Everything You Need to Know About Strategic Planning: Part 3

by Caitlin Smith

Did you know highly successful associations and nonprofits report that Strategic Planning has a high impact on overall organizational success? Though Strategic Planning can seem daunting and time consuming, setting aside time to create your organization’s strategic plan is worth it. In our first post of the series, we discussed the basics of Strategic Planning. Then we talked a little about the details. Now let’s discuss what to do when it’s time to implement the plan.

How do I execute my Strategic Plan?

Tactical planning will follow to flesh out the details that will enable successful execution of the strategies. 

To maintain an effective strategic focus, leaders should develop a continuous “parallel process” that involves a wide range of members, staff, and other stakeholders in scanning the internal and external strategic environment, identifying key challenges facing the membership, considering the implications for strategy, and suggesting potential goals and objectives. In an ideal situation, every member and stakeholder would have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in helping shape the associations strategic direction. 

What is everyone’s role in creating and executing the Strategic Plan?

The planning process needs to be owned by the leadership of the association. Usually, this is the board of directors and senior staff. Insights relayed from the frontline staff can prepare the volunteer leaders to be grounded in the members true needs, so that they can plan on the basis of more than just their own perspective. 

Staff should serve as custodians of the environmental scan information, and remind the leaders of the current understanding of relevant factors prior to any planning discussion. 

 Once the plan is adopted, the management team must work to see that the goals and objectives are met through the work of staff and volunteers. It is useful to build regular checkpoints on the strategy into board meetings to ensure the plan remains directionally correct. 

How do I get buy-in from stakeholders?

A standard two- or three-day strategic planning retreat can be effective to focus attention on strategy each year. Increasingly, though, strategic planning conversations are broken down into the component parts and spread over a much longer period. For example, environmental scanning data may be shared in the first meeting, with discussion on what the data means for the organization. The vision and mission might be reviewed and core values updated at the second meeting, goals decided upon at the third, and objectives and strategies defined and assigned to champions and resources at a fourth. A major advantage of this approach is allowing leaders to pause and take stock of what has been decided after each stage. Independent and collaborative consideration of what might come next in the process can then lead to a much more considered, informed, and thoughtful discussion and results. 

It is useful for the board to consider key strategic issues (such as how an emerging technology may be affecting members) as a part of each of its meetings. This often helps to refine the organizations ability to achieve its goals and objectives. 

Where should we communicate the new Strategic Plan?

Once the mission, vision, core values, challenges and opportunities, goals, objectives, and strategies are identified, a concerted effort is needed to share them with all of the volunteers and staff who will make them a reality. Since the process of strategic planning is becoming more continual, this communication also needs to be much more frequent than in the past. 

The association’s website is an excellent place to share the strategy broadly with staff, volunteers, and members. This could also include information on relevant ongoing activities, recent accomplishments, and how members can help to reach the goals. 

Finally, create a tactical plan that will connect the dots between broad strategy and actionable execution of the plan. 

How do I evaluate my efforts?

In evaluating the plan, ask yourself, was the process successful? Does the plan positively move the organization forward? Does it position the organization for future challenges? Is it accepted by the membership and staff? Does it accomplish what the board and executive leaders wanted?

Strategic Planning is incredibly important for any thriving association. Don’t let the fear of tackling this large task keep your association from creating a plan that will help it achieve its goals. Start working on your Strategic Plan today!

Do you need help with your association’s Strategic Planning? Contact IMI Association Executives today! We’ve helped numerous clients not only create their strategic plan, but we’ve then helped them accomplish the goals they want to achieve. Contact us today!

Everything You Need To Know About Strategic Planning for Your Association: Part 2

by Caitlin Smith 

Did you know highly successful associations and nonprofits report that Strategic Planning has a high impact on overall organizational success? Though Strategic Planning can seem daunting and time consuming, setting aside time to create your organization’s strategic plan is worth it. 

In our last post, we discussed the basics of Strategic Planning. Now, let’s get into the details.

What should our Strategic Plan focus on? 

Most associations cannot continue to do all the things they have been doing and then pile on new direction-setting initiatives. Being “strategic” implies that choices will be made so that the association will become more relevant, more competitive, or will achieve a desired positioning in the global marketplace. 

