Professional Involvement: What's In It For You?

I moved to D.C. in 1978 and in early 1979, discovered the newly formed chapter (Potomac) of Meeting Planners (now Professionals) International.

At my first meeting, while wall-hugging—such an Introvert, I was observing the scene!—(the late) Bill Myles introduced himself and immediately got me involved in a committee. From that initial involvement, I became active: serving on and chairing committees, then to the Chapter Board where I served as President twice, and then to serve our chapter as one of two representatives on the MPI International Board before being elected by petition to the re-tooled, smaller Board.

I had experiences, especially on what was then called the “Program Committee” planning education that, in my work to that point, I’d not done. I honed my leadership and speaking skills. And I made friends for life.

Since then, I’ve maintained memberships in, and served in many capacities for, MPI and its Foundation, PCMA, HSMAI, DMAI, GMIC, and ASAE. I’ve also been a contributor by writing for and presenting at the meetings of ESPA*, IACC and SGMP. I’ve paid personally for my memberships and involvement, never, in 37 years, calculating the outlay of time or money. It was the smart thing to do.

The reasons I joined and why I continue to be a member of a number of these organizations include wanting to:

  • Learn with and from peers through face to face, and now, social media, interaction.
  • Support the industry in which I work and the organizations that have honored me**.
  • Contribute to the industry and the growth of others.

There’s not been a year when I’ve not been involved; I’m not a good ‘check-book member’!

(If you’re attending ESPA, come to the session I’m moderating on Saturday. PCMA student? I’ll moderate a program for you the Sunday of PCMA).

From my memberships and, more from active engagement, I’ve gained experience and knowledge, friends, a support network, and clients, paid and pro-bono.

Today, opportunities for professional involvement abound:

  • Joining a CIC-affiliated membership organization like those noted above. Here, you can find a listing of and links to all the CIC member organizations (At those sites, you can explore history, membership qualifications, ethics standards and more).
  • Lurking or actively participating in what appear to be hundreds of industry social  media groups affiliated with the membership organizations and informal.
  • Joining one of the newer organizations like SPiN and AWE, neither of which is (yet?) a CIC member, and both of which are restricted to different categories of members. [Note: SPiN, in a bold and good move, has waived membership fees and charges to attend their educational offerings for 2016.]
  • Remaining “independent” and learn via opportunities like Meetings Today blogs and webinars, as well as reading in print and electronically.

Like a number of veteran—older? more years of experience?—colleagues, I’ve begun to question the financial commitment because of disappointment when industry associations, with winks and nods, work against their own codes or standards of ethics, when there are fewer opportunities for involvement; because of the dependence on supplier/vendor dollars; and when, as I’ve seen too often, long-time, active (and honored) members drop their membership and never receive any follow up.

In addition to many informal conversations, I asked three respected colleagues—all of whom I met because of our industry involvement at different stages of their careers—what they see as reasons to be members of industry associations and what they expect from that involvement and the associations themselves. Interviews with Sekeno Aldred, CMP, Charles Chan Massey, CMP, and Jean Riley, are part of this month’s Friday with Joan newsletter.

I want to know about you—planner, supplier, student or faculty: please respond to the poll and tell us more in the comments about why are you a member—or are not—of any of the CIC-member organizations. If you were a member—and I know many of you!—and are not now, what caused you to drop your membership? What would you advise for those new to the industry? Those at mid-career? To those “veteran industry” planners and suppliers (or as my friend, Charles Chan Massey refers to himself, “Supplanner”), about being part of an industry association?

Note that once you vote, you can view the poll results here.

*If you know an event service professional, also known as a CSM, encourage them to join ESPA. More, tell their GMs and corporate offices why we meeting planners want CSMs who are active and involved.

**Among the honors I’ve received are MPI International Planner of the Year; PCMA Teacher of the Year, PCMA Foundation honor for lifetime achievement as an educator; HSMAI Pacesetter Award and two from IACC (Mel Hosansky Award and Pyramid Award) all three for contributions to education. CIC inducted me into the CIC Hall of Leaders in 2004.

Funniest thing ever: When MPI honored me in 1990 or 1991, another industry professional came to me and said “Well, now you don’t have to volunteer any more since you’ve been honored.” Stunned, now as then, I said “I’ve never done it for the honors.”

As always, these views are my own and may not reflect the opinions of the publisher of Meetings Today and its parent company. If you want to respond to this post without having your name affiliated, please email me at and let me know what you’d like posted.

Posted by Joan L. Eisenstodt

Follow Joan on Twitter: @joaneisenstodt

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