by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | September 01, 2006

If you are confused by the many different types and titles of planning jobs, you are not alone. Many people considering or entering the planning profession find the variety of positions somewhat daunting to get a handle on. For the sake of clarity, M&C has compiled the following brief glossary of terms.

Meeting planners plan content-driven meetings, symposia, conferences, seminars and educational gatherings. Such positions typically fall under one of the following three distinct branches.

    * Association planners organize annual conferences, educational events, board meetings and other gatherings for the associations that employ them.

    * Corporate planners work on customer events, internal events (sales launches, incentives, corporate retreats) or a combination thereof for their companies. These professionals often work within a firm’s marketing, human resources, travel or procurement departments, while other companies have bona fide planning departments.

    * Independent/agency planners might specialize in a particular field, such as pharmaceutical, technology or international meetings, or can work with any type of client or association. They are employed and paid by the meeting organizers, typically on a per-project basis.

Event planners’ job functions often are assumed to be interchangeable with those of meeting planners. But while an event planner is a meeting planner, a meeting planner is not necessarily an event planner. Event professionals, in addition to planning meetings, often must organize revenue-generating events (including trade shows), special events and product launches; they also typically have some responsibility for the meeting/event’s overall strategy and content.

Event producers focus on areas such as audiovisual capabilities, set design, lighting, etc. They also might assist with and/or specialize in event decor and staging.

Experiential marketers, also called event marketers, used to specialize in trade shows; today, they typically work on different types of revenue-generating or image-building events involving live participants, including webinars and other online events. This role relies heavily on marketing prowess -- particularly skills in branding and messaging.

Marketing communications professionals specialize in marketing an event, rather than creating and planning one. So-called “marcom” pros typically get involved in strategic planning, written communications and branding.

Destination management professionals, or DMCs, know a city or region inside-out and offer a variety of services that can include complete onsite management of a meeting or incentive, or the running of a la carte functions, including airport meet-and-greets, off-site events and transportation. DMCs can work directly with clients or in conjunction with other third-party suppliers, such as meeting or incentive firms.

Professional congress organizers, or PCOs, typically combine the functions of a DMC and those of an independent planner. This is a highly skilled and respected job overseas, although it is rarely performed in the United States. The most effective PCOs have strong connections with the governments in the countries in which they work and can facilitate events from A to Z by circumventing red tape.

Site selection/marketing event professionals work for firms that find venues for their clients; they often negotiate terms of contracts. In return, they take a commission from the venue. Marketing companies work with one or more hotel groups or chains to market the group’s attributes to event professionals; again, marketing event pros typically earn a commission from these hotel groups.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is a marketing event consultant based in California’s Silicon Valley.