Strategic planning naturally involves, you guessed it, strategy. It is a form of planning and evaluation. Specific outcomes must be targeted and champions should be assigned to lead the efforts and specific strategies should be applied to reach the desired outcomes. Where there is disagreement, taking time to discuss and debate before making clear decisions will help everyone work in maximum alignment. A written plan document should result from the process, but the most valuable result is management and leadership consensus on the big picture outcomes to be pursued. 

Every planning function should revolve around these five questions: 

  1. Where are we going? 
  2. What is changing in our environment that will affect us? 
  3. Where do we want to be? 
  4. How do we get there? 
  5. How will we know when we get there? 

Where should we start?  

Most associations start with a charter (or purpose) presented in the articles of incorporation and serves as a constant reminder of the original intent.  

A mission statement describes the primary purpose of the organization. This should be carefully crafted, concise, and unambiguous. It defines why the association exists.  

The vision is an aspiration of what the world will look like when the association is successful. It is a shared understanding of what the overall impact of the organization will be. Mission and vision are typically reviewed by the board annually and should only be edited when substantial change to the association’s direction is needed.  

Core values are assumptions that staff and members bring to how they are expected to complete their work. By including explicit consideration of the desired core values in a strategic planning process, the leadership can focus on areas where change would be desirable or stability a continuing strength.  

Core values provide a standard against which the culture can be assessed and developed.  

Inclusion of overly broad or universal statements (for example, being financially stable) is meaningless and detracts from the overall plan. Culture change is hard and takes time. Through continual application of leadership throughout the organization, current core values can be transformed into desired ones.  

Most strategic plans include a reference to the environmental scan through the inclusion of challenges and opportunities that provide rationale for the goals and objectives. Challenges and opportunities may be considered as they affect the association as a whole or in the context of each of the strategic goals.  

What steps are necessary to create these deliverables? 

Strategic planning is about closing the gap between where you are now and where you want to be. This can be identified by performing an internal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats). 

There are terms and different meanings that support organizational goals. It is important to clearly define a specific meaning to each term and avoid debate over the language.  

ASAE defines goals as general outcomes, objectives are more specific outcomes, and strategies are the approaches used the reach the objectives.  

The most important phase in strategic planning is the development and selection of the organization’s goals. Goals form the basis for detailed objectives for the organization as a whole and for its constituent parts. These are intended to drive change and create a future state in which the mission is most significantly advanced.  

ASAE recommends having 3-6 goals. One common pitfall is selecting too many. With a long list, not all can be a priority. The associations impact could be diluted, trying to be all things to all people, and the paid or volunteer staff responsible for implementation can be overwhelmed.  

Your goals should be broad but clear and focused, without specifying how the desired outcomes will be attained (that is the role of the objectives and strategies). They should represent the most important work the association seeks to do.  

How should we structure the Strategic Planning cycle?

In an annual strategic planning cycle, it is likely that there will be a need to refine or replace some of the goals. Priorities and opportunities shift, so the goals must be changed along with them to keep the plan focused and relevant.  

Objectives should represent the most important outcomes that will aid in the realization of your goals. For each goal, consider 3-7 objectives. They should be SMART. To develop these, its common to brainstorm about possible draft objectives first, narrow them down through prioritization, establish specific targets, and finally refine the language to make them clear and unambiguous as possible. Ask “what”, not “how.” 

Identification of strategies should follow the objectives. This is when the “how” is addressed. Strategies can be identified by asking how the association can best reach its objectives. To have a chance of successful execution, strategies require identification of a lead “champion” to oversee each one, allocation of specific resources of time and money, and a commitment of sufficient leadership attention.  

Look out for our next post

As you can see, Strategic Planning is incredibly important for any thriving association. Our next post will discuss how to implement your Strategic Plan.

Do you need help with your association’s Strategic Planning? Contact IMI Association Executives today! We’ve helped numerous clients not only create plans, but we’ve helped them accomplish the goals they wanted to achieve. Contact us today!

