In this post, we’re shedding some light on event planning certifications, what they are, how to get them, which ones might interest you, and where they fit into our modern situation of increased reliance on virtual and hybrid events.
If you’re an event professional or considering entering the event planning field, we’ll give an overview of event planning certifications as well as some pros and cons. Head on down to the sections below for more details.
- What Are Event Planning Certifications and Who Needs Them?
- Top Event Planning Certifications
- Event Planning Certification and Exam Costs
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Certified Event Planner
- Meet Kaltura’s Virtual Event Management Platform
What Are Event Planning Certifications and Who Needs Them?
Event planning certifications come from professional associations in the event planning space. In the U.S. it’s also important to note that there is a difference between “certifications” and “certificates,” so make sure to pay attention. A “certification” gives you the title “certified event planner” which is a high level of professional designation and distinction. On the other hand, a “certificate” signifies that you’ve completed an event planning course in a school or program. However, it doesn’t require that the course be recognized by the event planning industry. While you may learn a lot in either case, be sure you check in advance to see if a certificate course is considered a professional credential.
Who needs event planning certifications? Well, for those working in event planning (or those aspiring to!), event planning certifications are likely to help you advance in your career. It sends the message to potential employers and partners that you’re committed to your role and willing to invest in yourself as well as in the industry.
While strictly speaking one doesn’t need to take event planning courses or have one or more event planning certifications to plan an event and otherwise work in the field, it can be part of a strategy and commitment to improving your event planning. The U.S., for instance, doesn’t have “registered” event planners. But certifications are recognized in the industry, and certificates and any other continuing education helps event planners upgrade their skills and find areas of specialization. All of these can help you move forward in an event planning career.
Top Event Planning Certifications
So which event planning certification (or certifications) should you look at?
Three primary event planning certifications are widely recognized among event professionals. We’ll tackle those first.
Bear in mind that, for the most part, these certifications require that you already have professional experience in the industry. However, if you’re a practicing event professional, earning any or all of these certifications will likely contribute to career advancement.
CSEP: Certified Special Events Professional
This is an event management license issued and endorsed by ILEA (International Live Events Association) and is recognized and respected internationally. CSEP is intended to allow professionals in the industry to develop and gain expertise, as well as maintain a standard of practice in a changing industry. The program is offered four times yearly, and you can learn more about it on the ILEA website. The only catch? CSEP is open only to existing event planning professionals, and it’s required to have a minimum of three years of full-time professional work in the special events industry to qualify for this event planning certification program.
CMP: Certified Meeting Professional
The CMP program is intended to boost the performance of event planners, standardize best practices for special events, and generally extend credibility to the profession. The certification exam was developed by planners around the world and is recognized in at least 55 countries. CMP has set the standard of event industry best practices around the world and has a very rigorous set of eligibility requirements. However an estimated 14,000 professionals have received CMP certification, so it’s quite popular as well.
For those interested in earning CMP Certification, it’s recommended to consult the CMP International Standards documents and focus on studying areas that planners are familiar with–the CMP exam actually covers a broad range of event industry topics. For more details take a deeper dive on the Events Industry Council (EIC) website.
CMM: Certificate in Meeting Management
CMM certification is administered by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and is a significant achievement reserved for “management level” meeting and event planners. In other words, applicants need at least a decade of experience in the event management space. This is considered by many to be the highest level of professional development in the event planning and management industry. CMM is the most academic of event planning certificates and includes extensive reading, classes, and project work. If you’re an experienced event planner looking to take your qualifications to the next level, there are more details about the certification on MPI’s website.
Digital Event Planning Certifications
As we’re all aware, for reasons ranging from expanding attendance and accessibility to public safety under pandemic conditions, virtual events have seen a steady rise in recent years. It’s probably accurate to say that most events now and in the future will take a virtual or hybrid approach to some extent. That being the case, here are some additional event planning certifications that focus on the virtual space and more digital-oriented features of events such as data analysis.
These certifications and certificate programs are also for working event industry professionals, however, they provide an effective way to specialize and prepare for a more-digital event world.
VEMM: Virtual Event & Meeting Management
This is a multiweek course and certificate for planning and executing virtual events. It’s a partnership between ELI and MPI, intended to expand the knowledge of event management professionals into the virtual space. Details can be found here.
DES: Digital Event Strategist
The PCMA Digital Experience Institute issues the DES digital event planning certificate, intended to mark recipients global recognition as event professionals. DES emphasizes digital-first strategy and events powered by virtual event software, as well as strategy to maximize digital engagement. Check out PCMA’s page for more information.
EDA: Event Data Analysis Certificate
Designed by MPI, this course is designed to help event professionals learn methods of collecting and creating insights from event data. From there they can get insight from their data to assess return on investment, report to stakeholders, and improve the performance of future events. Further details, pricing, and other options can be found on the MPI course page.
