I’d like to buy an events industry certification for $25, Pat

First, I would like to apologize to Pat Sajak for making a (hopefully) humorous reference to his highly successful game show, Wheek of Fortune.  Some of you may read the daily Greg Ruby’s Gems – Event News newspaper that is generated automatically from the folks I follow on Twitter and see a GoogleAds placed advertisement for the QC School of Event Management to become a Certified Events Planner.  This advertisement greatly disturbs me and I have been unsuccessful in having it removed from my online newspaper.

I hold three meetings and events industry certifications — Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), Certified In Exhibitions Management (CEM) and Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE).  I am currently working on earning the Certified in Meetings Management (CMM) designation and hope to have the news about that in about 60 days.  Yeah, I like initials behind my name and there are more letters behind my name than are in my name.

The QC school offers a 6 unit program for its Event and Wedding Planning course, complete with DVDs that you can watch at your own pace in the comfort of your own home!  Each unit has coursework that is to be submitted to a personal tutor, who works in the industry.  Complete and pass all the assignments in as little as four months time and you can recieve the certificate for the IEWP Certified Event and Wedding Planning Professional in the mail.  All this can be yours for $1,248 – there is a $200 discount if you buy the full package upfront or you can opt for installments.  So, you can get yourself that industry certification on lay-a-way!  I also like the use of the Better Business Bureau  seal on their website, so I can get this certification with confidence.

IEWP stands for International Events and Wedding Professional and according to the QC’ School’s website are eligible to join the AFWPI – the Association for Wedding Professionals International.  I used the seach feature on AFWPI’s website to find any mention of the IEWP designation and came up empty.  By the way, in reviewing the AFWPI’s membership application, it seems that the only requirement to become a member is to complete the application and pay dues.  In fairness, this is no more than what the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) requires to join, but at least PCMA is a non-profit educational organization as opposed to AFWPI appearing to be a subsidiary of some marketing corporation.

There was a little bit of a hulabaloo about 2 years ago, when Jeffrey Brown of the Tradeshow Blues came up with a Certified Tradeshow Enthusiast designation that could be purchased for $25.  Disclosure:  I bought one of the CTE designations as a joke – I am still waiting for the certificate.  One of the loudest opponents of the CTE initials was “the Booth Mom” – Candace Adams.  Candy has even more intials after her name than I do (although she does need to update her certifications page to be more current!) and argued that designations such as the CTE cheapened and demeaned the effort put forth to earn the more recognized certifications in our industry.  Thankfully, the CTE has faded away.

Our industry has been an alphabet soup with all the acronyms for the major associations and even more so with industry certifications.  Let’s take a look at the major designations in our industry (in no particular order):

* Certified Meetings Professional (CMP) by the Convention Industry Council (CIC)

* Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) by the International Assocation of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

* Certified Association Sales Executive (CASE) by the Professional Convention Managment Association (PCMA)

* Certified in Meetings Management (CMM) by the Meetings Professionals International (MPI)

* Certified Manager of Exhibits (CME) by the Trades Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA)

* Certified Manager of Exhibits – Healthcare (CME/H) by the Healthcare Convention and Exhibitors Association (HCEA)

* Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) by the International Special Events Society (ISES)

* Certified Trade Show Marketer (CTSM) by Exhibitor Magazine (affiliated with Northern Illinois University)

Many of you reading this blog post may have one or more of these desginations yourself.  You spent years in the industry to become qualified to sit for exams or take courses as they become available.  You became involved in industry organizations, serving on committees, speaking at programs or writing for newsletters.  In other words, you spend a lot of time and effort to get those initials behind your name.  Certifications like this IEWP program should be a slap in the face to you.

What is even worse, is that this IEWP designation costs nearly twice what it costs to what it takes to register for the CMP exam ($225 application fee and $450 exam registration fee).  $675 versus $1248??  I am using the CMP designation for illustration as it is the granddaddy of all our industry certifications and over 14,000 people in 36 countries have earned it.