Everything You Need To Know About Strategic Planning For Your Association: Part 1

by Caitlin Smith 

Did you know highly successful associations and nonprofits report that Strategic Planning has a high impact on overall organizational success? Though Strategic Planning can seem daunting and time consuming, setting aside time to create your organization’s strategic plan is worth it.  

Here is a brief introduction to Strategic Planning and why it’s important.

What is a Strategic Plan? 

Strategic planning was a cutting-edge concept in the 1960s. Quickly through calcification, it turned into a fixed template that inadequately addressed the need for flexibility. Today’s modern approach puts a premium on agility, efficiency, inclusive participation, and making the tough but important decisions.  

When strategic planning is done well, it: 

  • Aligns the association from top to bottom 
  • Is agile and responsive to the latest external trends 
  • Focuses limited resources on the most important outcomes 
  • Represents a common, agreed-upon basis for making key decisions shared by volunteers and staff 
  • Supports performance measurement 
  • Enables leaders to make the difficult decisions about scaling back or terminating programs and activities 

When strategic planning is done poorly, it: 

  • Locks the association into inflexible plans for extended periods 
  • Drains creativity and innovation 
  • Is an enormous administrative drain for the association staff and volunteers to administer 
  • Focuses on the minutiae 
  • Misses the big picture 
  • Can cause one to spend more time debating the process to be followed than considering the key strategic issues. 

How often should we do Strategic Planning?  

The American Society for Association Executives (ASAE) recommends associations conduct a strategic planning meeting at least once a year. Even though the time horizon for a strategic plan may cover three to five years, it is valuable to look out at the next period each year using a mechanism to revisit or shift the focal points of the plan nimbly in response to internal and external changes. That way, each year’s annual plan will be firmly grounded in a long-term focus. 

Look out for our next post

As you can see, Strategic Planning is incredibly important for any thriving association. Our next post will discuss what to focus on when conducting Strategic Planning.

Do you need help with your association’s Strategic Planning? Contact IMI Association Executives today! We’ve helped numerous clients not only create plans, but we’ve helped them accomplish the goals they wanted to achieve. Contact us today!

How to Create the Best Virtual Event

by Morgan Truncale

Since the start of the pandemic, associations and event organizers have been experimenting with different ways of engaging their audiences. As we all know, online gatherings have become immensely popular, and they’re clearly not going away any time soon. These events can range from small question-and-answer sessions to large-scale conferences with thousands of attendees.  

Even while some are moving back to face-to-face meetings, keeping some of your events online can reduce costs, lower company’s carbon footprints, and even make attendance accessible to a wider audience. From tweeting to livestreaming, businesses and organizations are hosting virtual events across the web. So, is your company ready to get digital? 

Picking the Right Platform 

Big or small, every event should have a strategy. Start with a key goal and concept for the event, and then take it from there. The earlier you can get planning, the better!  

Before choosing your virtual platform, be sure to answer the following questions for your association: 

  1. Will the event be live, on-demand, or both? 
  1. Will the even be hybrid? 
  1. Where do I want the content to be seen? 
  1. Will access be gated or free? 
  1. How will you handle event registration? 
  1. How will you promote the event?   

Consider Long-Term Goals 

While it is integral to think about how the platform fits into your company’s immediate goals, it’s also important to weigh your organization’s long-term goals. Consider asking these strategic planning questions for the future: Does this virtual events platform integrate with in-person events? Does this virtual events platform have the capacity to continually grow my company’s online audience over the years? Will this virtual events platform provide my audience with an engaging, consistent user experience for years to come? 

Timing Is Everything 

Regardless of the size of your event, choosing the right date and time for your event is integral! Before sending out any “save the dates” to your network, it’s helpful to do a little research. 

First, be sure there are no competing events or holidays that would interfere with your attendance. 

If the data is available to you, run some analytics to determine when your community is typically active online. For a firmer consensus, your association might want to consider sending out or posting a poll to record your members’ preferred dates.  

Also, depending on the locations of your community members, you may want to take time zones into consideration as well. If your association plans to go global, try your best to pick a time that works for as many of your customers and followers as possible! If that doesn’t seem possible, then make sure content is still accessible after the live presentations for those who couldn’t make it. It may also be worthwhile to plan multiple networking sessions and different virtual events for different time zones. 