Event Planning Certification and Exam Costs
There is a caveat that event planning certification carries monetary costs, as well as cost in effort. Be sure to check on the linked websites to get a sense of the price tag each certification carries. If you work for a large and/or well-funded organization, it might even be possible to use professional development benefits from your employer towards courses and exams.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Certified Event Planner
If you’re not yet at the professional level for enrolling in one of these certifications, here is a road map of advice for getting a leg up in the industry. Depending on where you are right now, it might be a bit of a climb–but one that can prove well worth it. This is of particular interest to those in early career, students looking for a career path, and similar.
Pursue a Bachelor’s: It’s the expectation in most professional fields for a college degree. There are degrees in meeting and event management, but some other fields that can get you in the door of event planning are business management, marketing, public relations, communications, and hospitality management. If you have a background in these areas but are reconsidering your career choice, they translate well to the event planning industry.
Hands-On Experience: This is the real key. Plan events on your own, participate in an internship at an event planning company and otherwise look for ways to gain experience. If you’re out of school, great options are helping to organize company meetings and lower-stakes company events at your existing job, or volunteering for nonprofit orgs that coordinate events.
Work with Industry Technology: As with any field, learn the programs that are used in the industry, with a focus on project management, customer relationship management, and sales and marketing.
Specialize: A great way to stand out in any industry is by choosing a specialization. There’s nothing wrong with being a generalist! But by finding and focusing on a niche you might narrow the crowd of competition. It also helps you position yourself to start your own business. Areas of specialization can include weddings, business meetings, conferences, corporate retreats, and of course, virtual events.
Build a Portfolio: Create something that helps you show off your skills and accomplishments online, in print, or preferably both. Include photos of events, press clips and testimonials, and particularly well-executed event materials.
The path to becoming a professional event planner could easily fill an article on its own, so we’re including some leads right here for more detailed career research. We hope this helps get you started on your journey!
Meet Kaltura’s Virtual Event Management Platform
We’d also like to introduce both existing event pros and prospective event planners to our advanced virtual events solution, Kaltura Virtual Events. It’s a competitive edge for event planning in our increasingly virtual and hybrid world.
With Kaltura Virtual Events platform, even when your event is not in-person, nothing will feel like anything less than a full effort. Our mission is to make sure all your events can be highly engaging, on-brand, and simple to create and execute. Kaltura Virtual Events is also fully featured to help you make the most of the increasingly digital event environment and support you through all event planning stages.
While planning and setting up your virtual event, you can take advantage of agenda-building capabilities as well as fully customizable landing pages and preset event templates. Our templates have robust features for individualized modification and are intended to keep you 100% on-brand, as well as make it possible to extend your reach by scaling up and adding tracks and content. 5 basic templates can be implemented as-is but also reused or reworked: Interactive Webinar, Town Hall and Large Broadcast, Single Track, Multi-Day Multi-Track, and Flagship Event. Our Flagship Events in particular (geared toward those “Once-a-year and one-of-a-kind” types of events) come with the full advantages of our platform as well as excellent production support from our teams.
Additionally, we enable hyper-personalization for all attendees, leaning into the best advantages of virtual events and balancing out any disadvantage to not providing a live event experience. This includes personalized agendas, selecting topics of interest during registration to content recommendations, customizable layouts, personal media collections, and other options to individualize any experience.
Finally, we also feature out-of-the-box integrations as a modular framework for your SaaS tools including conferencing clients, marketing automation platforms, and data analytics. Marketing automation features empower your event to create personalized, customized, and automated live marketing that puts you on track for follow-up campaigns.
For attention span challenged readers, here are some capsule answers for your most common questions. For greater detail, refer back to the full sections above!
- How Can I Become an Event Planner?
Even in our increasingly virtual event-oriented environment, the event industry is predicted to continue growing, as will the demand for event planners. You don’t need a degree to become an event planner but the event planning certificates we mentioned above can certainly help. Jump to the section above see our step-by-step guide to establishing a presence in the industry Generally speaking, if you build a strong foundation of knowledge about the events industry through education or training, you’ll be positioned to move on to start accumulating work experience.
- Does Event Planning Pay Well?
Any skillset that’s in demand can expect to command at least somewhere around a median salary–which will vary depending on the country and region you live in. Starting salaries may also reflect a lower level of experience. But as we’ve pointed out, earning an event planning certificate is a great way to burnish your professional credentials and leverage yourself into a higher pay grade.
- What Does a Certified Event Planner Do?
A certified event planner is a professional who works with personal or business clients to organize small and large-scale events. While many event planners are working in the events industry, a certified event planner has the distinction of having earned one of the event planning certifications that we outline above.