That's the title of an e-mail promotion that Web Enterprises has been circulating. “That's right, dear friend,” it goes on. “There are huge profits being made in this business every single day! … All you have to do is organize one event a month … You can make your own schedule … live your own life … do what you want to do, when you want to do it! And you'll have the money to enjoy it!”

Of course, the promotion is part of an easy-money scam that gets willing targets to shell out $29.95 to download a PDF of 150 pages of, well, junk. But it got me thinking about how the general public still has no clue about what meeting planners do. Many people think they mostly just travel to exotic places and, of course, earn lots of money. What skills do they need? Well, they need to be organized … of course.

This misconception can harm planners who are looking to move up the ladder. In “Is There Life After Meeting Planning?” on page 31, writer Bennett Voyles spoke with one senior executive who said that, although she perceives meeting planning to be a challenging job, one that requires a strong sense of organization and good social skills, those aren't necessarily transferable to a senior management position. “The job doesn't require strategic and/or critical thinking,” she told him. Another HR exec said that she often sees planners fall back on their experience as administrative assistants. And several planners talked about how meeting planning can be a dead-end job — because it's difficult to prove how their skills can be applied to other positions.

Meeting Professionals International is addressing these perceptions with the new Career Pathways program, just rolled out at the Professional Education Conference in January, that asks planners to complete a skills assessment and match their skills to descriptions of jobs to which they aspire. The association even offers career counseling. Also at the conference, they had a panel of executives from companies such as Avon, Novartis, and Penn Mutual talk about how meeting planning is becoming an increasingly strategic role.

It's part of MPI's mission not only to elevate the skills of meeting planners but also the perception of meeting and event planning by the mainstream — and particularly in corporate America. Regarding the latter, Voyles found, we still have a long way to go.

Barbara Scofidio


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