October 01, 1999

Meetings & Conventions SALARY SURVEY October 1999 Current Issue
October 1999
1999 Salary Survey


Most corporate planners say they are content and well-paid.
Do your earnings measure up?

By Sarah J.F. Braley Photograph by James Porto

During childhood, your parents measured you on the wall, marking the inches you grew and comparing how tall you were with a sibling's height at the same age. Once in school, grades became the yardstick, enabling you to gauge how well you were doing in a class and in comparison with your classmates. Performance reviews provide some indication of how you are doing on the job, but it is more difficult, once you enter the working world, to find a way to size up how your workload and compensation rank next to those of your peers.

Meetings & Conventions commissioned a salary survey to give corporate planners a gauge. The Survey Center, an independent market-research company based in Mashpee, Mass., polled 800 corporate meeting planners in the United States, chosen randomly from M&C's subscriber database. Contacted in June, the planners were asked about such matters as compensation, benefits, job satisfaction and work habits.

Here is the bottom line: The average annual base salary in 1998 was slightly more than $60,000, and 20 percent of the respondents had a base salary of more than $80,000. Although nearly 60 percent of the respondents were women, the men's salaries were disproportionately higher than the women's. Virtually all those surveyed have received recent salary increases, and 80 percent expect their next raise to be the same percentage or higher.

Almost three-quarters of the planners are satisfied with their current compensation in relation to their job responsibilities, and 92 percent are not worried about being laid off in the near future. About one-third expect to add employees to their meetings departments in the next 12 months.


Going strictly by the numbers, the best place to work as a corporate planner is the Chicago area, where the average salary is $67,331, about $3,500 more than in the West or the Northeast. What's your reaction?

  • I think you're a little high, as far as I know, for the area. But I'm not surprised the area is so good, because of all the organizations and corporations here. It's better than where I came from [Pittsburgh]. That's why I wanted to transfer.
    Renée Magnus, planner, TruServ Corp.
    hardware cooperative, Chicago
  • That's amazing. I always think of the coasts as being more expensive than the Midwest, and salaries being comparable.
    Linda Reynolds, vice president and manager of event services,
    Wells Fargo Bank, San Francisco
  • Well, go find me a job there! I always feel the standard of living and the cost of living in the Midwest and the South are not as high as in the West and here. It surprises me that they would be better paid.
    Shar Mueller, vice president and manager of corporate meeting
    planning, Marsh insurance brokerage, New York City
  • Dollars and cents
    Although corporate planners made an average of $60,650 last year, the greatest percentage, 49 percent, made between $30,000 and $59,999. On the lower end, 12 percent made less than $29,999 in 1998. A healthy 14 percent made $90,000 or more. Five percent are in the $150,000-or-more category.

    Men made an average of $27,719 more than women last year. The men averaged $76,079, while women averaged $48,360, meaning for every dollar a man in this segment of the meetings industry made, a woman earned just 64 cents. As a point of reference, consider the national average just one year earlier: In 1997, women earned 74 cents to every dollar a man made, according to U.S. Census data.

    Compared with the gender disparity, the numbers when broken down by age seem quite logical. Corporate planners who are younger than 35 earned an average of $44,938 in 1998; those 35 to 54 took home $60,942, and yearly paychecks for people 55 and older averaged $73,952.

    The survey also broke down the meeting planners' salaries by their job titles. Corporate executives and managers earned the most last year, $82,258; those with meetings-specific titles, like meeting planner or convention manager, averaged $50,708; those who are in general management, administration or who are executive secretaries earned $50,206, and planners with "other" titles took home $55,588.


    Some respondents indicated their companies offer telecommuting, flextime, access to a company car, on-site child care, payments for association memberships and other personal life-enhancing benefits. Do you get any of these? Which do you wish you were offered?

  • The day care on site is so critical. Even though I don't have children, I see how people struggle. If you want someone to be productive, you have to offer them some relief and help them balance. We belong to a day-care system.
    Denise D'Arbonne, CMP, manager, meeting services, Pepsi-Cola, Purchase, N.Y.
  • I think telecommuting would be a great option, even if it was just one day a week. Everybody has a computer at home now. It's pretty easy to do. I'd also like the company to pay for my cell phone, a pager and a laptop.
    Judi Maher, associate director of events, Children's Memorial Foundation, Chicago
  • We have telecommuting and flextime. Unwritten policy allows us to take comp days for when we're working on weekends, which is great in this industry. Plus, the company pays for MPI [dues].
    Richard Bowen, senior events manager, Oracle, Redwood City, Calif.

    Male meeting planners make an average of $27,719 more a year than female planners. Any reaction?

