The Meeting Show 2014: How important are accreditations and certifications for the events industry?

This past Tuesday (8th July) I attended the first day of the 2014 Meeting Show in London. It was my first time at this exhibition and whilst I saw some familiar faces from Confex and the Event Production Show, #TMS14 is specifically aimed towards the MICE side of the events industry.
For those who may not know MICE stands for Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions/Events. A majority of the exhibitors where DMC (Destination Management Companies) and Venues as well as a few event suppliers and tech companies – however the main reason I went along was to attend one of the talks: Accreditation and Certification – a waste of time or a must have? 

The Panel consisted of; Martin Christian-Kent (Executive Director of People1st), Nick Milne (Hon. Secretary and Board Member for MIA), Miguel Neves (Senior Online Community Manager for IMEX Group & President of MPI UK) and was moderated by Paul Kennedy (Strategic Business Advisor for The Meeting Show). You might remember that Miguel moderated one of the talks I attended at Confex on the innovation of tech in the events industry
Although this talk was not directly linked with the recent debate about the relevance of event management degrees, I was interested to hear industry professionals opinions on a topic that does bare some relevance. 
L-R: Paul Kennedy, Martin Christian-Kent & Miguel Neves (credit: Irina Trimovskaya)

Paul Kennedy made a very interesting point at the start saying that the reason there is a deep controversy with this topic is because it is not obvious about the benefits. He went on to say that currently the events industry is not great at proving its worth to others & accreditation is one way to help develop the professionalisation of the industry. 
Miguel Neves spoke specifically about CMP, which is strongly pushed and supported by MPI UK. He explained how it is an individual certification and across the world there are over 10,000 who are certified – however the UK only has 12 people! Nick Milne agreed that the use of accreditation is very important, however he spoke about AIM with is a certificate that focuses solely on the meeting industry, he talked about how accreditation allows companies to show they work ethically and strongly understand the business and industry. Both Miguel and Nick made the point that accreditation and certifications make sure people keep up to date with the industry & continuously learn as they need to be reaccredited on a regular basis – CMP being every 5 years & AIM every 12 months. 
Martin Christian-Kent talked more about the need for a central body who could create a set of industry standards, because it is important to have common standards to develop the industries professionalisation. Martin also talked about research which shows whilst the amount of training in events has increased, employers are still reporting that they cannot get skilled applicants and believe some staff don’t have the right skills. 
L-R: Martin Christian-Kent, Miguel Neves & Nick Milne (creditIrina Trimovskaya)

After listening to the panel talk and hearing a few questions from other audience members I was curious to hear Martin, Miguel and Nick’s opinions on if there should be a much stronger link with the established event education already in place in the UK, e.g. event degrees
Martin answered saying that once there are a set industry standards then university courses will start to link more closely with those standards. Nick focused again on the benefit that accreditation means people are regularly checked up and reaccredited & he also made the point, which event students might have heard before, that graduates can’t expect to do an event management course and be done – it involves continuous development. And finally Miguel mentioned that a problem with event degrees is that all universities have different syllabus and focus on different course content. 
From a personal viewpoint, industry accreditations are something I know little about because they were not pushed or explained during my time at university. Whilst I agree that there does need to be some set standards in place so that  university degrees are taught with a stronger focus of what the industry needs, it is unsettling to hear that after spending over £20,000 I will need to spend more to gain an additional industry recognised accreditation. Obviously the thing everyone wants is for all even professionals to hold the right skills to do the job to the highest and most professional standards. 
My problem isn’t with the idea of a certification but more that event professionals are not looking to invest their knowledge and focus of improving and developing the event degrees, which would mean graduate are coming out will all the relevant skills that they need. If more focus was given to event students, who are undisputedly the next group of event professionals, employers would be gaining skilled staff who already have the desired and essential skills to be successful in the events industry.  
I am really interested to hear your opinion on this topic – are you for a stronger focus on event profs gaining accreditations and certifications? Do you think they will help improve the events industry professionalisation? Or would you rather focus was given to event degrees so that more future event professionals came out of uni with the essential skills? 

  • Miguel Neves

    Hi Caitlin. Thanks for posting about this important topic. It was not long ago that I completed my MA in Conference and Events Management from the University of Westminster, 2009 in fact. I had already accumulated a couple of years of event management experience, and I worked hard to get an internship which lead to a full time role while I was still completing my dissertation.

    I just wanted to add a short note that the CMP certification is designed for those with two or more years of industry experience and most CMP candidates have many more years of experience. I fully understand your concern regarding the high cost of education and need to have this valued by employers. MPI UK & Ireland are backing the CMP as a professional certification, one that is focussed on continual professional development throughout the career of a meeting professional. I do believe this is the next step after a university or professional degree, but not necessarily an immediate step. In fact I would recommend a clear separation from university education before applying for the CMP.

    It’s also worth noting that the CMP is backed by the 33 association members of the Convention Industry Council. This to me shows that this certification is unique and respected across the breadth of the industry. With university degrees varying so much between them, this is a clear difference of the CMP.

    I hope this helps to build a clear picture of where the CMP stands. It’s always worth having a look at the CMP website for further clarification:

  • Thanks Miguel for your comment & for clarifying a few details with CMP. I think the fact that the CMP certification is focused on professional development is great & having spoken to a few other people about this topic i’ve noticed that most people are for something that will help add standards to the industry, regardless of if these people have studied an event management degree.

    I think this is a very very interesting topic & I do hope to see more people taking on these types of accreditations and certifications.

  • Thanks for sharing this great and knowledgeable information, which is knowledgeable.

  • Thanks Sarah, I’m very glad to hear you liked this post!

  • Dupe Awosika

    My contribution is that Universities will continuously produce graduates in Events Management so it is important that curriculum for the university is on a universal level that makes it in line with the CMP certification. I believe after acquiring the skills and knowledge in a university environment, students should have the opportunity to gain employment and apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical environment while in any business establishment there should be Events seminars set up to ensure one is on top of things.

  • Hi Dupe, Thanks so much for your comment & I couldn’t agree more with your points! It would be great if degrees, accreditation and certifications were more in-line with each other – making sure all students where studying and gaining the skills that are needed within the events industry!