October 01, 1998
Meetings & Conventions Members Only October 1998 Current Issue
October 1998
Members Only

A spate of new industry associations widens planners' options. Here's all you need to know to make the right choice


Find a meeting site. Find a job. Learn something useful for work, or life in general. Meet new friends or your future spouse. Negotiate and arbitrate. Eat, drink and stay up late.

Associations offer any or all of these possibilities to members, primarily through meetings. They're sources of news, schools for emerging technology and telescopes focused on the future of a business.

Despite the profession's somewhat amorphous profile, meeting planning has been supported by associations for decades. The American Society of Association Executives, for example, got its start in 1920. The International Association for Exposition Management has been around since 1928. The 1970s were a boom time for new groups, as four got their starts then. (A complete listing of industry associations and their services begins on page 82.)

The 1990s will go down as another period of renaissance for meetings industry associations. Although once monopolized by a handful of large organizations, the industry is now making room for narrowly targeted groups. Bound by a professional or cultural niche, these groups are marketing themselves as alternatives to the perceived business-as-usual attitude of some larger associations. Those at the helm are often defectors from the big groups themselves.

Scott Young, president of The Meeting Company, a vendor research and site selection firm in Franklin, Mass., is a former member of Meeting Professionals International. "MPI is so big," he says, that members may share ideas on pressing issues, but these are lost in the bureaucratic shuffle and never implemented at the next meeting.

Filling niches
Young hopes to find a more intimate idea exchange and quality education through the National Association of Independent Meeting Planners, Inc., which held its first national meeting last month. "There's an opportunity here for NAIMP to be different," says Young, who has accepted a seat on the board. NAIMP, founded by executive director and CEO Linda Sewell, promises to teach traditional planning skills along with business basics, such as marketing, tax laws and liability insurance. Young wants to develop a consortium through which members can jointly bid on projects and work for clients.

Another trail is being blazed by the Guild of Meeting & Incentive Professionals, which held its first meeting in March. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based group is open only to middlemen - independents and travel agency meeting and incentive planners; no suppliers are allowed. "There ought to be a place where members can share ideas and talk about the good, the bad and the ugly without worrying about offending a supplier in the room," says Bruce Tepper, executive director and vice president of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates Inc., a consulting and training firm of which the Guild is a division.

Both NAIMP and the Guild are for-profit entities. Will planners accept these groups as moneymakers? "If we can give planners value, it's not going to matter whether we make a profit or not," says Tepper. "I don't think the organizational structure matters to anyone." Actually, he feels the Guild's structure - it doesn't have a board - makes it better suited to respond to members' needs with alacrity. "It's very tough for associations to move quickly," adds Tepper. "We don't have to go to a board. We just do it."

Several other new niche organizations (in contrast, all entirely volunteer-run) are based on a common culture. The International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals works to create awareness of the Hispanic meetings market and educate Hispanic youths about the industry, says Beatrice Moreno, CMP, vice president of membership for the three-year-old, 88-member group. Moreno, who is also senior conference specialist with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, says she was surprised that while many members were veteran planners, few belonged to a professional organization.

IAHMP has been joined in the past two years by the International Society of Gay & Lesbian Meeting Professionals and the Association of Female Exhibit Managers and Convention Organizers. Says ISGLMP president Alexander Lichtenstein, the reason for forming this group is obvious: "No other association was addressing this niche."

What about me?
Some say the proliferation of new groups is a resounding outcry from planners tired of the status quo at the major associations. A lack of attention and modest fiscal contributions to educational programs may be causing members to flee, says Terry Thiessen, CMP, president of Professional Resources & Events in New Holstein, Wis., and former chair of an MPI education subcommittee. "The education isn't there," he argues.

Some speculate that any large group is hard-pressed to meet everyone's needs. Suppliers, independents, trade show managers and corporate and association planners may all be members, and may represent a spectrum of skill levels. To provide challenging education for everyone is difficult.