  • Well, this is really disgusting, but I know it's the truth. A lot of times men come to planning from executive or higher-ranking managerial levels than women do. By virtue of what they've done previously, they get higher salaries.
    Laura B. Yarbrough, CMP, program manager, marketing events, EDS, Plano, Texas
  • You're kidding. Being a man, I'm shocked that that's happening. Maybe it's just denial. In this office, it's not the case, because [compensation is] all based on seniority and performance.
    Bruce Finch, conference planner, The Gillette Co., Boston
  • That's ridiculous. As a planner, I think of things that men won't think of. I pay more attention to details. I feel there are probably a lot more women planners than men, and why should men make more money?
    Susan Huntsberry, administrative assistant to Western region manager, Mobil Oil Corp., Torrance, Calif..
  • When salaries are examined from a regional standpoint, Chicago and its surrounding states offer the best deals. Planners living in the eastern north-central part of the country (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin) averaged $67,331 a year. The Pacific region (Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii) was second, with $63,883, and the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) came in a close third at $63,827.

    The mountain states (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming) ranked fourth, at $59,298, followed by the central South (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas) at $56,518. Planners in the South Atlantic region (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.) earned an average of $54,925.

    The western north-central region (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and North and South Dakota) brought up the rear, at $49,963.

    Mutually beneficial
    One-third of those surveyed received cash bonuses, and slightly fewer, 27 percent, participated in a profit-sharing program in 1998. But it is not just the executives who are benefiting from these programs: Of the 257 people who said they pocketed a cash bonus, 16 percent earned less than $40,000, 40 percent earned between $40,000 and $79,999, and 22 percent earned more than $80,000.

    The numbers are similar for those who were part of a profit-sharing program. Of the 210 who participated in one, 19 percent earned less than $40,000, 38 percent earned between $40,000 and $79,999 and 25 percent earned more than $80,000.

    Although most planners reported they have the usual paid time off (sick days, holidays and vacations), many indicated they get a number of other attractive benefits. About 38 percent say their companies pay their professional society membership dues, 46 percent get tuition reimbursement and 13 percent have access to scholarships for their children.

    Among other useful pluses provided by corporations are the option to telecommute (26 percent), use of a subsidized cafeteria (12 percent), care from a doctor on staff (6 percent), access to a company car (18 percent), on-site child care (4 percent) and payments for child care (3 percent). More than 30 percent have flextime options, enabling them to start and end their work days when they want, but only 7 percent report their companies offer job-sharing.

    Getting satisfaction
    Despite all the grumblings about mergers and acquisitions and fears of downsizing, corporate planners seem to be pretty happy in their positions. A healthy 91 percent of the 800 planners surveyed report they are satisfied with their jobs.

    These corporate planners are quite certain their jobs are not in jeopardy. When asked if they think their companies will lay off employees in positions like theirs in the next year, 87 percent said no, and more than 90 percent indicated they feel secure in their current positions.

    About 35 percent of the respondents expected their companies to hire more planners in the next year, which could mean good news for the 14 percent who said the one change they would make to improve their jobs would be to get more help. Ten percent said if they could make one change, more money would do the trick. Eight percent want more time, 4 percent want better communication and 2 percent want more authority. Three percent would like more cooperation.

    The robust economy might be the reason 58 percent of the planners surveyed expect the same percentage increase in their salaries they received last year. Another 20 percent are anticipating larger increases than in 1998. About 6 percent reported that no one in the company got a raise in 1998, and 6 percent think no one will get one this year, either. Along the same lines, 6 percent said some positions did not get raises in 1998, and 4 percent said there will be no raises for some positions this year.

    Hard work pays off
    A common perception is that planners have incredibly long work weeks. But for the majority, the reality is not quite so dim. A little more than 60 percent work an average of 40 to 50 hours a week, although a significant chunk of those polled 24 percent are slogging through 60-hour or longer weeks.

    Broken down by gender, 36 percent of the men are putting in 60-plus-hour weeks, while only 16 percent of the women are. More than 70 percent of the women reported they work between 40 and 50 hours, while 50 percent of the men spend that amount of time on their jobs each week.

    Aside from all their meeting planning responsibilities, 42 percent of those surveyed supervise two to 10 people, while 31 percent do not supervise anyone but themselves. About 11 percent have departments of 11 to 20 people under them, and 6 percent supervise more than 30 people.

    Back to Current Issue index
    M&C Home Page
    Current Issue | Events Calendar | Newsline | Incentive News | Meetings Market Report
    Editorial Libraries | CVB Links | Reader Survey | Hot Dates | Contact M&C