by The M&C Staff | January 01, 2012

Young professionals getting a head start in meetings can join any one of the associations that serve the various factions of the industry. And these associations know that the way to stay vital and current is to court the incoming generations, offering targeted networking opportunities to bridge generation gaps and allow new and seasoned professionals to learn from each other. To encourage young meeting professionals to sign up, many of the groups offer discounted student memberships, special awards programs for people under 30 and more. The following is a rundown of the associations' offerings.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives honors its young members with the "3 Under 33" awards. These awards recognize outstanding achievements in business travel, while celebrating new ways of thinking and doing business. The age cutoff isn't strict: Nominees need only be "around or under the age of 33," according to the official rules.

Nine winners were chosen in 2011 -- three each from North America; Asia; and the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Of these, ACTE recognized three global winners, each of whom was invited to join the organization's board for a one-year term, to offer their perspectives and ideas to the association and business travel community.

The American Society of Association Executives offers several membership options for young professionals at a reduced price to make registration more enticing and affordable. Those age 30 or younger can join for $100 a year, compared with the full price of $265. Those who go to college full time can register as student members for $30 a year.

"These individuals are just starting their careers, so we try to make it affordable for them and for organizations who might be willing to cover membership costs," says Melody Jordan-Carr, senior director of member relations at ASAE.

In addition to reduced membership rates, one of ASAE's 14 volunteer committees is dedicated to the promotion and creation of programming and resources targeting those newer to the business. "The Young Association Executive Committee focuses on ways to create networking opportunities, resources and education that relates to members beginning their careers," says Jordan-Carr. "We want to make sure we are catering to young professional members by addressing issues from their perspectives."

Initiatives include integrating young professional networking events into ASAE's major events; a mentoring program that pairs newcomers with industry veterans; and a career headquarters where they can read about career development, graze a job board and have their résumés critiqued. Though these programs are available to all ASAE members, says Jordan-Carr, these resources particularly speak to young professionals looking to grow and develop.

At Destination Marketing Association International, the next generation of professionals in destination marketing organizations and convention and visitor bureaus are being addressed through the "30 Under 30" program, which debuted in July 2011.

According to Karen M. Gonzales, CMP, DMAI's senior vice president of membership and operations, the initiative was launched to identify and engage industry up-and-comers who, due to tighter budgets and smaller staffs, typically do not attend DMAI's annual conference.

To be considered for the program, which covers travel costs and registration to the annual meeting, young professionals must apply to DMAI. Additionally, they must submit a YouTube video of themselves answering three questions from a list provided by the organization (e.g., what influenced them to join their DMO, what their proudest accomplishments are, etc).

Last year, 53 DMO professionals applied; the organization expects that number to grow in 2012. Each year, a different group of 30 will be selected to attend, though Gonzales says they might include alumni.

Going forward, DMAI hopes the program will be more sustainable. "We will be in touch with the group throughout the year, ask them to participate in research projects, blogs and Twitter feeds, and run marketing ideas by them," says Gonzales.