Meeting Professionals International is trying to fill educational gaps at the chapter level, counters Edwin L. Griffin Jr., president and CEO of MPI. About 70 percent of the group's members are active only on the chapter level and never attend the national meetings, he says. So MPI is developing what it calls the Platinum Series, self-contained programs that include handouts, technology-based materials and funds to fly in a speaker. MPI will spend $500,000 on seven education modules to be available to chapters by early 1999.

The International Association for Exposition Management is also grappling with the problem. Its seminars have historically focused on the untrained member, says Steven Hacker, IAEM's president. Not a surprise: About 30 percent of new members are under 30, and the average member age has decreased significantly in the past six years, he says. Yet, to appeal to senior-level managers, Hacker would like to see workshops on the impact of mergers, acquisitions and venture capital on the industry.

And the American Society of Association Executives is simply trying to make its large numbers more manageable. With more than 40 programs, "members may have a difficult time identifying what's best for them as their needs change," says Gary LaBranche, vice president of education. ASAE is organizing its offerings into groups based on stages of career development and within 18 months should have a self-assessment tool on its Web site; by filling out the form, people can find out which are the right programs for them.

Pop-up certifications
The veteran meetings associations are facing challenges not only on the education playing field but also in the certification arena. The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) has long been the primary designation for meeting planners and is backed by all the major industry associations. (ASAE and IAEM also have their own, targeted at association staff and show managers.) Now, some new groups are trying to entice potential members with certifications of their own.

The National Association of Independent Meeting Planners, Inc., held its first Certified Meeting Executive (CME) exam in August. NAIMP partnered with Florida State University to offer the test, which the group is trying to position as a graduate degree for all other meeting certifications.

How does the CME differ from the CMP? It does not test one's experience or professional knowledge. Rather, it's a weeklong program of case studies and group projects, led by industry professionals. Participants are evaluated at the end of the week, at which time everyone receives a certificate.

Another new certification claims to measure technology expertise. The Certified Internet Meeting Professional (CIMP) is the product of the Connected International Meeting Professionals Association. Participants attend technology seminars, then demonstrate skills such as sending e-mail or finding a speaker online. Participants can use a reference book during the exam and can retake it.

Planners should be wary of a certification that tests its own coursework, says Bonnie Aubin, executive director of the National Organization for Competency Assurance in Washington, D.C., which develops standards for certifying organizations and accredits those that meet them. "You have to be careful not to be teaching people to pass your exam," says Aubin. "The impetus of a certification is to protect the public or the consumer. It's not something that can be whipped up overnight."

Meanwhile, MPI, which also backs the CMP, is debuting a certification of its own. MPI has partnered with Michigan State University to offer the Certification in Meetings Management (CMM); the first course was set for September. Originally developed for European meeting planners, the CMM is also being touted as a graduate-level program. It involves home study, a five-day course and a three-part exam with essay questions.

What rivalry?
Some worry the new groups and certifications are simply creating divisions, when alliance is what will help the meetings industry flourish. "I think that all these groups are attempting to splinter the industry, take disheartened people and create a community for themselves," says Jim Daggett, chair of the CMP Board and founder of JR Daggett and Associates, a meetings, exhibitions and consulting firm in Chicago. "It may be warranted, but it impacts us as an industry."

Not all is lost. In some cases, associations that compete for members are now collaborating to better serve their audiences. The Professional Convention Management Association and IAEM are teaming up on some seminars at each other's annual conventions. PCMA also co-sponsors the Meetings and Exhibitions Technology Conference (METCON) with ASAE. Jay Donohue, PCMA's vice president of membership and chapter relations, says partnering "gives us an increased ability to get our message out."

Getting the word out that a support system of associations exists for those who plan meetings is exactly what's needed, says Daggett. He cites research that puts the number of North American association planners at around 459,000 and asks, "Where are they?"


