To those on the outside, planning a meeting seems little more than a matter of logistics and common sense. While the checklists do play an important part in getting the job done, there’s more to meeting and event planning than carrying around a clipboard. Meeting planners can be called on to perform numerous roles, including procurement, negotiations, customer and vendor relations, project management, legal services, and labor relations. If you’re interested in furthering your knowledge or honing your skills you’ve got numerous options.
- Colleges and universities. Many public and private universities offer courses in the event planning field, including Georgia’s Kennesaw State University (www.kennesaw.edu), Ottawa’s Algonquin College (http://www.algonquincollege.com), Dallas County Community College District (https://www1.dcccd.edu) and California’s Sonoma State (www.sonoma.edu). For a list of colleges offering courses in convention and event management created by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, click on www.unlv.edu/Colleges/Hotel/Tourism/colleges.html. The list also includes information on programs in Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
- Professional associations. Attending a convention for a national organization will give you an opportunity to take a variety of shorter courses, all in one location at one time. While the travel, room and board, and tuition for attending a convention can run up quite a tab, these shorter bite-sized courses offer a less intimidating alternative to investing in semester-long courses – and you’ll get the chance to hobnob with like-minded professionals. Here are some organizations to get you started – American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) at www.asaenet.org, International Society of Meeting Planners (http://iami.org/ismp/), Meeting Professionals International (MPI) at www.mpiweb.org, Convention Industry Council at www.cic.org and Professional Convention Management Association at www.pcma.org.
- Online courses. If you’re cramped for time (and who isn’t?), investigate online courses through local colleges, professional organizations or online universities such as the US Career Institute (www.uscareerinstitute.com). One word of warning: As with any information you find online, beware of scams and experts who have no idea what they’re talking about. To make sure you’re not getting ripped off, go through a professional organization such as those provided above for referrals or opt only for courses where continuing education units (CEUs) are awarded for successful completion.
- Other distance courses. With the advent of teleconference and videoconference capabilities, many organizations are offering interactive courses and other enrichment opportunities for event and meeting planners. For example, PCMA has regular audio conferences on topics such as negotiation skills and growing your meeting in cyberspace. MPI also offers distance learning online and through self-study.