by By Kaylee Hultgren | October 01, 2009

Canaan RiceCanaan Rice, meeting planner for the Society of Exploration Geophysicists, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., took the Convention Industry Council's Certified Meeting Professional exam at the Professional Convention Management Association's annual conference in Seattle this past January. M&C spoke with Rice about her preparation for the exam, her impressions of the test itself and what she found to be most beneficial about the process.

For how long have you been a meeting planner?
I've worked at the Society of Exploration Geophysicists for about five years. I took a break and sold real estate for year, but I loved meeting planning, so I returned to it. Luckily, they took me back.

How many meetings do you plan each year?
When I first started, I planned a large portion of our annual meetings, which drew 8,000 to 9,500 attendees. They would all take place in oil and gas hubs around the country. Since I've come back to SEG, my focus has been on planning smaller workshops and forums, which are held all over the world. I plan up to five a year now, and the number is growing. Each meeting draws about 80 to 125 attendees.

Why did you decide to take the CMP exam?
It has always been a personal goal of mine. When I moved from the vendor side to the planner side, I realized how many people had the certification. It shows that you see meeting planning as a career and not just a job. With the extensive application process, it takes a few years to acquire enough points to take the test. You need to have worked for three to five years in the industry.

How important do you think it is to have this certification?

People in the industry know what it means -- that a person has experience and knows what they're doing. Also, it's important to create your own career path.

Do you think your career will change at all after you become certified?

It depends. I'm happy where I am at the moment. The CMP will be a benefit when looking for another job, but I don't forsee my career changing too much, at least not right away. It was mainly a personal goal. However, it does send a signal to the industry that I've achieved a level of expertise, so it might help with a promotion.

Has the process of studying for the exam enhanced your planning skills?
Yes, but my day-to-day tasks are not necessarily easier because of the exam. Actually, the greatest benefit from the process was the application and preparation for the exam. Since 90 to 150 points are needed just to apply, I had to do things like write articles and speak to groups. Acquiring the points helped me think about where I fit within the industry. It really gets you involved.

How did you study for the test?
I took a PCMA online study course. The test contains a lot of information compiled from three different manuals, so initially it's hard to study similar topics all at once. The course was helpful because it broke down the information into modules -- like F&B, for example. You were able to do one subject all at once and weren't overwhelmed by the amount of information to be covered.

Did you take any practice tests?
My practice texts were through PCMA. But I do wish I had taken the practice tests given by the Convention Industry Council as well. I found out about them the day of the test! I would assume that they are closer to the actual exam, since the CIC itself prepares them. I studied very specific things, but the exam was actually more theory based. The questions were more broad than I had anticipated.

Do you feel that what you learned from studying and taking the test was valuable?
Nothing on the test felt out of place or unnecessary. All the questions represented situations that are possible to run into in the industry.

Do you think you passed the exam?

I don't want to jinx it! But I don't feel 100 percent about it. I'm right there in the middle. It was a lot of information to digest. When I left the exam, I was definitely stuck on a few things. Because there's such a large amount of information, memorization is impossible. There will be things on the test you're not familiar with.

Any study tips to share?
I would recommend finding a course, as I did, to help you organize the information. It was very beneficial to me, as opposed to diving into the material and reading all the books.

Once you pass the CMP, will you seek any further certification?
I'm not interested in further certification. Right now I'm working on a master's degree in hospitality and administration through the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, online, but for now that's on hold since I'm expecting my first baby in August. I'm one-quarter of the way completed, but I plan on finishing that.

Would you say a master's degree is more useful than the CMP?

For me, a master's is a personal goal. If I had to choose one or the other, I would choose the CMP, because it's more industry specific.

Will you take the exam again to recertify, as required every five years?
I would definitely do it again. I would like to maintain the certification throughout my career.

What if you don't pass this time around?
I will take it again right away so that I don't forget everything.

Editor's note: Not long after speaking with M&C, Canaan received word that she did indeed pass the CMP exam.