Associations for Meeting, Exhibition and Incentive Planners

American Society of Association Executives
Washington, D.C.
(202) 626-2723
Established: 1920
President: Michael S. Olson, CAE
No. of members: 24,000+
Target audience: Those who manage trade associations, individual membership societies, voluntary organizations and other not-for-profit associations; suppliers may join as associates. Membership sections include meeting, convention and trade show planners, as well as CEOs and staff from education, government affairs, member services, communications and marketing.
Membership composition: 84 percent association executives, 16 percent suppliers. (3,500 members are in the meetings and expositions section.) Male/female ratio: 50/50
Annual membership fee: $215 for CEOs, $185 for association staff, $315 for suppliers; includes membership in one section, additional sections are $100 each.
Conventions/meetings: Three with education for meeting and exhibition planners: annual meeting and trade show in August, Management & Technology Conference in December and Meetings & Exhibitions Technology Conference (METCON) in April, co-sponsored with PCMA
Other education: Behind-the-scenes hotel operations program for planners; monthly section roundtables live or by audioconference; DesktopASAE online courses on general management topics such as communications, team-building and diversity
Certification program: Certified Association Executive, targeted at CEOs or those with at least five years association management experience. Exam measures high-level association management skills such as data interpretation and problem-solving. Topics include budgets, ethics, human resources, international relations, chapter relations and fund-raising.
Other services:: CEO Center provides referrals, peer networking and problem-solving by phone from more than 100 experts; Career Headquarters with job bank and career library; member directory and buyer's guide; discounts on hotels, car rentals, long-distance phone service, shipping, office products and ASAE publications; government affairs updates; research on association management topics and a database of relevant literature; insurance and financial services programs; e-mail listservs for each membership section; monthly magazine and monthly section newsletters
Web site: Membership information; directories for allied societies, association members, association management companies and suppliers; upcoming convention programs; past meetings highlights; information on educational programs and CAE; past magazine issues; book catalog; government affairs updates; CEO Center; Career Headquarters; database of association management literature. Meetings & Expositions section has useful links, survey information, background on educational programs.
Allied societies: 68 state, local and regional societies

Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors-International
Colorado State University, Fort Collins
(970) 491-5151
Established: 1980
Executive director: Jill Lancaster
No. of members: 1,000+
Target audience: Professionals who provide conference and special-event services at colleges and universities
Membership composition: Most work for institutions that both plan programs and provide meeting facilities; less than 2 percent are corporate suppliers. Male/female ratio: 33/67
Annual membership fee: $210 for individuals, $425 for institutions (includes three individuals, $40 for each additional member), $550 for corporate (businesses or foundations; two individuals), $280 for associate (other nonprofit organizations; two individuals) and $40 for students
Conventions/meetings: One: annual educational conference in March
Other education: Traveling workshops and fall regional meetings
Certification program: Collegiate Conference and Events Professional (CCEP). Requirements: minimum of three years experience, attend 12 special-interest sessions at ACCED-I educational programs, serve a minimum of 15 volunteer hours with the association, complete the certification workbook, and either present a program at an ACCED-I meeting or publish an article in a professional journal
Other services:: Free job referral service, resource library, e-mail discussion listserv, member directory and quarterly newsletter
Web site: Membership information, resource library, job listings, newsletter, links to member organizations, upcoming conference dates
Regional chapters: 12

Association of Female Exhibit Managers and Convention Organizers
Bethesda, Md.
(301) 656-6023
Established: 1997
President: Maria Brennan (volunteer)
No. of members: 200
Target audience: Female exhibit managers, meeting planners, association executives, trade show specialists and industry suppliers
Membership composition: 90 percent planners, 10 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio: 8/92
Annual membership fee: $99
Conventions/meetings: One: annual meeting in December (dovetails with the International Association for Exposition Management's December meeting) with no trade show
Other education: None
Other services: Job bank, discounts on car rental and air travel, quarterly newsletter
Web site: Information on upcoming annual meeting and members-only section for job listings
Regional chapters: In development

