Meeting Planners' Handbook 2007: Managing Your Meetings Career


To be a successful planner, you certainly must have skills in site selection, food and beverage management, budget management, and setting objectives.

Even more important to your personal development, however, is to have a clear and concise plan for your career. Today’s economy, and the availability of jobs, fluctuates constantly. So it is vital that you be prepared; have your personal career plan always ready, reevaluate your goals regularly, and find the proper tools for a successful job search.

A. Designing a Personal Career Plan

1. What is your ultimate career goal?
2. What geographic preferences do you have?
3. What are your other job criteria? Different things motivate different people. Are you motivated by money? Good benefits? A supportive work environment? A more stimulating job? A variety of meetings to work on? More control?
Make sure you are clear on the reasons you want to change jobs so you can evaluate potential employers effectively.
4. What is your timetable? Set dates by which you want to achieve career goals, and when you would like to be at certain levels. Factor in the personal and professional logistics of being able to move to a new position.
5. What are your financial goals? Are there any barriers to achieving them?
6. Who represents the competition for achieving your goal? For example, if you wish to enter a different meetings niche (say, moving from medical meetings to financial meetings), you will be competing with people who have experience in that area. Plan for that.

B. Develop Your Own Marketing Tools

1. Write your resume.
a. Take advantage of the many software and online programs designed to develop resumes.
b. Emphasize your accomplishments. Especially stress any supervisory experience or skills.
c. Detail the types and sizes of meetings you have worked on.
d. If you have experience managing international meetings, mention that prominently.
e. Note the budget sizes you have experience working with—total departmental budget for conferences, or an average per-event budget if you worked on a small number of large events.
f. Spell out your skills in all specific meeting-planning disciplines such as food and beverage, audiovisual, coordinating outside vendors, negotiation skills, on-site skills, etc.
g. Make sure you proof your resume carefully; a spell-check program alone does not suffice. Don’t damage your chances of getting the job you want through carelessness.
h. Look into new technology for sending out your resume. Video resumes are becoming more and more popular, for instance
2. Interviewing skills
a. Practice your interview skills among colleagues in advance of the interview.
b. During the interview, try to found out what the hiring official is looking for and emphasize your skills relative to those needs. Be specific!
c. Even in today’s casual-dress business environment, it is better to err on the conservative side in attire for an interview.
d. Be prompt!
e. Always follow up with a thank-you note reemphasizing your skills in relationship to the position.

C. Where To Find Available Positions

1. Newspaper classifieds. Look for listings under the following job titles or words: meeting, conference, trade show, special events, travel, corporate affairs, public relations, fundraising, marketing.
2. The Internet.
a. Industry job banks: (and MPI local chapter sites) (and PCMA local chapter sites)

b. Non-specific job banks. Conduct keyword searches of “meetings” or “events” on sites such as,, (very popular for video resumes)
c. Many companies post their positions on their own web sites.
3. The industry network. Join, attend, and become involved with local chapters of industry associations such as Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Meetings Association, American Society of Association Executives, Society of Incentive & Travel Executives.
4. Educational Avenues. Check local community or four-year colleges for continuing-education programs in meetings management or the hospitality industry. These can be vital sources for deepening your knowledge and networking opportunities.
5. Realize that a majority of meetings positions are located in first-tier cities with a strong proliferation of corporate headquarters or association centers.
6. Consider temping. By getting your foot in the door, you can prove you worth to the organization and gain valuable experience.

D. Types Of Planner Career Paths
Understand the different types of meetings planners that there are, with an eye to where your skills will be the best fit.

1. Corporate planner: Most likely located in a corporate office. Positions usually pay higher, but tend to be relatively unstable during economic downtimes. Within the corporate planning field are numerous specialties, including financial, medical, pharmaceutical, insurance, marketing, and entertainment.
2. Association planner: Compared to corporate planners, salaries tend to be somewhat lower but job security is less often subject to economic fluctuations, since conventions are almost always a sizable revenue stream for associations.
3. Independent planner: To go out on your own and expect to succeed, you must be a well-experienced planner. It is also critical to be able to market yourself, as well as market the meetings you are hired to manage. This category also includes “permalancers” (full-time temporary employees).
4. Travel company or independent meeting management firm: These options, in a sense, are part of the independent planner category, in that the organization is hired by a corporation or association to manage one or more meetings. The difference is that instead of running your own business, you are employed by a company that provides outsourced planning services. You may be located either at the client’s office or your own company’s site.
5. Incentive planner: Manages incentive (also called motivation) programs for either a corporation or incentive company.
6. Religious or non-profit planner: Manages meetings, fund-raising events and special events for religious organizations or other not-for-profit entities.
7. Government planner: Works for a government agency or for a company who handles local and national government meetings.
8. On-Site Management: Works as a conference services manager for a hotel, conference center, or convention center.
9. Strategic event management, or corporate marketing/brand management. A next-level role, this is where you work on the bigger picture, bringing the entire meeting concept from theme, concept design, and development, to implementation and brand/market labeling (including communication and advertising strategies), to implementation, and then to return-on-investment calculations.

E. Salaries
The annual average base salary, according to recent polls, is around $65,000; the median is $62,000, says recent MeetingNews research. However, salaries vary widely by level of position, the applicant’s experience, and geographic location, so it’s not too useful to generalize. Here are estimated average salaries for positions in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles:

1. Entry level: $30,000-$40,000
2. Two to four years’ experience: $35,000-$60,000
3. Five to 10 years’ experience: $50,000-$100,000
4. More than 10 years’ experience: $70,000-$180,000

Many corporations, especially financial services firms and pharmaceutical firms, offer bonuses in addition to salary. This is often discretionary and based on the overall success of the company, not just meetings and events—unless you negotiate it that way.

Thanks to Dawn Penfold, CMP, President of The Meeting Candidate Network Inc., a national search firm specializing in the placement of permanent and temporary meeting professionals. Contact her at [email protected], or see