We asked our new staffer, upon returning from his first industry meeting, what his perceptions were of the meeting planning field. This seasoned newspaper journalist had previously never heard of PCMA, MPI, ASAE, and never dreamed he'd one day be writing about room-block attrition, force majeure, and the rest. As a first-timer at the recent Meeting Professionals International conference in San Antonio, he had picked up a recurrent theme in session after session: He observed that meeting planners seemed to feel undervalued and driven to prove their worth.He wondered aloud to us if perhaps “meeting planners have a self-esteem problem.”

I had to laugh, not because the idea was funny so much as it reflected how the “outside” world could view the essential struggle of meeting planners, which is not for self-esteem but for professional esteem.

To secure professional recognition for the job of planning and managing events of all kinds was, after all, the founding mission of Meeting Professionals International. It's daunting to realize that after decades, that goal hasn't entirely materialized, and it remains a strategic objective for the association. Indeed, the increasing number of procurement departments overseeing corporate meeting budgets is probably giving a lot of corporate meeting planners the willies.

Association convention planners also struggle with “the recognition problem.” Just ask Susan Sarver, senior conference manager for the National Association of Securities Dealers in Washington, D.C. She decided to attend law school, feeling stymied as a meeting planner, as she says in our cover story (page 16). As Sarver observes, many associations still lack “understanding of what a professional meeting planner contributes to the bottom line of the association in either real dollars or avoiding potential liability.”

As our cover story reports, job hunting is no piece of cake these days — even, and perhaps especially, for senior-level planners. Proving your worth to the bottom line and to the success of the entire organization has become the meeting planner's mantra. To outsiders that may sound a lot like having a self-esteem problem. Don't let it be.