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
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
Does the CMP certification make you a qualified
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 - www.meetings-conventions.com.
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
Interested in pursuing your CMM? Contact MPI in Dallas
at (972-702-3000) or log onto www.mpiweb.org/education/cmm.
Interested in pursuing your CMP? Contact the Convention
Industry Council at (703-610-9030) or log onto www.conventionindustry.org.