Preparing your Presenters 

Once you’ve determined your event goals and selected the appropriate program to support it you will want to choose a moderator. Selecting the right moderator or group of moderators will set the tone for your entire event. It would be best to have internal staff or a board member who is well versed with the material, and who will hopefully maintain a cool composure should you encounter any issues during the program.  

To best ensure a smooth flow, you will want to prepare detailed scripts for your moderators to follow. Warning: this task can be time-consuming for larger events! For instance, if your program will last around four days, then you will need to carve out at least a day or two to construct a full script. If you have multiple moderators, then you will want to consider multiple scripts specific to their portions to lessen any confusion. 

It’s also important to do any test runs with your moderators or presenters prior to the event to be sure their computers are compatible with the program you will be using, and so that they will be comfortable with their roles when it comes time to shine. Speaking of shinning, your presenter’s lighting in their room is integral to maintaining a clear picture. Be wary of presenters using low end photo-shop backdrops, as they can be glitchy in large scale programs. Also, tell moderators or presenters to be mindful of any unintentional background noise or motions that may be disturbing, such as a fan spinning on ceiling. 


Unlike many in-person events, people can register the day of a virtual event. This heavily changes advertisement schedules, and you may be posting invites the day of the event which is uncommon. 

To ensure people show up to your virtual event, you may want to incentivize signing up early. Rather than monetary commitments, you might consider offering pre-conversation opportunities for attendees to chat with presenters or leaders prior to the actual engagement. You may also consider releasing some content to this group before the live presentation to get people tuned in. This can be done via email, website, or social media. 

Get Ready for Breaks 

Being in a virtual setting allows for some creative advertisements, or interludes. Depending on which platform you are using, you may have the option to choose between posting video or static slides during breaks. There are a handful of different content opportunities such as, a Waiting Room, Organizational Advertisements, Sponsor Advertisements, Announcements, or Leads to websites.  

Remind your sponsors or partners early on that they will have the chance to display advertisements throughout your virtual event, and, depending on your platform’s abilities, you may be able to have the ads link to “spaces” within their virtual event or even link to sponsors. Use these breaks or “spaces” to create a sponsorship space where attendees can visit and learn more about the event’s sponsors.  

Your main concern for managing these break spaces is that they are not always at a set time. Lengths of breaks can change based on presenter’s own timelines, so be sure to remind your presenters why it is important to adhere to their time periods or have a moderator that is prepared to remind your speakers of their time if they are risking running over. 

Keeping Participants Engaged 

Maintaining your viewer’s engagement is harder since people are one tab or text away from distractions. If you make your production feel like more of a story setting than a presentation, it may help to encourage consistent viewer focus.  

Your association may consider planting discussion starters or leading questions from presenters or moderators to the audience. It’s simple. If you create opportunities for engagement, your audience will be more engaged.  

For example: Ask your viewers to submit questions or comments or through a chat tool. Chances are the people who ask questions are going to stick around to see if they get answered. If you do this, then make sure to have a moderator assigned to the task of fielding questions!  

Additionally, most online platforms have interactive features. Ask your participants to participate in polls or quizzes, encourage live tweeting, or simply shout-out names as people tune in. At the end of the event, don’t forget to ask for feedback! 


No matter how prepared you are for your online event the chance of error is always right around the corner. For virtual events, the chances of technical errors are much higher than at an in-person event. Your presenter’s microphone input could stop working or maybe your keynote speaker or attendees signal dwindles mid-presentation. That’s why having a plan in place to offer live troubleshooting for presenters and participants is a must.  

To help alleviate those technical issues, post a FAQ email or page to answer common issues with logins or registrations. Determine who in your team will offer live troubleshooting if possible. If the time is available, offer teaching sessions on how to use the platform to both staff and attendees. 

Enjoy Your Virtual Event 

Online gatherings are here to stay, and organizations need to be prepared for an uncertain future. So, is your association ready to get digital? 

Do you need help planning your association’s virtual event? Contact IMI Association Executives today! We’ve helped numerous clients plan and execute successful online gatherings. Contact us today!

