Clever Carly: How to Advance Your Career in the Meetings Industry

Three tips to propel your meeting planning career forward

Hello, dear planners!

I was catching up on some reading the other day when I saw an interesting stat: About 51 percent of planners see trying to advance their career and gaining recognition as one of the top challenges they face in their jobs. Now, I know meeting planning isn’t the easiest career—let me remind you that event planning ranked in the top five most stressful jobs in 2018—but with more than half of us are struggling to move up the ladder, I’d like to step in and offer some advice.

So, in an effort to usher in the next wave of meeting planners and help current planners reach the top, here are my three biggest tips on how to take the next step in your career:

1. Become a Jack of All Trades

Unlike many other jobs, meeting planners don’t have a singular role. Their day-to-day tasks differ depending on the project and client, and what they do touches on many industries, including food and beverage, design and technology, just to name a few. And the fact that they don’t technically belong to said industries doesn’t matter: In order to do their job—and do it well—planners must have a solid working knowledge of … well, pretty much everything. 

Now, that doesn’t mean you should feel bad if you don’t understand, say, everything there ever was to know. What it does mean is that you should be well-read and have a basic understanding of the industries relevant to meeting planning, so that you can plan accordingly and accurately talk with your event partners. Let’s say your event requires drone technology; you should know enough about event tech to be able to communicate your meeting’s needs. 

Should a specific, niche meeting project come your way—an event for a horticultural group, for example—that’s when you should take the opportunity to step back for a crash course in the subject before any heavy-duty planning gets underway. Don’t be afraid to pitch questions to the experts you’re working with, either—the better you understand the specific field you’re working with, the better you’ll serve your clients. 

2. Be Willing to Adapt

Like any industry, meetings are always evolving. Paying attention to industry trends, learning the latest technology and adapting meetings to fit the growing expectations from both attendees and the events industry as a whole is now an essential part of the job—and one that many planners struggle with. Yes, your tried-and-true strategies can yield great results, but doing the same thing over and over again is boring, not to mention that it holds your meetings—and career—back from real growth. 

For example: Augmented reality is dominant in current event tech trends. To stay on par with where the industry is heading, find ways to incorporate its application into your events. There’s no doubt that it might be challenging if you’re not technologically savvy, but the success of pulling it off is much sweeter than the flip side: throwing out-of-date meetings that draw low attendance numbers. 

So, how to stay up to date, you ask? Read! As you’re working to stay well-rounded (see tip No.1), make sure to keep industry resources, such as Meetings Imagined, in your reading rotation. Listen to what big players are saying—even the subtlest comments can lend themselves to insider knowledge.

3. Get (More) Involved

A lot of meeting planning is about networking and getting your name out there, so it’s important to become an active part of the meetings community. (Of course, you can only take on so much; don’t stress yourself out in the process.) One way to do that is through volunteering your time and services to projects outside your scope of work. Although not all volunteering opportunities will be fruitful financially, they offer experience in a variety of settings and events, as well as the opportunity to forge connections with other planners, vendors and sponsors that can bring financial gain on future projects. 

Another way to become known in the industry: Contributing to the meetings resources and newsletters you committed to reading in point No. 2, above. You have something to say (I know you do!), so pitch your ideas to each resource’s content team and get your name and expertise out in the community. 

Remember, there are many paths to success, especially when it comes to a job like meeting planning that isn’t so cookie-cutter. Don’t compare yourself to other planners, keep your focus, and, most importantly, get the job done. With those tenets in mind, you’ll be poised to plan the fabulous future events that I can only hope to attend in no time. 

Plan well,
Clever Carly