On July 29, Amanda Cecil, PhD, CMP, will be presented with the Recognizing Industry Success and Excellence (RISE) Award for Member of the Year by Meeting Professionals International (MPI). RISE recipients are recognized for innovation, influence, global transferability and impact within the meeting and event industry.

In her tenth year on the Indiana University’s Tourism, Conventions and Event Management faculty, Cecil is being recognized for her volunteer leadership in the creation of the Meeting and Business Event Competency Standards (MBECS). Cecil chaired the MPI Body of Knowledge Task Force that was responsible for creating the MBECS, the first occupational standard for the meeting and event profession.As the MBECS will play an integral role in the shaping of our industry’s future, Snappening.com, felt that there was no better time than the present to sit down with sat down with Amanda to uncover the reasons behind the Standard development and the impact she expects they will have. Learn more about how this bright industry expert is shaping the event planning and hospitality professionals of tomorrow.

Q: Let’s start at the beginning. What exactly are the Standards?
A: The MBECS are meant to be an integrated outline of knowledge and skills required for an event or meeting planner to be considered competent at managing a variety of meetings and business events at an expert level. These Standards include:

Block A – Strategic Planning

Block B – Project Management

Block C – Risk Management

Block D – Financial Management

Block E – Administration

Block F – Human Resources

Block G – Stakeholder Management

Block H – Meeting or Event Design

Block I – Site Management

Block J – Marketing

Block K – Professionalism

Block L – Communication

Q: What was the impetus for developing the Standards originally?
A: The meeting profession has never had an established and agreed upon body of knowledge. Most established professions have occupational standards – rules and responsibilities of that job or career.

We wanted something specific for the meeting world. MPI set about standardizing how meeting planners are recognized at a government level, giving the profession more recognition and more substance. Defining required skill sets and competencies elevates the profession further to be more synonymous with other established professional fields.

Q: How long did it take to develop the Standards? Who all was involved?
A: From start to finish, it took about 18 months. It was a labor of love for a group of dedicated volunteers. I was named the Chair, though I don’t know how. I started working with an MPI staff person and decided we wanted a broad and diverse group of people on the committee.

The committee ended up being made up of planners and suppliers – both corporate and independent – and represented senior, mid-level and junior planners. We also put professors on the committee as it was important that we tie the standards to two-year, four-year and master’s level academic programming.

Throughout the development, we met four (4) times in person and had monthly phone calls.

Q: What do the Standards aim to accomplish and signify?
A: Our goal was to truly understand the full scope of what a meeting planner does. Similar to other major professions, you must be a savvy business person, detail-oriented, understand contracts and negotiation, etc. One day everyone will understand the scope of what we do.

Q: We see the Standards are in 12 domains. Why these? Why this order?

A: These are the ones that bubbled up as common themes. Twelve major themes – areas of competency we identified. The way they are ordered, alphabetical, is because we didn’t want people to think one was more important than the other. They all offer a similar level of importance and influence in being a well-rounded meeting and event industry professional.
Q: What are your goals for the Standards in the future?
A:  I want to see the standards begin to elevate the industry and legitimize a path in this field. I want the standards to educate people on the broad knowledge that an individual must possess to be successful and well equipped to enter this industry and stay successful throughout their career by maintaining a strong, broad base of learning.MPI, as a trade group, wants to start making sure their educational and learning opportunities mirror the knowledge base of the standards, almost to the point where each program would publicly and consistently tie to educational standard areas. We are not at that point yet, but we are moving in this direction.

Q: As an educator, how are you hoping the Standards will be integrated into training/educational models?
A: I want to make sure what is being taught in school matches what employees really need to know and understand when they start their jobs. I want to use the feedback I have received from employment industry colleagues to drive what sort of changes in the educational platform are necessary to make sure the educational curriculum matches the entry-level needs of the industry, the mid-career level (Master’s programs) and the senior level (Doctorate programs).

Q: How do you see the meeting and events industry changing in the next five years?
A: The entire notion of professionalism will really come to the forefront. With so many academic programs, increased knowledge will become a must for employers. There will be a new educated base coming into the workforce and a more educated professional in these event planning positions.

Q: If you wanted to leave a legacy, would the Standards be part of that legacy or something else?
A: I really didn’t know how much impact these standards would have. We started this in 2008 or 2009, and they were finally published in 2011. I really do hope it is part of my legacy or contribution to this space. I would love to see more research or scholarly work done.

I hope this is just the first iteration. It should be updated every three to five years actually. Now we can see how the profession changes every few years which will be exciting.

I’m excited to see how this will evolve over time. There is a lot of pride in being involved with the first group to work on the standards.

About Amanda Cecil
Amanda K. Cecil, PhD, CMP, is in her tenth year on the Indiana University’s Tourism, Conventions and Event Management faculty and has been an active industry volunteer. In addition to chairing the MPI Body of Knowledge Task Force that was responsible for creating the MBECS, she has served on the MPI Indiana Chapter’s Board of Directors and volunteered on international committees and task forces focused on students and knowledge.

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