Five Simple Ways To Ensure a Winning Relationship with Your Board

by Stevie Kernick, Owner Emeritus and Current Account Manager

As an Executive Director, you’re constantly working with new board members. Though it’s important to learn the particulars of how each individual prefers to communicate, there are five simple ways you can ensure a winning relationship with all board members.

Be Honest

It’s not easy to share bad news, but being upfront and candid with your board builds trust. Your board should never wonder if they are getting all the facts.


Keep your board informed on all association and staff activities. You don’t want them to hear about changes in staffing, committee activities or processes, whether these are positive or negative, by some other means. More communication is always better than less.

Be Responsive

No one is comfortable with a black hole of silence. It leads to speculation, sometimes erroneous. However, without information, it’s easy for board members to start constructing their own narratives. If a member of the board reaches out to you, then respond promptly even if it’s to say, “I’ll research this and get back with you tomorrow.”

Pick up the Phone

Not everyone communicates best via email where threads can become lengthy and confusing with hours or days passing between responses. Sometimes the best response is delivered by a personal phone call where give and take is more immediate and effective.

Be Supportive

The association belongs to the entire membership and not to the staff. The staff’s role is to support the leadership and be responsive to the membership. It’s all too easy to slip into a sense of ownership when you work for an association all day, every day, but remember your role is to make leadership shine and provide value to the members. 

Are you a board member looking for a responsive and supportive Executive Director? Contact IMI Association Executives today! You can choose from a wide array of valuable services. Each contract is customized to meet the needs of the board and the members. Contact us today!

How to Earn the Certified Association Executive Credential

by Caitlin Smith, Account Manager

The process of becoming a Certified Association Executive (CAE) is no easy feat and takes a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve. It’s for individuals ready to take the next leap in developing their professional career.

The CAE program is designed to elevate professional standards, enhance individual performance, and designate association professionals who demonstrate the knowledge essential to the practice of association management. Earning the CAE is the hallmark of a committed association professional.

Earning and maintaining the CAE is a three-part process. One must first meet the strenuous and extensive eligibility requirements. These requirements include:

  • Five years of experience as an employee at the staff level or one year employed as a chief staff executive or C-suite-level executive at a qualifying organization.
  • Must be currently employed by a qualifying organization or have been employed by one within the last five years. 
  • 100 hours of broad-based, association management-related professional development, as defined by the exam content outline, within the last five years of the month in which you submit your application.
  • A bachelor’s degree or higher or, in lieu of a degree, eight additional years of professional work experience.

Once you have determined that you meet the requirements, the next step is to apply for the exam. Once your application has been approved, the next step is to sit for and pass the exam.

The CAE exam is offered twice a year, in May and December, at test centers throughout the U.S. and is based on anticipated candidate concentration. The cost to apply is $500 for ASAE members and $750 for nonmembers.

The exam is designed to test the ability of test-takers to apply fundamental knowledge to scenarios drawn from real-world association management challenges. It’s four hours long and includes 200 multiple-choice questions on the following topics:

  • Strategic Management 16-18%
  • Governance and Structure 10-12%
  • Membership Development 7-9%
  • Programs, Products, and Services 9-11%
  • Leadership 16-18%
  • Administration 15-17%
  • Knowledge Management & Research 2-4%
  • Public Policy, Government Relations, and Coalition Building 7-9%
  • Marketing, Public Relations, & Communications 6-8%

Once you have earned the credential, you must maintain it by fulfilling certification renewal requirements every three years.

If you’re interested in learning on the benefits of earning your CAE, see our other blog posts on How CAE Certification Expanded Linda Owens’ Professional Knowledge and  How CAE Certification Changed Lee Claassen’s Career.

Are you looking for a certified professional who can take your association to the next level? Contact IMI Association Executives! We’re a firm of skilled professionals who have provided association management expertise to clients since 1986. Submit an RFP today!

Why You Should Create an Event Risk Management Plan

by Kara Stachowiak, CMP, Meeting and Events Department Manager

Risk management is at the forefront of our current operations, but how do we make sure  risk management is not forgotten when the time comes to move forward with our face-to-face events?

The answer is simple, create a plan.

