester 410 $45,390
Niagara Falls 360 $30,530
Buffalo 360 $30,530
Cheektowaga 360 $30,530
Schenectady 300 $44,780
Albany 300 $44,780
Troy 300 $44,780
Syracuse 150 $39,010
Glens Falls 50 $27,590
Rome 50 $29,940
Utica 50 $29,940
Ithaca 40 $57,380
Kingston N/A $48,510
     
Metro Area (North Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Raleigh 370 $46,340
Chapel Hill 210 $46,230
Durham 210 $46,230
High Point 180 $40,050
Greensboro 180 $40,050
Asheville 90 $31,040
Wilmington 90 $39,380
Salem 70 $43,380
Winston 70 $43,380
Fayetteville 60 $49,230
Morganton 50 $38,140
Hickory 50 $38,140
Lenoir 50 $38,140
     
Metro Area (North Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Bismarck 70 $45,300
     
Metro Area (Ohio) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Columbus 720 $41,110
Elyria 530 $37,530
Cleveland 530 $37,530
Dayton 130 $42,310
Akron 100 $34,780
Toledo 100 $41,420
     
Metro Area (Oklahoma) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Oklahoma City 560 N/A
Tulsa 190 $37,800
     
Metro Area (Oregon) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Eugene 70 $38,720
Salem 50 $39,750
Medford 40 $33,020
Corvallis 40 $37,250
     
Metro Area (Pennsylvania) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Pittsburgh 640 $42,940
Harrisburg 290 $43,290
Carlisle 290 $43,290
State College 90 $41,770
Lancaster 90 $43,780
Wilkes 70 $40,360
Scranton 70 $40,360
Barre 70 $40,360
Hazleton 70 $40,360
Reading 60 $47,910
East Stroudsburg 50 $40,780
Erie N/A $32,290
     
Metro Area (Puerto Rico) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Caguas 320 $24,650
Carolina 320 $24,650
San Juan 320 $24,650
Aguadilla 30 $18,140
Isabela 30 $18,140
Ponce 30 $19,000
     
Metro Area (South Carolina) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Greenville 210 $30,770
Mauldin 210 $30,770
Anderson 210 $30,770
Charleston 200 $40,860
North Charleston 200 $40,860
Columbia 140 $39,620
Bluffton 130 $35,820
Hilton Head Island 130 $35,820
Beaufort 130 $35,820
     
Metro Area (South Dakota) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Rapid City 60 $30,990
Sioux Falls 50 $35,530
     
Metro Area (Tennessee) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Franklin 520 $36,730
Murfreesboro 520 $36,730
Davidson 520 $36,730
Nashville 520 $36,730
Knoxville 90 $36,680
     
Metro Area (Texas) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Fort Worth 2370 $50,190
Dallas 2370 $50,190
Arlington 2370 $50,190
The Woodlands 1570 $46,830
Houston 1570 $46,830
Sugar Land 1570 $46,830
Austin 920 $45,760
Round Rock 920 $45,760
New Braunfels 680 $39,070
San Antonio 680 $39,070
Bryan 120 $33,480
College Station 120 $33,480
Lubbock 90 $35,370
El Paso 70 $37,100
Corpus Christi 60 $37,770
Waco 50 $45,050
Tyler 40 $35,450
McAllen 40 $39,130
Edinburg 40 $39,130
Mission 40 $39,130
Temple 30 $46,660
Killeen 30 $46,660
     
Metro Area (Utah) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Salt Lake City 560 $38,460
Clearfield 100 $27,980
Ogden 100 $27,980
Provo 90 $34,410
Orem 90 $34,410
     
Metro Area (Vermont) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
South Burlington 140 $41,020
Burlington 140 $41,020
     
Metro Area (Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Richmond 480 $46,530
Charlottesville 200 $48,840
Harrisonburg 80 $41,190
Roanoke 70 $52,660
Blacksburg 40 N/A
Christiansburg 40 N/A
Radford 40 N/A
Lynchburg 40 $34,810
     
Metro Area (Washington) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Spokane Valley 100 $39,790
Spokane 100 $39,790
Tumwater 70 $41,130
Olympia 70 $41,130
Yakima 50 $32,310
Bellingham 40 $36,670
     
Metro Area (West Virginia) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Morgantown 30 $40,770
     
Metro Area (Wisconsin) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Milwaukee 410 $40,480
Waukesha 410 $40,480
West Allis 410 $40,480
Madison 270 $46,240
Green Bay 60 $37,600
Eau Claire 50 $36,200
Appleton 40 $35,170
Sheboygan 40 $39,230
Neenah 30 $43,200
Oshkosh 30 $43,200
     
Metro Area (Wyoming) Total Employment Annual Median Salary
Casper 30 $34,630

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Meeting and Convention Planners

To find out more about building a career as Meeting Planners, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Meeting and Convention Planners

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Non-profit 10,460 21% $46,630
Office Services And Staffing 8,330 17% $43,310
Hotel And Accomodation 7,850 16% $41,420
Education 3,480 7% $42,050
Professional And Technical Services 3,420 7% $49,440
Restaurant 2,010 4% $34,330
Government 1,890 3% $44,190
Performing Arts And Sports 1,570 3% $41,510
Business Management 1,370 2% $52,030
Amusement Gambling And Recreation 1,280 2% $39,170
Museums And Historic Attractions 770 1% $36,910
Traditional Publishing 670 1% $50,060
Insurance 500 1% $50,510
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
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CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Meeting and Convention Planners.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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