More Than Just Fancy Acronyms!

As an Event Leader, becoming a member of a professional association related to the meetings and events industry needs to come from a place of self-motivation and advocacy.

Unlike some highly regulated industries, to carry the title of Event Leader, Event Planner, Event Manager, Director of Events or Event Marketing etc. a professional in the meetings and events industry is not required to hold a membership in their professional association.

HOWEVER, the benefits that come with an association membership are both tangible and intangible. In order to see true value and the ever critical “ROI” on your association membership $’s, you have to do more than just head to the trough – you have to drink!  Just joining and waiting for your inbox to fill up with industry newsletters, event invitations and other news isn’t enough…You have to get engaged – drink the proverbial “kool-aid”.

Start by choosing the industry association that is right for you.  For example a seasoned Event Leader for a major production company may choose differently than a Director of Sales for a major hotel chain. In the Events Industry there exists a medley of professional associations to choose from and most are tailored to a specific niche or profession within our industry.

To name just a few:

Meeting Professionals International (MPI)

International Live Events Association (ILEA)

Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)

Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE)

If your budget allows, a case can often be made to hold memberships in more than one association. If you are a Leader you may choose to have specific team members join the association that best aligns with their role or job description within your organization. Selection should also take into account educational needs, networking needs and / or your level of experience in your profession. Some associations may have varying levels of membership that offer different levels of access including: access to membership database, newsletters and publications, advertising and sponsorship opportunities, events and education etc.

But if you are waffling over the financial commitment or wondering if an association membership has true ROI, here is some food for thought to whet your appetite.

1. Membership is About Knowledge!

First and foremost staying on top of industry trends whether it be technology, market trends, event design etc. is key to survival in the fast paced, ever-evolving meetings and events industry. Your industry association becomes the conduit directly to your inbox for reliable, real-time news and information that will help weed out the white noise of “fake news” and excessive social media to distill information down to what is really relevant and impacting our industry.

2. Membership is About Community and Connectivity!

All associations offer global and local events for members that provide opportunities for connecting with colleagues, clients, educators, mentors, employers and most of all like-minded individuals.  For salespeople connecting with new potential clients is top priority, for a new or aspiring leader it could be finding a mentor.  Many reasons exist but it is up to you to recognize yours and get involved.  Look for opportunities that reach beyond the brick and mortar of your current workplace.

For example, as leaders we sometimes need a neutral platform outside of our workplace to explore new leadership tactics and growth strategies, to compare challenges or opportunities within our organization or business, or let new ideas percolate.

3. Membership is an Investment in You!

All associations offer educational opportunities as well as the opportunity to get involved directly. Career-long learning should be a goal for any leader that may be looking to advance, grow their business and / or network or even be considered for new employment opportunities.

From workshops, seminars / webinars, certifications, courses and conferences continued learning is a staple  and a key membership driver for professional associations.  From CMP (Certified Meeting Planner), CSEP (Certified Special Event Professional), CMM (Certified Meeting Manager) these types of certifications are recognized globally and signify a high level of commitment and expertise in the field.  Having this type of certification can give you the edge for employment opportunities, higher wages / salary and above all pride in the work you do.

In addition to industry related education, opportunities exist to develop leadership and other skills by volunteering to work with the local chapter of your chosen industry association. Many chapters of larger global organizations including MPI, PCMA and ILEA operate with Boards of Directors and working committees that are volunteer-run.  Not only can you build even deeper connections with your network but you can acquire new skills that can contribute to your overall development and open up new career pathways.

At the end of the day, membership in a professional association in the meetings and events industry is really about personal choice.   It’s about deciding whether or not you want to have a voice and be a part of the ongoing evolution of our profession, or if you want to stand back and be a passive onlooker.

Get involved beyond the acronym and be a change-maker, advocate and thought leader!  That’s where the true value lies.

Heidi Hughes

Director, Sales & Marketing, Anvil Centre | President Elect, MPI BC Chapter

A 20-year hospitality sales and marketing professional, Heidi honed her skills working for some of the best hotels chains in the world, including Hyatt Regency, Marriott and Hilton. After almost a decade in conference and convention hotels, she spent several years as Manager, Events and Conference at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) before coming to Anvil Centre as Director, Sales and Marketing. Energetic and positive, her career has evolved from hospitality management, sales and marketing to include event management. Her devotion to being a contributing member of a growing and evolving industry that is continuously setting new and higher standards for best practices is echoed in her extra- curricular work and activities. Heidi is a former Instructor at both the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Art Institute of Vancouver and is highly active with Meeting Professionals International on both a local chapter and International Level. 

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