• Certified Planners Share How to Focus on the Details

    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE

    Certified planners share insights on how the accredited pros avoid those quality issues the nontrained coordinators often face. 

Is there any difference between a function planned by a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and someone who’s not certified? Those with the credentials report an event’s quality and outcome often suffer when it’s not handled by a pro.  

We asked several planners to weigh in on why companies or organizations should leave planning to those who know best. While they say an event coordinated by someone with no official training could go smoothly, the odds usually are against it. 

“I know one gentleman who conducts workshop seminars who told me that he can tell the difference when he is working with a CMP or not solely because of the questions they ask. He can also tell by the process they use to put the program through to set things up,” says Cheryl Ronk, the long-time president of the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) based in East Lansing.

Ronk, herself a CMP and also a Certified Association Executive, is one of Michigan’s two Fellows of the American Society of Association Executives. She says getting certified is crucial for a meeting planner. 

“What certification means,” she says, “is that you understand all the information in that body of knowledge and that you have to stay current, maintain your certification, by continuing to take classes. I’d say that certification leads people to learning those things that they don’t know they don’t know. Although you may not think you need it now, you’ll need it at some point in your career.”

Keri Dinica, CMP, events manager of FordDirect in Dearborn, which provides digital marketing and advertising solutions to Ford and Lincoln dealers, works with many different kinds of companies when planning events.

“I work with large production companies, small firms and hotels all over the country,” she says. “They all know I have a standardized body of knowledge. The fact that I’m a CMP lets them know immediately that I have a good understanding of how they work.”

The CMP Value

“It’s about peace of mind,” says Carol A. Galle, president/CEO of Special D Events. “The CMP is the only internationally recognized program that evaluates the competency of meeting professionals. The employer (or client) that hires a certified planner can rest assured that the individual has not only the experience, but documented skills and knowledge in the industry. He or she invested the time and effort to take their professional development to the next level.”

Jennifer Berkemeier, catering and special events sales manager for Cobo Center in Detroit that hosts a multitude of events from corporate meetings and galas to conventions and trade shows, takes it even further

“I definitely feel an event planned by a CMP runs smoother than an event that isn’t,” she says. “Planning an event is not as easy as some people think. It’s not something that somebody can just do without any background or training. Somebody who’s never planned an event before will miss details. It’s really important in the event world to have an excellent set of vendors who you can rely on, who are proven, such as linen vendors, floral vendors and other décor vendors.

“Understanding event logistics is also very important. Anyone who’s ever tried to manage seating at banquet tables for 650 people will tell you that that’s always the most difficult part of any event. A certain base of knowledge is crucial there in that in today’s technological world there are a number of apps and other types of website software that you can have that will do that seating for you much more easily,” Berkemeier says.

“After you’ve got everything all planned out, inevitably somebody wants to sit with somebody else, somebody wants to bring somebody else, somebody wants to add somebody to their table. So, the knowledge of the software and how to manage that is really something that comes with experience and with training that a CMP would have. There are apps out there that you can use that will put the entire event into it, and people can download the app to get meeting schedules, speakers, room changes, lunch hour … everything right on the app. A non-CMP, for example, an executive assistant, wouldn’t even know that type of app exists,” she explains.

The Benefits of Outsourcing to the Pros

“Most of our clients are in-house planners,” says Galle. “They are savvy managers who have learned that they cannot do it all. They want to achieve their organization’s business goals and view an experienced agency with certified planners as the ‘secret sauce’ who can help make it happen.”

Outsourcing to an agency also means efficiency and flexibility. “Event management agencies are extremely efficient because their sole focus is events (versus a marketing or PR agency that lists event management as only one of many services they offer). The larger the agency, the more events they manage, and that translates into higher value for clients because of the resulting relationships and the volume discounts those agencies receive.”

The benefits of outsourcing to an agency can be felt by the in-house planners, too. “Agencies can scale to match the inescapable ebb and flow of business event planning whereas in-house staff can find themselves working 80 hours one week, and 20 the next,” notes Galle. “That’s incredibly stressful for the planners and not an ideal business model.”

Not to mention, the events industry is constantly changing. “Unless the in-house planner has the bandwidth and management support to continually seek fresh ideas, there is a danger that events may become stale,” says Galle. “This is a dynamic, fast-paced industry. It takes time and effort to stay on top of trends, technology and new suppliers. That means attending national and local industry events, participating in training sessions, and observing a variety of live events.

“The benefit of hiring an agency that serves clients in many different industries is that they will be able to continually introduce new ideas and proven technologies,” Galle adds. “A good agency will be frequently say, ‘Here is something we have seen/done that will work for you.’” 

