by Bruce Myint | April 01, 2004

Gang welfare: A CMP study group belonging to the MPI Southern California Chapter gathers at the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown: a) from left to right, Michele Em, John Squires; b) Julia Tsai, Katy Metoyer, unidentified; c) Jan Weiner; d) Libby Zarrahy, unidentified

On a Wednesday evening last October, Julia Tsai, event manager at the Renaissance Long Beach Hotel, climbed into her car and joined the long line of rush-hour traffic heading to Los Angeles. More than an hour later, Tsai arrived at the Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, where nine other meeting-industry professionals sat around a conference table, caffeinating themselves in preparation for the evening ahead.
    Tsai and her colleagues were a group of Southern California meeting professionals hoping to obtain their CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) designation a credential commonly considered the foremost certification in the meetings and conventions industry.
    In order to become certified, Tsai and her fellow group members would have to pass the rigorous CMP exam sponsored by the McLean, Va.-based Convention Industry Council. To help them prepare for the January test, they joined a local study group. Operating independently of the CIC, the groups are formed by local chapters of the council’s member organizations, such as Meeting Professionals International and the Professional Convention Management Association.
    Tsai’s group, formed by the Southern California Chapter of MPI, had 10 weeks to cover 27 subjects, including  site selection, contract negotiation, budgeting, and food and beverage. 
    Considering the amount of material for review, Tsai came to her first class feeling apprehensive. “I was nervous because you are sitting in a room filled with industry people,” she says. “But at the same time, you know you are all in the same boat and you’re all going to get through this together.”
     With a fleet of study groups meeting nationwide the CIC website lists more than 100 across the United States and Canada it’s not surprising that groups can be as varied as their students. To get a sense of what a team effort might mean to CMP candidates, M&C took a close look at how one group operated in Southern California.