If your organization does not have an Event Risk Management Plan, then now is the perfect time to create one. When creating this plan, keep these tips in mind.

1. The venue(s) should already have a risk management plan in place.

Work with your venue contacts to make sure your organization’s plan works with, not against, the venue’s existing plan. For example, some large venues would prefer you contact their staff in an emergency instead of calling 911. Why? The venue has direct access and communication plans with emergency responders. The response will be faster if a venue staff member tells a paramedic that there is an issue in Zone 19 than if you call 911 and tell a dispatcher there is an issue in the back of a large ballroom where you do not know the room name.

2. Put your plan in writing.

Consider specific incidents and their likelihood and impact. Also consider how to mitigate the risk of the incident occurring, and if the incident occurs, who is on the team to make the decisions regarding the incident response. Finally, provide specific action assignments and include a communication plan. Sample Risk Management Plan

3. Make sure staff, board members, and volunteers understand their roles.

Your staff, Board members, and volunteers have a role in the plan, but those roles cannot be properly executed if people are unaware of their expected actions. Keep in mind that staff members who are not in attendance at the event may have roles as well. When assigning roles, take everyone’s strengths and personalities into account. While some may be calm and rational in emergencies, others may need to step away. It is expected that everyone will react differently, so accommodate the anticipated reactions in your plan.

Keep in mind that it is just as important to include actions not to take in your plan. For example, remind everyone who is responsible for communication regarding the incident, and if it is not their responsibility they need to keep their knowledge and thoughts about the incident to themselves.

4. Control the message.

Make sure your plan outlines how information will be communicated to attendees, your members who are not present, and possibly the media. Designate one person to make all statements and reinforce to others that spreading rumors makes the situation worse.

5. Review and update your plan regularly.

Review is not only necessary after an incident. Regularly look at your Risk Management Plan to make sure that you have addressed the incidents that are most likely to impact your event, that the proper personnel are in place, and the communications plan is clear. If there is an incident, it is important to debrief what happened, how it was handled, and what could have been done before, during, and after to mitigate the impact.

It is impossible to precisely prepare for any situation that may occur, but having a plan in place increases the likelihood of a quick and rational response regardless of the situation.

You don’t have to lose any more sleep worrying about your risk management strategy for your next event. IMI Association Executives can help you create a plan for your events. Call us today.

Sources: Information for the sample Risk Management Plan and for the checklist was derived from MPI and PCMA certificates, webinars, and resources.

Creating a Professional Development Plan

by Mallory Robinson, Account Associate

In recent posts, we’ve shared different certification options, tips from IMI colleagues for obtaining the certifications, and resources for increasing your professional development. Now what?

Today we’re going to focus on creating a professional development plan to help you achieve the Certified Association Executive (CAE) or Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) certification.

First, consider the following questions to help you think about your professional goals and how to get to the certification finish line:

  1. What’s my goal? Pick a certification option and move on from there.
  2. When do I want to achieve the goal? Pick a realistic timeline. Thoughtfully review certification requirements and prerequisites.
  3. What do I need to do to get there? Determine how many continuing education credits you have, if any, and how many you need to reach your goal within the previously mentioned timeline.
  4. What is my education budget? Determine your education budget and research your options. Are there local or other events you can travel to for credits? What free webinars can you participate in to earn credit? It’s a double benefit if these programs provide insight you need anyway.

Using this information, you can create a plan that is unique to your professional development goals. As you earn credits, remember to track, track, track. Make your own tracking spreadsheet using GoogleSheets or another cloud option for easy updating at work or at home.

Remember, it’s okay if your plan changes. We’re all busy and have things come up in both our personal and professional lives. Reassess your plan on a regular basis to determine if it is still viable and adjust if necessary.

Finally, if obtaining one of these certifications seems daunting, try to create smaller goals leading to a larger goal. For example, make a monthly goal to get a certain number of credit hours, and take time to ready or study exam material.

To learn more about the certifications and the IMI employees who have them, read the CAE Spotlights about Linda Owens and Lee Claassen or read the CMP Spotlight about Kara Stachowiak.

