Our own Director of Events, Ousama Issa, at iJordan is a “Certified Meeting Professional” (CMP). He is featured in last month’s edition of CMP newsletter. Here is a re-print of the article appearing on www.naylornetwork.com.
*The CPM is a program of the Convention Industry Council.
My CMP Story: Speaking the Industry Language in Jordan
I always had the passion to organize charity events when I used to volunteer during university years, and plan social activities among my friends. Obviously, this was still at a very amateur level! Then my dream came true when I joined a professional event management company as an event executive in mid-2006 after “coincidently” interning with them for two months. Then and there, my passion was intact, and I was destined to fall in love with the field professionally.
Coming from a background in biochemistry – yes, you read it right, biochemistry – I had to build my event knowledge from scratch. My knowledge of the industry was acquired through my superiors, the CEO and the infinite internet. I still remember when I first came through the title “CMP” attached to someone’s name who published an article online about meetings, and I wondered what CMP was! I was struck with the number of people that held this certification and its importance in North America; whereas, we’ve never heard of it in the Middle East, even though our company has planned a good number of high-level and international meetings and were already members of the ISES at that time.
Our knowledge was acquired through research, and by trial and error, we managed great events, yet internally we knew some aspects could have gone better. Luckily, our CEO comes from an open-minded background, and always believed in investing in new technology. We were among the first few companies to implement event management software, online registration and mobile applications.
Meetings in the Middle East, in concept, are not very different than meetings in North America. Yet, they are much smaller in number of attendees, tighter on lead times and budgets, and also an important note is that the mentality of people is very different in the Middle East. Here, if we get a meeting with 1,000 people, that’s a milestone! The market is very tough, competitive and extremely conservative when it comes to budgets and new ideas.
Nevertheless, when our clients’ bring in their own planners, and they join us as we work magic behind the scenes, they generally just get amazed how things get done with the suppliers. As, with the exception of the five-star facilities we have, most other suppliers are difficult to work with; this is mainly because of their individual contributions, lack of legislation, and absence of professionalism and organization.
In early 2013, due to political instability in the region, my wife and I decided that we will needed to move to the United States to secure a better future, and that is when I started thinking of a way to increase my chances in landing a job in the meeting, exhibitions and planning business. I needed to make it clear to potential employers that “I speak your language,” and that’s when I started thinking about obtaining an accredited certificate. I read more about the CMP, and I knew this was the way to go. About the same time, a USAID program introduced the CMP for the first time in Jordan. Approximately 30 people registered in August 2013 for the CMP and attended a two-day orientation led by a CMP expert from the United States. In January 2014, we sat for the exam, and only five people passed.
During my course of study for the CMP, there was a lot of similarity of what’s in the books and what I was working on in reality, so it made it easy for me to always relate what I was actually doing as a planner in meetings and how I’ve previously conducted work, and I was very proud of what we’re doing and delivering. I did notice though, there’s a huge difference in specific areas, such as contracts, insurance and accessibility. Fortunately, the CMP study books made it easy, including both metric and imperial measurements. Even better, the APEX handbook made it a much easier explaining the industry terms in case they were different or unclear.
I felt so proud and content to have such a certificate, and even happier when I received it physically. However, even with a CMP in the company, it didn’t mean a lot to clients here, as it will take time until they understand what a CMP is. Still, it gave me more knowledge, confidence and a title when introducing myself.
I believe CMP will open new doors to additional opportunities for my career. For example, last August, shortly after obtaining my accreditation, I was at the World Education Conference in Minneapolis, and I was the “CMP from Jordan!”
To all planners thinking of becoming a CMP, I would highly encourage you to do so. With your knowledge of the industry, the study material, online resources, and your will and determination, you will pass the exam. However, a tip that benefited me greatly are study groups, as they will help you take your studying to the next level by discussing the various issues with other professionals.