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Meeting planning is a widely varied discipline. A planner's job requirements might entail staging a massive public technology trade show, organizing a professional golf tournament or planning a retreat for a corporate board of directors. Though the skill sets necessary for each task can be quite different, a foundation of transferable competencies exists, and Meeting Professionals International last week released perhaps the industry's most comprehensive effort to define them.
MPI partnered with the Canadian Tourism Human Resources Council, a government-funded body dedicated to promoting professionalism in the Canadian tourism sector. The groups developed and issued an 87-page report listing more than 30 skills and more than 80 subskills that would make a more perfect planner, from the abilities to measure the value of a meeting and manage a budget to the knowledge of food and beverage services and staff management.
Available for free through MPI's website, "Meeting & Business Events Competency Standards" is the result of a four-year effort "to create a continuum from the moment that someone decides that he or she wants to make a living in this industry, all the way to the certification process," said MPI chief development officer Didier Scaillet.
The goal, Scaillet said, was to bring definition to a discipline lacking universal educational standards and better prepare new planners to secure and maintain jobs.
"About 300 academic institutions in the United States alone are delivering some sort of event or meetings management program, from electives to master's programs. But there are no standards behind it," Scaillet said. "If you take accounting, there are rules and competencies and standards that are well-established and pretty well-defined. The curriculum you see across all the accounting programs are going to be fairly standard. None of that is the case in the meetings and events industry."
Each main skill listed in the report, which was funded in part by the MPI Foundation, includes the time required to master it--typically measured in years--as well as how often that skill is required and its level of importance in relation to the overall job of a planner. These and other details were quantified with the assistance of a task force dedicated to the standards' development, which included senior corporate meetings management executives, independent and association meeting managers, academics and suppliers.
More than 150 meeting practitioners from more than 20 countries reviewed the standards for validation before they were published, according to the report.
The Convention Industry Council, serving as the meetings industry association umbrella group that maintains the qualifications necessary to attain the Certified Meeting Professional certification, announced it would use the new standards as part of a CMP competencies update. The Professional Convention Management Association indicated it would accordingly revise its CMP Online Prep Course.
A next step for MPI will be helping to develop a curriculum guide based on the standards, to allow students to attain the knowledge, skills and competencies "that make them employable immediately," Scaillet said. "Can we help academic institutions define what needs to be in year one and year two of a two-year program? What about a master's program? We don't want to be a judge and jury, and academia will continue to set all curriculum, but we want to offer a guide to what should be touched upon." A skills assessment that could "benchmark where students are," he said, may be a future development. "That would be extremely valuable for employers."
Career paths in the meetings and events industry often require planners to learn specific intricacies of pharmaceutical meetings management, for example, or citywide event management. Those and other paths were deemed too specialized to address in the standards, Scaillet said.
"If a person is based in a marketing department, they'll have a very different approach than someone in a procurement organization," he said. "We just wanted to provide a foundation. Will the standards continue to apply to someone with 10 or 12 years in the industry? Probably not. But will they provide a solid background for someone just starting out for the first five years? Absolutely."
The article originally was published in Business Travel News.
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