To help meeting professionals carve out a career path in the ever-evolving world of corporate meetings, three Toronto-area meeting professionals have joined forces to launch a unique mentoring program that is starting to gain traction.

Mentoring: 24 Hours and Beyond is the brainchild of independent planners Sandy Biback, founder of Imagination+Meeting Planners Inc., and Gale Gingrich, owner of The Gingrich Group. “I know many people who mentor others very informally,” says Biback. This program is different, she says, because it's more like a retreat.

The 24-hour sessions include an overnight stay at a resort, a “visioning” seminar at which career goals and strategies are mapped out, and a resume-building workshop. The participants get three 40-minute follow-up coaching sessions with career coach Sharon Worsley, founder of Live With Intent, based in Toronto.

Biback and Gingrich are gearing up for the third installment of the program this October at the Kempenfelt Conference Centre, Barrie, Ontario. Next year, they plan to take the show on the road and hold a session in California. After that, Biback says she would like to hold sessions throughout North America and develop a scholarship program for those who can't afford the $625 fee.

Less than a year after attending the inaugural session last October, Tamara Cameron, meeting specialist at Manulife Investments, Toronto, has made significant strides in her career. She earned her Certified Meeting Professional certification and was promoted to a management position, where she now has two people reporting to her. “It made me realize what my strengths are, and out of that I applied, studied, and received my CMP designation,” says Cameron. “Without this mentoring program, I wouldn't have had the contacts, or the confidence, to make this happen.”

“What mentoring does is give you the push,” says Biback, who, in addition to running a meeting-planning company, teaches meeting management at universities in Toronto; Kitchener, Ontario; and Las Vegas. “This is about building your personal business plan,” she says. “How often do we sit down and take the time to do this?”