by Sarah J.F. Braley | December 01, 2004

As the economy went south back in spring 2001, Donna Patrick found herself unemployed but holding what turned out to be a very valuable ticket: admission to Meeting Professionals International’s Certification in Meeting Management program, which was to be held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., that August.
    In April that year, Patrick took a new job as assistant to the vice president of global marketing for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Medtronics Vascular, a medical technology company. She passed the CMM program, which focuses on teaching planners how to make meetings and themselves a strategic force in their organizations. Since then, Patrick, a 14-year veteran of the industry who now holds both the CMP and CMM certifications, has been promoted twice, most recently to manager of corporate meetings and events.
    Developed in 1995 by an MPI task force in Europe, the CMM originally was offered overseas to educate members of the European meetings industry on the integration of events into the strategic plan of an organization. MPI then worked with professors at Michigan State University in East Lansing to refine the focus for senior meetings professionals, bringing the program to the United States in 1998.
    The certification is for anyone working in the industry. “A lot of people think this is just for planners, but it’s not,” stresses Marsha Flanagan, MPI’s vice president of professional development. “The curriculum imparts business skills strategic-thinking skills not meeting planning tools. The skills can help a supplier be better support for the meeting planner.”
    To date, 318 industry professionals have earned the designation. And demand is growing. Since applicants who have been accepted have two years to go through the CMM program, MPI keeps a running list of prospective CMMs, currently at about 80 people.