ow do you become an independent meeting planner?
In many cases, if the five veteran independents who
Which isn’t to say that independent planners have it easy.
participated in a recent Convene virtual roundtable
are any indication, it happens partway through your
career and somewhat accidentally. Some of our participants
went out on their own for personal reasons, while others were
interested in the professional opportunities it presented. But all
five agree that it was one of the best career choices they ever made.
Being independent means being your own boss and growing your
brand just the way you want it. It also means long hours and the
constant search for new clients. Our five planners share their
stories — the good, the bad, and the ugly of independent planning
— as well as the industry trends that keep them on their toes.
How did you become an
Annette Suriani;I had always worked
directly for an association here in the
D.C. area. Then when my father got ill
and I needed some flexibility to help my
mother take care of him, I found that
being an independent meeting planner
was the best way to go for me. Then I
could work from home, I could work
around the clock, or from my parents’
house if I needed to.
Melissa Johnson I sort of fell into it
accidentally, but happily accidentally
now. I had always also been working
directly for an association or a
corporation here locally [in Kansas
City]. I had a really bad experience
in my last job where I just wasn’t a fit
for the culture of the company. It was
very stressful and it was a lot of hours.
At that time in my life I was having
a milestone birthday, and I always
wanted to go out on my own, but I
never really had a reason to because
I always had a good-paying job with a
benefits package and everything else.
But that experience of working for an
organization that wasn’t a fit for me
and really stretched me physically and
emotionally in ways that I hadn’t been
stretched — in not a positive or healthy
way — just sort of made me look around
Polli-Jo Moryl I, too, kind of took a
circuitous route. I have a master’s
in public a;airs, and had worked
for Congress and a number of big
organizations in a representative role.
Then I started working for a worldwide
association with status with the UN.
After my association work, I thought —
you know, sometimes it’s easier to see
things in hindsight — “Wow, the skillset
that really ties together [my previous
work] and my entrepreneurial side is
[that I’m good at] working for myself.”
I’m using my strongest skills in meeting
and event planning, so I kind of took
a winding route, but it’s a really, really
great fit for me.
Claire Abrams My whole career’s
been in association meeting planning
for dental, medical, or commercial
associations. When my first child was
born, I knew that the crazy commute
was too much for me. Though I tried to
work closer to home, it just was not a
good fit, so I decided I’m going to give
myself a break and kind of examine
where I am and what I wanted to do.
I’d been taking an introspective look
at myself and my career for a little less
than a year when a former director
called me and asked if I was interested
in planning the first-ever dental
specialty organization conference
between three dental specialties. It had
Claire Abrams, CMP
Time as an independent
planner: 5 years
Melissa Johnson, CMP
Prairie Village, Kansas
Time as an independent
planner: 3 years