You don't need a license to practice meeting planning. But seeking out and signing up for regular educational programs can be tremendously valuable for you and for your company — even if there isn't some state authority breathing down your neck about it.

In this issue's cover story, Regina Baraban looks at the value of continuing education for producers. Of course, they don't have much choice in the matter. By the end of this year, every state will mandate some CE for insurance salespeople. As Regina found out, the variety and complexity of those regulations can make your head swim. That's why, if your company can take care of all the red tape and help producers meet their multistate requirements, you've got a great marketing tool on your hands. (See page 24.)

But back to meeting planning. Classroom learning doesn't take place only while an instructor is speaking. It takes place before the session starts, when the person sitting next to you answers that nagging question you've always had about attrition clauses. It takes place when someone raises an issue before the group that you've recently been struggling with. And it happens when you arrange to meet “after class” with a planner who mentioned that she'd just created her own online registration system.

How do you find these classrooms? Join meeting industry associations, such as the uniquely targeted Insurance Conference Planners Association (475 members; headquartered in Vancouver, B.C.; call 604/988-2054) or the broad-based Meeting Professionals International (18,000 members; headquartered in Dallas; call 972/702-3000). Get involved at the local level. MPI chapters across the country have monthly meetings that include educational components. ICPA chapters meet less frequently but may have content more targeted to your needs. (See the ICPA Newsletter, page 21, for a list of ICPA chapter contacts. And if there's no chapter in your area, start one! Call ICPA headquarters for help.)

Plan now to attend the ICPA Educational Forum, set for July 12 to 14 at Le Chateau Frontenac, Québec City. This intensive program covers issues of interest to both new and experienced meeting managers. For details, call Mauna Hatchett, Indianapolis Life, at (317) 927-6785.

The rate of change in both the meeting and financial services industries today is so great that outsourcing is a constant threat — especially if you're not keeping up with the latest, most efficient, most cost-effective ways to do your job. The best way to do that is to get out there and participate — in classrooms, roundtables, advisory boards, and the many other opportunities available for you to learn from peers and experts.

You don't need a license to plan meetings, but a little education goes a long way.