Project Costs

The financial end of things cannot be ignored, according to CMP Heidi Brumbach, CEO and executive producer of Technisch Creative. “Having a CMP plan an event,” she says, “translates into potential cost savings because not only would you have a better background in negotiating contracts, the CMP would have a better understanding of, statistically, what’s going to be a better investment.”

There are legality issues, as well.

“Details that the average person wouldn’t think about are important,” Berkemeier adds. “Should there be an EMT on-site? What is the venue security and what would happen in case of an emergency? What is the evacuation plan? A CMP also knows what to look for in obtaining a contract like when your deposits are due, what the penalties are for missing deadlines, and when your final numbers are due.

“With a CMP or experienced meeting professional, things don’t fall through the cracks. Having a CMP certainly makes our job much easier, and it just contributes to a successful event.”

Says Dinica: “You’re really examining an event from start to finish.” 

Certification Training

One cannot become a Certified Meeting Planning overnight, according to CMP Keri Dinica, events manager of FordDirect in Dearborn.

“You have to supply the Convention and Industry Council all kinds of things,” she says. “You have to show them what courses you took, what conferences you attended and what sessions you attended there. There are several books that you’re required to read. There’s quite a bit of studying you must do leading up to taking the exam.

“But it’s more than just taking a test. You need a certain number of hours of experience working in the field. They want you to have a good mix of professional and educational experience.”

There are numerous testing centers in Michigan for those who hoping to achieve CMP status.

What separates the training program offered by the Michigan Society of Association Executives (MSAE) from others throughout the state is that, in addition to the normal face-to-face classes offered, online classes are available.

“By putting our class online, people don’t have to physically get in a car and drive here [East Lansing],” says MSAE President Cheryl Ronk. “This allows it to extend beyond the state, too.”

The MSAE also offers Certified Association Executive (CAE) classes. “Our programs,” Ronk says, “are taught by some of the most wellrespected leaders and practitioners in the meetings industry in Michigan.” 

The program is a series of a dozen sessions during a five-month period. They are offered twice a year and lead up to two of the four times the Events Industry Council-organized test is offered annually in January and August.

What's Behind the Designations
The Following are 12 of the More Well-Known Planning Certification

1. CERTIFIED MEETING PROFESSIONAL (CMP) – enhances the knowledge and performance of meeting professionals, promotes the status and credibility of the meeting profession and advances uniform standards of practice

2. CERTIFIED ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE (CAE) – builds competencies needed to manage their organization more effectively

3. CERTIFIED CONFERENCE AND EVENTS PROFESSIONAL (CCEP) – offers professional growth and distinction

4. CERTIFIED DESTINATION MANAGEMENT EXECUTIVE (CDME) – assists experienced professionals for career advancement

5. CERTIFIED IN EXHIBITION MANAGEMENT (CEM) – provides individual designations for professionals in the exhibition industry

6. CERTIFIED FACILITIES EXECUTIVE (CFE) – acknowledges the individual as an expert in all areas of venue management, recognizes their professional growth and shows dedication to the advancement of the venue industry as a whole

7. CERTIFIED GOVERNMENT MEETING PROFESSIONAL (CGMP) – designed for planners and suppliers whose work is governed by the rules and regulations of the federal government

8. CERTIFIED FOR MANAGER OF EXHIBITS AND HEALTHCARE (CME/H) – helps professionals earn valuable industry recognition and career advancement

9. CERTIFIED MEETING MANAGER (CMM) – provides individuals with insight and guidance from renowned business university professors

10. CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL IN CATERING AND EVENTS (CPCE) – incorporates core competencies, such as accounting, beverage and event management, contracts and agreements, human resources and sales and marketing

11. CERTIFIED SPECIAL EVENTS PROFESSIONAL (CSEP) – designed to increase the proficiency of event professionals, establish the level of knowledge and performance necessary for certification and promotes the advancement of the special events industry

12. DESTINATION MANAGEMENT CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL (DMCP) – increases the professionalism and effectiveness of designation management through member and industry education, establishes standard ethical practices and raises the level of awareness of the value of destination management to the respective associations, corporations and general public

MACVB Annual Educational Conference finally reaches the shores of Mackinac Island.

As I rode in the carriage from the Shepler’s Ferry terminal to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, my mind wandered to a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In said scene, King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy, approach a castle while galloping and banging coconuts together. After a few moments passed and my mind wandered back to the tree-lined streets of the island, I realized it was the clippety-clop of the draft horses pulling our carriage that brought on my thoughts of Python.


First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month. 


A conference or convention venue might be described by meeting planners as offering ease and convenience for multiple reasons. It may be because its address is easily accessible from numerous compass points. Or perhaps it’s the destination—with a variety of opportunities for activities and entertainment close-by. And of course, it could be that the venue itself offers a peaceful, easy setting with all the comforts you could want. 

Well, at Treetops Resort, it’s all of the above.