Oregon Labor Market Information System
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Hospitality's Convention Service Managers
by Jan Swander
Published Mar-7-2012

 
Meetings and conventions are a huge source of revenue to the hospitality industry, and it takes a skilled professional to pull off major events without a hitch.

It's no wonder that such professionals play a key role in Oregon's hospitality industry. A resort's convention marketing and sales department brings in business by packaging meeting and banquet space with guest rooms and recreational offerings such as golf, white water rafting, challenge rope courses, and sightseeing. And the whole package must fit the conference theme. The professionals needed for this smooth operation are convention service managers, people who are responsible for planning, coordinating, and acting as the liaison between the resort staff and convention participants.

Skills and Working Conditions
 
The work of convention service managers may be considered either stressful or energizing, but there is no question that it is fast-paced and demanding. A convention service manager oversees multiple events at one time, faces numerous deadlines, and directs the activities of several different groups of resort staff. It is not uncommon for these professionals to coordinate several large business conferences, work with a wedding planner on a lavish wedding, and organize a charity golf event all at the same time.

Convention service managers must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They must be detail oriented with exceptional organizational skills, and be able to multi-task, meet tight deadlines, and maintain composure under pressure in a fast-paced environment.

It is important that these professionals possess the aptitude to formulate and follow budgets and understand and negotiate contracts. Computer skills are a must to navigate financial and registration software along with the Internet. Being bilingual is an asset, as planners may need to communicate with attendees from around the world.

Working hours can be long and irregular, with planners working more than 40 hours per week in the time leading up to a meeting. They can start work early in the morning and continue through midnight during an event. They may work weekends while a convention is in progress.

Training, Qualifications, and Advancement Opportunities
 
Convention service managers qualify for their jobs through a variety of methods. Many migrate into the occupation from past employment where they were given meeting planning duties in addition to their other job duties. Others enter the occupation after working in hospitality sales, marketing, or catering positions. A large portion of the skills and knowledge needed are learned on the job and through experience, especially in sales, food, and beverage operations.

Many employers prefer a person with a bachelor's degree because the work and responsibilities are becoming more complex, causing employers to prefer workers with more formal education. Useful undergraduate majors are marketing, public relations, communications, business, and hotel/hospitality management.

To advance in this occupation, convention service managers must demonstrate skill on the job, stellar customer service, exercise discretion and independent judgment, and gain the respect of others within the organization. Advancement solely on the basis of education is uncommon. However, education may improve work performance, and therefore may be an important factor in career development.

Meeting and convention planners can be found in a variety of industries such as hotels and hospitality establishments; convention and meeting facilities; religious, civic, training and professional organizations; public and private universities; corporations; government; or self-employed running their own event planning business.

With significant experience, convention service managers may be hired by a corporation as an in-house planner, may serve as an executive director for an association, or start their own event planning/public relations firm.

Employment Outlook and Wages
 
For those interested in pursuing a career as a meeting planner, employment opportunities exist in Oregon and the U.S. Employment projections made by the Oregon Employment Department indicate growth near the 18 percent pace of all jobs between 2010 and 2020 (Table 1). In Oregon, employment for meeting planners is expected to increase by 131 (+20.7%) and national projections show an increase of 31,300 (+43.7%) over the 10-year period.

The Portland area, along with the Willamette Valley, should see the majority of growth openings for meeting planners within the state (Graph 1).

Meeting planners in Oregon earn an average wage of approximately $42,182, assuming full-time, year-round work. This is very close to the average annual pay for all workers - both full time and part time - who are covered by unemployment insurance. Hourly wages range from about $17 to $21.

Working as a convention service manager in the hospitality industry offers a wide range of advantages and opportunities, with each day filled with diverse activities. This occupation can serve as an excellent stepping stone to career development both in hospitality and beyond.

Table 1
Oregon Employment Growth Projections
 for Meeting and Convention Planners
2010 Employment 2020 Employment Net Change Percent Change
634 765 131 20.7%
Graph 1
Oregon distribution of job growth by region, meeting and convention planners 2004-2014
For More Information
 
The Convention Industry Council's ( www.conventionindustry.org) 31 member organizations represent more than 103,500 individuals, as well as 19,500 firms and properties involved in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industries. CIC offers many tools and programs designed to support the industry and meet its challenges; facilitate the exchange of information and ideas; and educate the public on its profound economic impact.

The Professional Convention Management Association ( www.pcma.org) is a nonprofit international association of professionals in the meetings industry, whose mission is to deliver superior and innovative education and promote the value of professional convention management.