Breaking into the meeting planning business takes a mishmash of education, experience and passion. It seems almost everyone I meet lately appears to have an interest in meeting planning and a meeting planner career. Not that I am the authority on meeting planner careers but it feels like I get hit up for my thoughts and opinions as well as asked countless questions about the topic almost weekly.
Meeting planners coordinate and organize each and every element involved in the planning of a convention or meeting. From start to finish, the responsibilities involved with a meeting planner career are endless, from site selection to venues, from set-up to speakers, from contracting service companies to tear down and on and on the list goes. A meeting planner is responsible for bringing people together for a shared objective in the form of a convention or meeting. And planners are also responsible for making certain that the convention or meeting objective is indeed accomplished in the most flawless way. A meeting planner must be an organized, hardworking person that is a multi-tasker, good communicator, willing to travel, work long hours (when required) and yes have nerves of steel.
Tips to Kick Start a Meeting Planner Career
There are lots of things to do to get started in the meeting planner career world. Here are some tips to get going on the career path you desire.
Research, Research, Research – Be sure to understand the industry as well as the marketplace and what it truly takes to be involved and successful. Immerse yourself in all things meeting planning. Read industry books, magazines, and other publications, take courses always improving and enhancing the skills required to get the job done.
Find an Industry Guru – Find someone in the industry that you respect, admire and you can learn from. A guru (mentor) has already been through it all and can provide support, recommendations and guidance. And they definitely have a network of contacts and resources help to counsel and encourage with the ultimate goal, career advancement.
Join Associations and Network – Join industry associations and participate and network whenever possible. This will provide the opportunity to learn, receive extra training and stay on top of all the latest and greatest industry info and services. And really be sure to get yourself out the door and network, network, network. Networking is a very important part of the industry and you really never know who you might run into. Networking is the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people, get career advice and help increase your profile.
Volunteer – Volunteering is not only the perfect way to develop experience but a great way to hone your meeting planning skills while building up credentials and qualifications. It’s a good way to meet people and get your name out there, you again you really don’t know who you will meet. Prior to entering the industry one of the best ways I was able to gain some experience was to offer to plan; any party, special event, field trip or celebration, for family and friends gratis. And while it wasn’t on the same playing field I learned so much.
Start at the Bottom – Be ready and willing to start your career below the top and work your way up. No career, especially a meeting planner career starts smack dab in that dream position. We all start in the bottom or near the bottom and work our way up to the job we really, really, really want. So be willing to pay your dues, put in the hard work and if you do have what it takes you will end up with exactly the position you want.
Have a Plan – Know what you want and the direction you want to go in. Be sure you are clear with yourself regarding your intention, purpose, ambition and goals. By having a plan, knowing the way to achieve it and sticking with it, are some of the first steps to getting there.