Insurance Conference Planners Association
Vancouver, British Columbia
(604) 988-2054
Established: 1957
President: Dale Huff
No. of members: 455
Target audience: Meeting planners who are full-time employees of insurance companies; suppliers cannot become members, but they can attend the annual meeting.
Membership composition: All planners. Male/female ratio: about 50/50
Annual membership fee: $150
Conventions/meetings: Two: annual meeting in November and the Summer Education Forum in June
Other education: Occasional local and regional workshops and business sessions on industry issues
Other services: Access to Exchange, a database of member-supplied information and feedback on meeting destinations and services; quarterly newsletter and bi-monthly magazine
Web site: Information on past and upcoming meetings, newsletter, contact information for ICPA staff
Regional chapters: Four; one in the Northeast, three in the Midwest

International Association for Exposition Management
(972) 458-8002
Established: 1928
President: Steven Hacker, CAE
No. of members: 3,300+
Target audience: Trade show managers; suppliers may join as associates.
Membership composition: 54 percent show managers, 46 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio: 54/46
Annual membership fee: $260 for first exposition manager from a company; $200 for each additional manager from same company. $360 for first associate member from a company; $325 for each additional associate from same company
Conventions/meetings: Two: mid-year meeting in June; annual meeting and the Expo Expo in December
Other education: Association offers a leadership institute open to all members once a year. Chapters offer regional programming.
Certification program: CEM (Certified in Exposition Management): Candidates must be active in the exhibition industry for at least three years, be of "acceptable character, ability and reputation," have earned at least 250 certification points and pass the CEM examination. For recertification, they must have continuous employment within the exhibition industry and accumulate 0.6 continuing education units since last certification earned and at least 100 certification points.
Other services: Job bank posted as insert in newsletter and on Web site; The Art of the Show textbook discounted for members ($40); other discounts on products and services; tip cards for exhibiting success that show managers can give to exhibitors; badge holders; twice-monthly newsletter (changing in 1999 to a weekly), and a magazine, published 10 times a year
Web site: Information on membership, publications, services, education and more; a job bank; chapter listings; forums and industry links. The members-only section was under construction at press time.
Regional/local chapters: 17

International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals
San Antonio, Texas
(210) 522-2260
Established: 1995
President: Margaret Gonzalez
No. of members: 88
Target audience: Independent, association and corporate planners who are Hispanic/Latino and those actively pursuing business with that market; non-Hispanics are welcome.
Membership composition: 50 percent planners, 50 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio not available
Annual membership fee: $150 for planners, $250 for suppliers, $50 for students in a hospitality-oriented degree program at a university
Conventions/meetings: One: annual conference that focuses on networking is held in April or May. Plans are to add more educational sessions and a trade show.
Other education: None at this time; planning to add smaller meetings
Other services: None at this time; developing a mentoring program for students in hospitality fields, quarterly newsletter to be rolled out by 1999
Web site: Conference information
Regional/local chapters: None

International Society of Gay & Lesbian Meeting Professionals
New York City
Established: 1996
President: Alexander Lichtenstein, CMP (202-874-5097) (volunteer)
No. of members: 533
Target audience: Corporate and association planners, both gays and nongay supporters; suppliers from hotels, airlines and CVBs
Membership composition: Roughly 50 percent planners, 50 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio not available
Annual membership fee: $110 for individual members, $475 for suppliers, $55 for individual associate members (recommended for non-U.S. members, nonprofit organization representatives and students)
Conventions/meetings: First annual meeting has been set to take place in Minneapolis in May 1999, in conjunction with the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.
Other education: Hosts networking receptions and educational symposiums at other industry association conventions, including those of ASAE, IAEM, MPI and PCMA
Other services: "Seal of Approval" ratings for suppliers who have been evaluated on their "gay-friendliness" to employees and customers; awards "Corporation of the Year" to one gay-friendly organization annually; supplier discounts for members; twice-monthly newsletter sent by e-mail
Web site: Links to community and industry organizations, membership information and application, member directory (members have option not to be listed), directory of approved gay-friendly locations, monthly newsletter, pages for each committee
Regional/local chapters: None

