8 Questions for Annette Gregg – Meeting and Event Planning

Annette GreggAnnette Gregg is the program advisor for the Meeting and Event Planning program at the College of Extended Studies at San Diego State University. She has been a program instructor since 1995.

What are some of the trends in meeting and event planning?
Some of the trends we’re seeing in the meeting and events industry are that everyone wants the meeting planners to do more with less, so lately you’re seeing a reduction in the amount of staff, and a reduction in the amount of outsourcing that is done. Meeting and event planners have job security right now. There’s usually a lot of responsibility placed on these men and women and their positions with high-profile meetings and events. We think that’s a good sign because companies are seeing more and more of the importance of face-to-face meetings. Since 2008 we’ve also seen a big upswing in the amount of these meetings being held. The industry has done a good job in supporting the business case for meetings. These events, conferences, and conventions are having direct business results and moving the company forward. This bodes well for the industry.

Who should take Meeting and Event Planning program classes?
We know that a lot of people in our industry end up as meeting and event planners by chance in their company. They might be an administrative assistant or marketing coordinator and then they’re tasked to put on face-to-face events. The SDSU Meeting and Event Planning program really fills the gap by giving the education that’s needed – the base line education that’s needed for someone that might be new or somewhat a junior to the industry. The target audience for the program is someone who’s either investigating the industry or someone that is probably newer to intermediate in the industry. These courses are going to give a good cross-section of what the meeting and event industry has to offer and what are some of the core competencies a person needs to have to succeed in the industry. We spend a lot of time giving a broad overview of the basic skill sets that are needed.

How are the classes or curriculum created to meet student needs?
We created the curriculum to cover a broad section of the basics that are needed to be a meeting and event planner. We start out with an industry overview. A meeting or event is a marketing vehicle for a company’s product. Students need to know technology and social media to market the event, meeting, or themselves. We developed courses that focus specifically on technology and social media – tools that enable meeting planners to work smarter and more efficiently,  especially for those who want to start their own company. Social media has had an impact on our industry – we know that’s a key part of the meetings industry and trending forward.

Who are the instructors and what is their industry experience?
One of the assets of the program is we have veteran instructors; these folks have been around the block. They’ve had many different positions in the industry, they know what to expect, and they really speak candidly with the students about what they can expect in the industry as far as their career path and the local market. They provide advice on how to find jobs and industry mentors. I think that is one of the reasons that this program does so well.

What is the program’s goal?
Providing job opportunities for students that are graduates from our certificate program is one of our priorities. Industry professionals throughout our own careers were mentors, by introducing us to people and by shepherding us in the industry. All of the instructors reach out and help students that are trying to find their way in the industry, either get a better position or a different position in the industry, or enter the events and meeting industry.

What are the benefits of being a student in this program?
We’ve created a few tools for students – an online forum with alumni (probably about 250), job postings, and internships. We post exclusively to that website – it’s an inside track about local opportunities. We also do a lot of resume writing and coaching (if they have specific questions about the programs or specific job opportunities, we help students navigate their way in the industry).

Is this a solid and growing industry in San Diego?
As far as a career path and opportunities in meeting and events, I think San Diego is a really good place to be. It’s such a popular destination for conventions, meetings, business, and special events. There is a huge industry for hospitality. If a student wants to get involved in the hotel, catering, or décor side, there are many opportunities. If a student wants to stay on the planner side there are many of those companies in town too. A lot of instructors have come from those companies, so we have those contacts to offer.

Why is this industry exciting?
The meeting and event field is an exciting field. It’s wonderfully diverse. There is always something new you’re working on and it’s really the most social form of project management that you can undertake. It’s an exciting career, it’s what most of the instructors have done for their entire careers, and it has taken us to some of the most exciting places in the world.