Finding my Niche by Mary Jo Wiseman

Not all people who plan meetings are “meeting planners,” nor do all meeting planners start out their careers as meeting planners. I for one, started out on a clerical/administrative path with absolutely no knowledge at the time that a career in meeting planning even existed (and at the time it probably didn’t).

Truth be told, I had no intention when I first returned to the workforce after being a stay-at-home mom of working for the rest of my life or until retirement. But as it turns out, that’s exactly what I did. 

The first time I became involved in planning meetings was in my role as an office manager in the Grants and Development Office of a state university. This office reported to a Board of Trustees and was responsible for planning and executing quarterly board meetings.

Did I think of this as “meeting planning”? I did not. 

Did I know the difference between a board room or conference room set and a classroom set? I did not.

BUT, I learned and I learned quickly by making some mistakes early on. 

What I also learned was that I liked what I was doing and that I was good at it – or had the potential to be. I also knew I needed and wanted to learn more so I set out on a professional development journey and did the following.

  • Changed job, moving to an administrative assistant position in HR with a Fortune 500 company where I was able to get a big picture perspective of the potential for further career opportunities.  
  • Learned of a possible opening in the Conference Services area; requested informational interview.
  • Responded to an eventual job posting as a meeting planner; accepted the job and was on my way:   I’d found my niche.  

Did it stop there?  Absolutely not! From there, I:

  • Joined Meeting Professionals International.
  • Attended monthly educational programs and their annual educational conferences.
  • Read all the hospitality-related materials I could get my hands on.
  • Chaired a CMP study group to learn all I could learn before sitting for the CMP exam.
  • Become a Certified Meeting Professional. 

In an effort to share with others the key strategies I learned throughout my 24+ year career as a corporate meeting planner,  I wrote my first book: The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings

My book offers a practical overview of the entire planning process for people just starting out in the business or meeting planning veterans alike.  It offers valuable insight and tips to help CREATE the perfect EXPERIENCE for your audience by staying true to the basic elements of the planning process.

The guide is intended to lead you through the proper steps and the sequence of tasks involved in planning a meeting.  It also includes handy templates including a Meeting TimeLine, an Overall (Meeting Action) Plan, and a Request for Proposal (RFP) as well as descriptions and diagrams of possible room setups.

If you need a standard operating guide or need to get everyone using the same formats, my guide could give you a great start.  It should give you the structure and tools to keep you and your team focused, on task and on time. I found my niche.  It took time, it took patience and I did it on my own time table.   If you haven’t yet found your niche, I hope my story will give you the courage to keep challenging yourself and moving forward when the time is right for you.

“The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings” is available in the Office Dynamics Success Store. Grab a copy here.

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