How to Become a Certified Meeting Planner

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How to Become a Certified Meeting Planner


By Beth Buehler


More than 11,000 meeting professionals in 55 countries around the globe have earned the Events Industry Council’s Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. The CMP community represents every sector of the industry, from corporations and associations to government and institutional organizations.


The purpose of the CMP program, established in 1985, is to increase professionalism of meeting management professionals through five areas: identifying a comprehensive body of knowledge in the meeting management profession; promoting industry standards, practices and ethics; stimulating the advancement of the art and science of meeting management; increasing the value of CMPs to their employers; and maximizing the value received from the products and services provided by CMPs.


Destination Colorado Meetings connected with two Certified Meeting Planner pros for their insights and advice about how to become a certified meeting professional and reasons why it has helped them make tracks in their careers. Both serve on the organization’s planner advisory panel.

Nikki Bibbero, CMP, HMCC

Nikki Bibbero, CMP, HMCC, owner of Bibbero Meetings and Events, obtained her CMP in 2017. She serves as a council member for the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado, is the immediate past president of Meeting Professionals International Rocky Mountain Chapter, and also has worked as an event manager for Arrow Electronics and meeting architect for Kinsley Meetings and has a Healthcare Meeting Compliance Certificate (HMCC) from Meeting Planers International.


Jennifer Hinton, CMP is the strategic events manager for Canvas Credit Union, where she has worked for almost seven years. Previously, she worked for Sports Authority for nearly 15 years in roles such as manager of marketing partnerships and manager of events and project planning. Hinton secured the CMP designation in 2022.

Jennifer Hinton, CMP

The Basics

The qualifications for CMP certification are based on professional experience, education and a written  exam. Candidates first must complete the online CMP application to demonstrate eligibility. You need 36 months of full-time employment in the meetings industry as well as 25 hours of continuing education. If you have a degree in event management or hospitality, you will only need 24 months of full-time employment. Also, if you participated in an industry-related internship, that may count for 25 hours of continuing education. All activities must be within the past five years.


When certified meeting planner applications are reviewed, the person’s description of job duties and resume are examined to verify that you are a full-time meeting professional. Titles are not as important as the descriptions. Once applicants are approved, they have 12 months to take and pass a written examination covering the functions performed in meeting management. The exam may be taken multiple times during this 12-month period.


Exam Preparation

The Events Industry Council offers live webinars to help candidates learn about how to become a certified meeting planner and to prepare for the CMP exam. Understanding the testing process and creating a study plan has proven helpful for many. There also are study manuals, online programs, and study groups hosted by other organizations such as MPI that many applicants find useful.


Bibbero read the text book cover to cover, made flash cards, and downloaded an app that had practice quizzes and flashcards. “Often what you would intuitively do as a planner doesn’t align with what the textbook answers are, so don’t think you can wing it,” she cautions. “Preparation is key! If possible, take your CMP early on in your certified meeting planner career when you have less real-world experience, as that will eliminate confusion between what the test says you should do at an event versus what you intrinsically may do for the event.”


The CMP exam is computer based and is composed of 165 multiple-choice questions. Applicants have three and a half hours to answer 15 pretest (unscored) questions and 150 operational (scored) questions. Four possible answers are provided for each question. Because the exam is designed to measure competency rather than academic excellence, it is scored as either pass or fail.


A score of at least 55 is required to pass, but this does not mean applicants have to answer 55 questions correctly. The exam is scaled, meaning some questions may be more difficult and others not as difficult. Depending on the amount of difficult or easy questions are in each of the nine domains, this will affect the final score.


Hinton completed a 10-week online class, the CMP Exam Prep Course, through the Event Leadership Institute that included books, weekly readings, weekly quizzes and a live class and spent a lot of time studying. “Taking a class was so beneficial for me. The instructor taught what we needed to know in order to take the exam, gave us tips on how to pass, and even gave tips on preparing for the exam if you have test anxiety,” she shares.


The CMP exam was developed and is maintained by meeting professionals from all over the world who volunteer their time to ensure that the program reflects the best practices in the meeting management field.


Today, candidates for CMP certification have the option to take the exam from home via remote proctoring or they can still go to a testing center. A big benefit of this change is that certification exams are offered year-round instead of during only the four testing windows.


“Don’t be afraid to take the CMP exam,” Hinton emphasizes. “I put it off for a long time since I’d heard so many planners tell me how tough it was. But after taking the prep course and studying, I was able to pass on my first try!” 


Reasons to Become Certified

CMP certification is a mark of excellence in comprehensive events management and typically opens the door to better and more career opportunities for planners. According to an industry report conducted by PCMA, meeting planners who hold the CMP earn (on average) $10,756 more annually than their non-certified counterparts.


Bibbero elected to pursue a CMP as “it helped me get a raise and promotion at my then job,” she says. “Have a conversation with your employer before getting started. I’ve had one company who felt very strongly about the benefits of a CMP, so they encouraged me to go for it and I saw the benefits in my job. I’ve also had a different company who felt that the CMP was not a good use of time or money and would not provide any support or rewards for going through the process.”


Hinton’s employer encouraged the pursuit of a certification for her position. “It’s also something that I’ve always wanted to do, to prove to myself and others that I have the knowledge and have earned the respect of having a CMP,” she says.


“It has helped me advance in my current role and given me more respect in working with vendors and planners in the industry,” Hinton confirms.


CMP Recertification

Passing the exam doesn’t mean that the CMP process is over. Recertification is required every five years. You can either report 25 hours of continuing education that relates to one of the nine domains in the CMP International Standards or 15 hours plus three industry support activities. In addition, recertification applications must show at least 36 months of full-time meeting-related experience. EIC also offers free webinars where CMPs can earn one continuing education (CE) credit per webinar viewed after taking the quiz.


Bibbero found it to be relatively easy. She says, “Make sure to attend CE-accredited events throughout the five years and log those activities in your EIC profile. Twenty-five are needed to re-up, and it would be challenging to do that all in one sitting, but very easy to do throughout the five years.”


Colorado native Beth Buehler has been editor of Colorado Meetings + Events magazine for 18 years, helped launch Mountain Meetings magazine, and is on the team introducing Southwest Meetings + Events this summer. She has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.