Are you looking for a certified professional who can take your association to the next level? Contact IMI Association Executives! We’re a firm of skilled professionals who have provided professional management expertise to clients since 1986. Submit an RFP today!

How CAE Certification Changed Lee Claassen’s Career

by Mallory Robinson, Account Associate

The Certified Association Executive (CAE) credential is the marker of a committed association professional who has demonstrated the wide range of knowledge essential to manage an association in today’s challenging environment. To obtain this prestigious certification, you must have at least five years experience in the industry, obtain 100 hours of broad-based, association management-related professional development, and then pass a four-hour examination.

Though obtaining this certification isn’t easy, Lee Claassen knew it would help her serve her clients better. She was kind enough to answer a few questions and share some helpful tips!

IMI: How long have you had your CAE certification?

Lee: I obtained my CAE in 2003.

IMI: What tips do you have for anyone who is working towards earning the CAE certification?

Lee: The requirements have changed since I sat for the CAE exam, but my number one piece of advice is to keep a record of every association management-related professional development activity in which you participate. Once you decide to work towards obtaining your CAE, you’ll need to build a bank of continuing education credits needed to sit for the exam. Also, read something every day that’s related to association management, whether it’s a blog, an article, a book chapter, etc. – work it into your daily routine. Finally, definitely plan to participate in an exam prep course. Don’t think you can cram overnight and pass!

IMI: How has having your CAE certification helped you in your career?

Lee: It helped me realize all the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. It opened my eyes to all the nuances of the profession that I might not have been exposed to. Additionally, it helped me make connections and establish relationships that I may not have otherwise.

To potential employers, it sends the message that you are committed to ongoing professional development and continual self-improvement (education has to continue in order to maintain the CAE). In a competitive job market, it can be an employer’s deciding factor between you and another candidate without a CAE.

IMI: Anything else you think would be helpful for anyone that is working toward this designation?

Lee: Knowing and studying the content for the exam is important, but half the prep is learning how to take the exam. Put yourself in the shoes of the chief staff officer of a large association when answering the questions.

Are you tired of guessing what your association’s next move should be? Contact IMI to see how our association professionals leverage their expertise to achieve your association’s goals. Schedule a meeting today!

4 Tips For Getting Your Certified Meeting Professional Certification

By Mallory Robinson, Account Associate

The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) program is offered by the Events Industry Council (EIC) and is recognized globally as the badge of excellence in the events industry. Qualifications for certification are based on professional experience, education, and a rigorous exam.

Kara Stachowiak currently has the CMP certification and has been at IMI since March 2017. In her role at IMI, Kara is the meeting planner for INACSL and ILCA. She is also a member of Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA). She was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding certification.

IMI: When did you earn the CMP?

KS: I received my certification in 2014. Early in 2019, I completed my first recertification which is required every five years.

IMI: What tips do you have for anyone who is interested in earning this designation?


Before Applying
Be organized in tracking your continuing education credits. Save everything in one place so it is easy to access. Anyone can create a free account on the EIC website to track credits. If you already have an account, any pre-approved CE opportunities for which you have registered, will be loaded to your account after the event and you can record your hours. Make sure you save any certificates or confirmations. These are required for any CEs that have not been pre-approved.

Exam Preparation
Make sure you have the most recent manuals (yes, there are several). I found the PCMA study course to be extremely helpful. Give yourself plenty of time to prepare. The study course was set up to do a pretest, read the associated chapters from each manual, and do a post-test. The course was organized by Domain, so it did not involve sitting down and reading the pages in order from cover to cover. Make sure you have plenty of time to get through this process.

Answer based on what is in the manuals, even if you feel the information may be outdated (I took the last exam before new manuals were released, and felt that some of my answers were outdated.)

I definitely recommend logging in to record education as you earn it and not all at the end. Recertification can be done with 25 hours of CE credits or a combination of 15 CE credits and a choice three industry support activities. Industry support activity options can be found on the CMP website.

If you’re wondering how to run a fun, effective event that also turns a profit, contact IMI Association Executives! We specialize in conference, meeting, and tradeshow management and assist in every area from developing a budget to coordinating contracts to managing onsite. Schedule a meeting now to see what we can do for your association!