Meeting Professionals International
(972) 702-3000
Established: 1972
President and CEO: Edwin L. Griffin Jr., CAE
No. of members: 16,000+
Target audience: Corporate, association, convention, trade show and independent planners; suppliers are admitted only with a planner partner.
Membership composition: 50 percent planners (54 percent are corporate, 19 percent are association, 19 percent are independents and 8 percent are other), 50 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio: 26/74
Annual membership fee: $315 initially for both planners and suppliers; renewal is $290.
Conventions/meetings: Two: the World Education Congress and the Meeting Place trade show are held every July or August. The Professional Education Conference is held each January. (PEC-Europe is an annual conference held overseas.)
Other education: MPI holds Institutes I and II - intensive classes (subjects change year to year) broken down by experience level - once a year. Most local chapters hold monthly meetings and
Various retreats. Three regional conferences are arranged locally: the All-California Educational Conference (every other year), the New England Meeting Industry and Exposition Conference and the Southeastern Educational Conference.
Certification program: Certification in Meetings Management (CMM), offered in Europe and the U.S. Candidates for the CMM are senior-level planners and seasoned suppliers; the process consists of home study, a five-day residential course and a three-part exam. Also offers CMP study courses and tests at annual meetings.
Other services: Bookstore, resource center, discounts for golf events at American Golf properties, free Meeting Matrix seating software, insurance packages for independent planners, member discounts on Meetings and Conventions: A Planning Guide ($49.95), monthly magazine
Web site: Bookstore, supplier showcase, chapter information, discussion center, news and more; among the features of the members-only section are a job bank and bulletin boards.
Regional/local chapters: 59 (14 international) and 5 international clubs

National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners
Silver Spring, Md.
(202) 628-3952
Established: 1983
President: Ozzie Jenkins
No. of members: 700
Target audience: African Americans who plan meetings for corporations, associations and civil rights, religious or fraternal organizations; suppliers may join as associate members. Membership
Composition: Figures not available. The group has more suppliers than planners.
Annual membership fee: $125 for planners; $250 for suppliers
Conventions/meetings: Two: a spring and a fall educational conference, both with a trade show.
Other education: Regional meetings, but no set schedule; CMP study classes offered at the fall conference
Other services: Free copy of the Convention Liaison Council Manual, job bank, college job bank for entry-level hospitality positions, educational scholarships for students majoring in hospitality management or meeting planning, quarterly newsletter
Web site: Information about upcoming conferences, board members' CVs, application for membership, membersonly sections for the job banks
Regional/local chapters: None

Professional Convention Management Association
Birmingham, Ala.
(205) 823-7262
Established: 1957
Executive vice president and CEO: Roy B. Evans Jr., CAE
No. of members: 4,414
Target audience: Active membership is limited to meeting professionals working for non-profit organizations; planners with for-profit organizations and suppliers may join as affiliates.
Membership composition: One-third planners, two-thirds suppliers. Male/female ratio: 36/64
Annual membership fee: $280 for active members, $430 for affiliate planners and suppliers
Conventions/meetings: Two: the annual educational meeting, held in January, and the spring Meetings and Exhibitions Technology Conference (METCON), cosponsored with ASAE
Other education: An online self-study course for the CMP
Other services: Travel and accident insurance; job bank; discounts on books, publications and self-study courses; monthly magazine; and a newsletter, published five times a year
Web site: A job bank, information on upcoming meetings, an archive of magazine issues, chapter information, "Open Dates, Discount Rates" section on available time periods at hotels
Regional/local chapters: 15 in the U.S. and Canada

Religious Conference Management Association
(317) 632-1888
No Web site
Established: 1972
Executive director and CEO: DeWayne S. Woodring, CMP
No. of members: 2,924
Target audience: Active membership is limited to those responsible for planning or managing meetings, tutorials, conferences and conventions for religious organizations; suppliers may join as associate members.
Membership composition: 45 percent planners, 55 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio: 47/53
Annual membership fee: $50 for planners, $100 for suppliers
Conventions/meetings: One: annual convention and exposition in January Other education: None
Other services: Dues include accidental death and dismemberment insurance, discounts on various travel services, free membership plaque and directory, and bimonthly magazine
Web site: None of its own
Regional/local chapters: None

Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals
(404) 355-9932
Established: 1970
Executive director: Michael Mazur Jr.
No. of members: 170
Target audience: Primarily corporate meeting planners and convention service managers; independent planners are also welcome. Suppliers other than CSMs cannot join.
Membership composition: 65 percent planners, 35 percent convention service managers. Male/female ratio: 30/70
Annual membership fee: $250
Conventions/meetings: Two: annual meeting in November and educational conference in June. No trade show with either meeting
Other education: A half-day CMP prep course may be offered at either meeting, based on demand.
Other services: Quarterly newsletter. Plans are to introduce a fax-on-demand job bank.
Web site: Information on membership and upcoming meetings, and a marketplace page. Plans are to add members' favorite links, a chat room and online registration capability.
Regional/local chapters: None

Society of Government Meeting Professionals Mechanicsburg. Pa.
(717) 795-SGMP
Established: 1982
President: Steven Hilberg (volunteer)
No. of members: 2,800
Target audience: Federal, state and local government employees who plan meetings; contract planners who manage government meetings, and suppliers to the government
Membership composition: 51 percent planners, 49 percent suppliers. Male/female ratio not available
Annual membership fee: $75 for government planners, $150 for contract planners, $250 for suppliers
Conventions/meetings: One: annual educational conference and trade show held between February and June
Other education: Many chapters sponsor one- to two-day local or regional education workshops each year. The SGMP Educational Foundation sponsors a three-day CMP study course and organizes the Leadership Institute for the chapters, both prior to the annual conference. Looking for Leaders, a yearlong leadership development program, was unveiled this year.
Other services: Membership directory, discount on Convention Liaison Council Manual and Glossary, newsletter published 10 times a year, CMP scholarship program. Only supplier and contract planner members may purchase association's mailing labels, advertise in the directory and newsletter, and exhibit at the trade show.
Web site: Currently being developed; four chapters have their own sites.
Regional/local chapters: 26

Society of Incentive & Travel Executives
New York City
(212) 575-0910
Established: 1973
Executive vice president and CEO: Robert Vitagliano
No. of members: 2,000
Target audience: People involved in incentive planning, including corporate executives, incentive companies and consultants; suppliers from hospitality, travel and tourism fields, as well as premium product suppliers.
Membership composition: No breakdown available, although the majority of members are suppliers.
Annual membership fee: $375, plus one-time $50 application fee
Conventions/meetings: Three regional educational universities held in Asia (early fall), the Americas (June) and Europe (February or March) and an annual international conference held in November or December
Other education: Eight half-day seminars as well as courses and clinics for the two incentive trade shows that SITE endorses: the Motivation Show and the European Incentive & Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition
Certification program: Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE), open to practitioners and suppliers. Requirements include a point qualification (earned by attending educational programs and serving on committees), written exam, preparation of an original research paper and demonstration of "achievement of excellence in the industry."
Other services: Bimonthly newsletter. SITE Foundation, the research arm of SITE, funds surveys and studies.
Regional/local chapters: 24 worldwide; eight more are in formation. Prior to this year, U.S.-based regional groups were known as regional activity committees, but now most are converting to chapter status (accountable for their own finances).


The meetings industry is served by organizations too numerous to detail in one article. Here are a few of the other new national and international groups that serve planners.

Alliance of Meeting
Management Consultants
Columbia, S.C.
(800) 200-2774
President: Lynne Tiras
Status: Not-for-profit
Membership: Self-employed planners with an industry certification who have been in business at least three years

Connected International Meeting Professionals Association
Fairfax, Va.
(703) 978-6287
President: Andrea Sigler
Status: Applying to be not-for-profit
Membership: Corporate and association planners interested in technology

National Association of Independent Meeting Planners, Inc.
Tallahassee, Fla.
(850) 224-1007
Executive director/CEO: Linda Sewell
Status: For-profit
Membership: Independent planners

Guild of Meeting & Incentive Professionals
Scottsdale, Ariz.
(602) 443-0098
Executive director: Bruce Tepper
Status: For-profit
Membership: Independents and travel agency meeting and incentive professionals

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