Find Your Path to a Meeting or Event Planner Career

By Deana Mitchell, CMP, DMCP, CCSE

I regularly hear from individuals who are looking to have a career in the meeting and event world. Some are already in school for this path, and others want to learn at a young age or are considering changing their careers later in life. First, what does a meeting planner’s job look like and how can you make it a reality for your career path?

PART ONE: How to become a meeting or event planner

There are literally dozens of ways to get involved in the industry. First, let’s explore some of the different types of meeting and event careers. In many situations, these lines are blurred and planners cover more than one type of event.

Meeting and event careers

  • Corporate meeting and event planner
  • Association meeting planner
  • Incentive planner
  • Nonprofit event planner
  • Exhibition planner
  • Live events planner
  • Festival organizer

Important traits of a good planner

  • Time management superstar
  • Detail focused
  • Calm demeaner
  • Manage many personalities
  • Problem solver
  • Security advisor
  • Knowledge of many facets of the industry
  • Ability to work sporadic schedules

Education, participation and designations

  • Several colleges in Colorado that offer classes and degrees in the field. 
  • Industry trade associations: Destination Colorado, Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Management Association, Association Society of Association Executives, International Live Events Association, National Association of Catering & Events, etc.
  • Designations: Certified Meeting Planner (CMP), Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM) designations, Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP)

    Getting involved in industry association events like the Meeting Professional International Rocky Mountain Chapter’s annual golf tournament. Photo by All Digital Photo & Video.

Common ways to get started in the industry

  • Intern
  • Contractor
  • Hotel or resort
  • Food and beverage, banquets, restaurants
  • Project manager 
  • Marketing

PART TWO:  What does an event or meeting planner do? 

As discussed in part one, there are a wide range of duties and options in the meeting and event world. Let’s explore some of the duties in stages.

Creation and site visits

  • Inception of meeting or event (if it is new)
  • Evaluation of meeting or event (if it is ongoing)
  • Establish objectives
  • Develop requirements and budget
  • Create a request for proposal (RFP) for all vendors needed
  • Organize responses and compare to established criteria
  • Present options to decision makers
  • Negotiate terms
  • Site visit, meet with all parties and get questions answered
  • Finalize vendors and negotiate contracts

    The Realize Colorado team taking the time to check out one of Colorado’s many microbreweries that serve as great venues. Courtesy Realize Colorado.


  • Develop content and branding
  • Establish and launch a campaign to target audience
  • Will you use an app for the event?


  • Who is your audience? What are their likes and dislikes?
  • Speaker needs: is this motivational, educational, panel discussion … and what is the best format for the objective?
  • Registration, travel, transportation
  • Food and beverage, audio-visual, rooming lists, VIP requirements
  • Banquet event orders (BEO), hotel group resume, work schedule, staffing 
  • Entertainment, production, stage, themes/décor, gifts, giveaways
  • Exhibitors, sponsors, signage, badges, apps, branding opportunities
  • Safety and security
  • Special arrangements or activities if children are involved
  • Several backup plans for each facet of the event

    Arranging transportation is an important part of the planning process. Courtesy Realize Colorado.


  • Pre-conference meeting, load in, staffing, scheduling, confirming details with hotel and all vendors
  • Communications on-site, signage installed
  • Organization chart with responsibilities spelled out
  • Tools, materials and office setup for staff
  • Emergency plans in place

    A corporate retreat underway at Devil’s Thumb Ranch Resort and Spa near Winter Park takes a lot of behind-the-scenes planning. Courtesy Realize Colorado.

    The Realize Colorado team working behind the scenes at a meeting. Courtesy Realize Colorado.

Wrap up

  • Post-conference meetings with property and all vendors
  • Load out, make sure you can be out of the space when contracted
  • Wrap up all invoices and payments
  • Finalize meeting spend, update meeting history documents, cost-savings analysis
  • Follow up with attendees: surveys, send out presentations or notes as needed, thank you’s

I understand this can all be a bit overwhelming if you are new to the industry! The best place to start: do some research on the organizations and education listed in this blog and see what interests you the most. If you are serious about this being your career in the future, I would be happy to have a call with you to discuss further.

Deana Mitchell is the owner of Realize Colorado, a Global DMC Partner. Realize is a destination management company serving the state of Colorado.