Let’s take a look at what is needed to be done in order to sit for the CMP exam.  An application is filed showing your professional experience and continuing education background.  Professional expererience can be earned in three ways: (1) Having been recently employed within our industry (last 12 months) and having at least 36 months experience; (2) Having been recently employed within our industry (last 12 months) and having at least 24 months experience and a industry related bachelor’s degree or higher; or (3) serving as a full-time instuctor for industry related courses in the last 36 month.  For the continuing education portion, either an industry internship program of 200+ hours or 25 hours of continuing education are needed.  Remember, this is just to sit for the exam at a later date.  Your application will be reviewed by at least two of your industry peers after it arrives at CIC headquarters.  After getting notified that you can sit for the exam, you then have to take the 150 question exam and pass.  Once you pass the exam and can add those initials to your business card, you have to recertify every five years.

We take a lot of grief in our industry – “Must be nice to plan parties,” “Wish I could go to fancy places for a conference,” etc.  We need to protect ourselves from these “certificate warehouses” that will issues designations to anyone with a checkbook.

For those that are on LinkedIn and hold the CMP designation, you may wish to consider joining the CMP – Certified Meetings Professionals group there.  By the way, requests to join the group are screened and compared to the CMP directory, so make sure you have the intials when you apply or you will be declined membership in the group.  It just wouldn’t be fair to have the CMP logo displayed on your LinkedIn profile when you don’t have the designation.

4 Responses to I’d like to buy an events industry certification for $25, Pat

  1. Greg, I understand with your frustration of certifications popping up everywhere and the ability to get them by just writing a check. But I have a different take on the certification issue.

    Yes standards are great but I don’t think just having the initials behind the name guarantees the person you are talking to has any skills. I have come across many people in my day that honestly do not have a clue about meetings/conferences/trade shows but have the appropriate certifications.

    I think we have to be honest. Whether these organizations are non-profits or not the certifications are a revenue source…not something to make the world a better place. Not only do you pay to take the test but you have to also pay your membership dues to take advantage of member pricing for the annual meetings and other educational content to get your quota of educational credits.

    I’ve been involved with organizations that offer certifications and they are very open about the fact they are there as a revenue source. Sure a part of them may way to create industry standards, but if that were purely the only reason, you would have one test that encompassed all. Instead you have each association coming up with their own certification that is tweaked ever so slightly to differentiate it from the others.

    I went through this when I started my career in IT. Here we were, a bunch of nerds running huge networks for huge companies without any problems. Then Microsoft came along and suddenly we needed to pay thousands of dollars to take a certification exam and take the necessary course work. Just so someone could say we knew what we were doing for the past 10 years or so. Now people who never actually ran a network were somehow more valuable than those who had been doing it for decades, just because of three little letters and an $8000 test.

    I’m not saying there is not benefit to the certifications, but I am saying I think we need to be honest about what they are really there for.

    Traci Browne
    representing Red Cedar Marketing

  2. Back in the day, I would refer to some planners as Clueless Meeting Professionals, especially the planner who wanted an “O” shape table, when everyone else asks for a hollow square….

  3. I am the founder of AFWPi. Please note, to be a member we require more than just paying dues. The main requirement we have is to follow our code of ethics. One of the statements in our code is to treat other professionals with respect. We also require they provide proof they are a legitimate business.

    Our members are hard working wedding professionals. Their function is to get the truly special event of someones wedding perfect. The one thing they need assistance with is marketing and that is what we provide.

    You found no mention of QC on our website because they are not a member.

    We have worked very hard to assist professionals in our wedding industry and those in allied industries as well. Had you checked our resources page you would have found Biz Bash and other events being promoted.

    Just as a point of reference we started the AFWPi in 1995. We have it set up to earn a profit as do other associations in our industry. This offers us the opportunity to provide full time service to our members.

    Richard Markel

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