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What are the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Manager (CMM) designations all about?

In the following questions and answers I discuss my personal experience and other issues involved with obtaining the CMP & CMM designations. I obtained my CMP and CMM designations in August 1997 and May 1999 respectively, and I am the first person in BC to have achieved the CMM designation. - Sarah Lowis.

Why did I pursue the CMP or CMM designation?
I decided to pursue my CMP to establish credibility and to improve my knowledge base. I was new to Vancouver and after a year as registration co-ordinator at International Conference Services (ICS), I decided that a good place to start in order to progress in the industry would be to obtain my CMP designation. The studying process was a fabulous opportunity for me to consolidate what I already knew and to learn other aspects of tactical planning, which I may not have been directly exposed to yet, or with which an independent meeting planner would not necessarily have to deal.

Pursing my CMM designation on the other hand was more of a personal decision. I felt that after 2 years as conference manager and one year as operations manager at ICS, I needed to strengthen my business management and strategic thinking skills. I had toyed with the idea of perhaps completing a MBA, and although I haven't ruled it out completely, decided I wasn't ready for the huge commitment that was required. What was so attractive about the CMM program is that it was a university global designation for senior-level meeting professionals, in other words, a management course that you can apply directly to your profession without having to make a 12-month or more commitment.

I don't think the education process stops at the CMM designation however, as so much of business management applies to meeting management. After all, meetings are a business, whether for profit or not.

Why was industry certification so important?
I think industry certification is extremely important, for two reasons. Certification establishes credibility and it shows that you care enough about your profession to put the effort into demonstrating that you are what you say. It also provides people with an opportunity to learn and consolidate and improve their knowledge.

What are the benefits of the CMP and CMM?
The CMP experience really opened up the world of meeting planning for me. By studying for the exam, I was forced to think about how the association and corporate meeting planner may have to operate, as well as learn formulas with regards to meeting space, audio-visual equipment and budgets. Even though I may not use this information on a daily basis, what is important is that I have now been exposed to the information and know where to go if I need to apply it. I also have a better appreciation for what my colleagues and suppliers do in their jobs. Also, since doing my CMP, I have become very involved with the BC Chapter of MPI, and have subsequently gained so much in terms of new knowledge and self development.

The CMM program gave me guidance in applying business principles to meetings. I was exposed to a variety of subjects, emphasizing the importance of thinking strategically. While tactical planning is just as important, strategic planning ensures that objectives are obtained and a return on investment achieved. What I valued the most about the CMM program is that after a week of intensive courses, an in-house case study and an examination, I got to come home and apply all that I learnt, along with past experience, to a home case study involving a business plan. The biggest benefit for me is that I now apply the principles of strategic thinking to everything I do - my clients' projects, Sea to Sky Meeting Management Inc. and my personal life.

What are the basic differences between the CMP and CMM?
Each designation serves its own purpose and both go hand in hand, one does not replace the other. The CMP focuses on tactical planning and the CMM focuses on strategic planning. Both designations require past experience in the industry.

Are the CMP and CMM designations recognized outside the meeting and event industry?
I do not think the CMP or the CMM designations are recognized, in general, in corporate America and Canada or by Human Resources Departments, but I do think they are recognized within the meetings industry. In general, my clients would not know what the designations mean, but an explanation, especially in the sales process, adds to my company's value and expertise. Designations do not replace actual experience, but rather enhances it.

Does achieving your CMP and CMM designations entitle you to a raise?
I don't think obtaining your CMP or CMM instantly entitles one to a raise. However, one of the benefits of having these designations is that you can apply what you have learnt to what you do and that alone will result in a better performance, which in turn deserves a raise.

Should meeting planning be studied as a science?
I think meeting planning should be studied as a science and I think there should be degrees and programs out there that focus specifically on the meetings industry just like there are for the hospitality industry. I believe the CMM is one of the only programs that serves this purpose and even then it is presented in conjunction with The School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University.

Does the CMP certification make you a qualified meeting planner?
I don't think the CMP designation was ever meant to make someone a qualified meeting professional (supplier or planner), because anyone can study the materials and pass the exam. I believe its primary purpose is to establish a benchmark for the industry and provide a tool for the people in the industry to recognize a certain level of competency. It has been said that the most difficult part of completing the CMP designation is the application process, as you are required to have a certain amount of practical experience before you are accepted to write the exam. This requirement is essential to maintaining the integrity of the designation otherwise it defeats the purpose of having the designation in the first place.

(There has always been controversy surrounding the CMP exam. An article called, "CMP: Worth it? Planners debate the value of certification", appeared in the January 2000 issue of Meetings & Conventions magazine - One issue is with regards to the relevance and wording of some of the questions.)

What is involved in completing the CMM designation?
The program I did took place at Lansing, Michigan at the Michigan State University and was a five-day course that was non-stop from the moment I arrived. The atmosphere was pleasant and conducive to learning and having fun. Although we studied hard all day, there was plenty of opportunities for interaction with my peers and the faculty, especially during our daily integration walks around the campus and during our nightly activities when we got together in our groups to discuss our in-class case study. The in-class case study gave us a taste for what was expected in the take-home project. Each group was given an aspect of meeting management to apply to a case study and then asked to present the solutions to the rest of the class. The in-class study exercise was a very effective way of learning the issues discussed during the day, as well as great preparation for the exam at the end of the course. For me the take-home project was the most important part of the program as it gave me an opportunity to apply what I had learnt in my own time and space. I could also choose a topic, within the provided guidelines, that was most relevant to my organization and me.

What does the process of obtaining your CMM include?
· An application to determine program eligibility
· A pre-course home-study program
· A five-day residential immersion course
· An in-class case study (as a group)
· An examination
· A take-home project

In the application you are asked to identify the associations to which you belong to, your role in the organization for whom you work, and any designations you have. You are required to provide two references within the meetings management profession who can attest to your professional experience and qualifications. You are then asked to outline your education, work experience, meeting management experience, other language capabilities and any professional contributions, such as articles, presentations etc.

Once you are accepted into the program, MPI sends you the course material, which for me involved reading 3 books discussing customer service, leadership and doing business internationally.

Interested in pursuing your CMM? Contact MPI in Dallas at (972-702-3000) or log onto Interested in pursuing your CMP? Contact the Convention Industry Council at (703-610-9030) or log onto

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