Colorado’s Meetings & Events Industry Provides Rewarding Jobs


by Gary Schirmacher, CMP

Thirty years ago, when I lucked into the hotel business, there were very few individuals who were university trained coming into the hospitality industry. You had to be from Cornell, UNLV or Michigan State to have been trained in the business, and even then it was more hotel focused than event planning driven.

Suppliers and planners mingling and attending educational sessions at Meetings Industry Council of Colorado's Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show. Photo by Chad Chisholm.

Suppliers and planners mingling and attending educational sessions at Meetings Industry Council of Colorado’s Annual Educational Conference & Trade Show. Photo by Chad Chisholm.

Today, there are more than 150 universities in the U.S. and abroad that offer curriculum and degrees related to the hospitality industry. Programs that include emphasis on hotel, restaurant, culinary, travel and event planning are more popular than ever. Industry events, like the Professional Convention Management Association’s (PCMA) Convening Leaders conference in Chicago that started off 2015, are having record student attendance. Faculty members are also more active industry conference participants as the demand for better courses and learning is at the forefront of student expectations.

Scholarships and awards have helped many students enter college programs in convenient locations around the country, including those at Metro State University of Denver, Johnson & Wales University and University of Denver in Colorado. Many students are working full-time in our industry and commuting to/from the university for their entire college years. That is indicative of the commitment emerging professionals have for our business. It’s rewarding, fun, something new every day.

I network with many emerging professionals who are trying to decide what they want to go for. They are sometimes surprised when I describe the many companies that make up the meetings business. Many of these companies provide fast-growth careers.

On the supplier side, destination marketing organizations (DMOs), hotels, convention centers, restaurants, private clubs, unique venues, AV/production companies, general service contractors, florists, caterers, décor companies and other suppliers of all types and sizes provide great opportunities to work on the planning and execution of events. On the planner side, there are associations, corporations, special event organizers, third parties, trade show owners, destination management companies (DMCs) and many other buyers that are booking meetings all over the world. A great resource and industry organization that has members in just about every corner of the meetings market is the Meetings Industry Council of Colorado. The 13 MIC member organizations represent the best of planners and suppliers in Colorado.

What’s your story on how did you enter or become interested in the meetings industry? How important is it to have an undergraduate degree to get a good entry-level position? Can a graduate expect to enter into a management position with a degree? Did you just happen to luck into the business like many of us? Regardless, it’s good to know opportunity abounds for jobs in Colorado’s meetings and events industry.

Gary Schirmacher, CMP, has 29 years of experience in the hotel and meeting planning industry. In his current role as Senior Vice-President, Association Sales and Marketing, he oversees the Strategic Sales team and leads the industry presence strategy for both Experient and Maritz Travel Company.