Meeting Planners Make Money

Originally published May 8, 2006 in MeetingNews

The May issue of Money magazine featured a list of the 50 Best Jobs in America, and tucked in between speech-language pathologist and dietitian/nutritionist, at a respectable number 39, was meeting and convention planner.

"I was really surprised to see we made the list," said Aventura, Fla.-based independent planner Eli Gorin. Since starting his own company in January, he's spent a lot of his time explaining to potential clients what it is he actually does.

"Whenever I'm pitching my services, the first question is, 'What's a meeting planner?' " he said. "A lot of people aren't aware that we're out there, so it's surprising that meeting planning got that kind of recognition from Money magazine — and as a field of its own and not part of marketing or public relations."

To compile the list, Money editors used data from the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) along with salary information from the compensation data and software website, salary.com. To qualify for the list, each profession must be projected by BLS to grow at an above-average rate over 10 years. Another qualifying criterion, according to the magazine, was that a profession must require at least a bachelor's degree — but even though many meeting planners do not have that degree, they made the list anyway.

Jobs with average compensation below $50,000, fewer than 800 annual openings, or dangerous work environments were excluded.

Each top-50 profession was then letter-graded on four criteria: stress, flexibility, creativity and difficulty. Planners agreed with most of their grades: a D for stress (meaning highly stressful); a C for flexibility (meaning not very flexible); and a B for creativity (meaning a fairly good potential for creative leeway).

However, the B grade the planning profession received for difficulty ruffled some feathers. "It's that old 'anybody can do it' attitude," said Sandy Biback of Toronto-based Imagination+ Meeting Planners. "People don't understand what everything we do encompasses."

Money magazine executive editor Craig Matters explained that the grades were based on a wide variety of data, including BLS information on working conditions and hours worked as well as an online survey at cnnmoney.com of some 26,000 workers and interviews with various trade association members. "The grades are obviously the more subjective part of this," Matters said. "We used a lot of secondary data that isn't as statistically driven as the growth projections and compensation figures."

Speaking of which, Money reported an average meeting planner salary of $56,072, with the top 5 percent earning an average of $79,939. "I wasn't being paid anything like that as a planner," said Gorin of the days before starting his own company, "and when I was in a job hunt, I didn't find any companies, at least here in Miami, offering salaries like that."

Meeting planning is projected to grow 22.2 percent over 10 years, from 42,954 jobs in 2004 to 52,495 in 2014, adding an average of about 1,890 jobs (including new and replacement positions) each year.