Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP

Certified Special Events Professional

Event Management Authority

Like angels and elephants dancing on the head of a pin, our dreams and responsibilities may have no limits, but must be balanced according to the music of the moment.









Event Management: Profession or Occupation?

1 November 2003


In order to examine event management as a profession, one must first examine the classifications of profession versus occupation


The National Directory of Occupational Titles and Codes lists meeting management as an "official" profession (Polivka, p.708), and the U.S. Department of Labor lists Meeting and Convention Planners with the Standard Occupational Classification number 13-1121, defining it as the coordination of activities of staff and convention personnel to make arrangements for group meetings and conventions.

The American College Dictionary defines the term occupation as one’s business or trade and notes that the term profession implies an occupation requiring special knowledge and training. 


Scholars studying the nature of professions contend the designation of profession indicates a protected or exclusive jurisdiction over an occupation that prevents those without credentials from practicing, or at least controls their practice economically through public opinion by describing them as amateurs (Freidson, 1986). Jurisdictions may be based on the division of labor into interdependent parts (another potential use for the proposed domain structure) or according to client (as illustrated within the scope of event genre).


As illustrated in Figure 1, the definition of a professional jurisdiction (the tasks) must be directly linked to a formal system of knowledge that legitimizes and "expertizes" the profession’s jurisdiction (Abbott, 1988). The linkage with education is crucial as "a basic credential for professionals; it delineates the foundation of their expertise." (Freidson, p. 26)


Figure 1

Abbott’s Parameters of Professional Work



The status of event management as a profession is in progress. The development of a profession includes defining a body of knowledge including theory and skills; developing "good" or "best" practice guidance standards and ethics by those working in the occupation; disseminating these through education, training, and associated certification or qualification programs; and sanctions imposed on the unqualified or substandard performers, as illustrated in Figure 2. Jurisdictional claims often begin with the private occupational licensing or credentialing systems devised by practitioner associations (communities of practice) to self-regulate their members and influence their client publics, then sometimes culminating in the legal arena where governmental licensing is mandated.


Figure 2

Model of the Process of Professionalization



Some segments of the event management industry have instituted portions of this model within their individual certification programs, but all have neglected various components of the entirety of the process, and none have addressed the control or accountability dimension with enforceable regulations.


The statutory requirement for credentials (academic, certification, or licensing) may never take place, but the marketplace will eventually mandate them in some form. Internal regulation, external validation, and perhaps external regulation will increase in importance as globally harmonized standards of quality and best practice are sought for conformity assessment.


Standards that may be used as the foundation for conformity assessments, which balance regulated public protection and heightened competition, are increasing in importance throughout the world as a basis for facilitating international trade. Organizations such as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have established standards and processes whereby a product, process, or service is evaluated against specified requirements. ISO 9000 standards, specifying effective quality management systems for both manufacturing and service industries, are employed in approximately 350,000 organizations in more than 150 countries.


Conformity assessment measures the level of a performing organization’s system maturity. The maturity of event management as a profession (and the sum of its performing organizations) is, as yet, informal and inconsistent. Using the Capability Maturity Model (CMM), developed by the Software Engineering Institute of Carnegie Mellon University at the request of the U.S. government as a method for assessing the capabilities of Department of Defense contractors, the maturity of the industry is still immature and fragmented. Comparing the levels of the CMM with the levels of intellectual behavior specified in Bloom’s Taxonomy, as illustrated in Figure 3, the hierarchy of maturity for performing organizations and individuals is practically parallel.


Figure 3

Maturity Models



It must be emphasized that these levels relate to the processes and procedures rather than the creative product that results. And it must be remembered that just because an event was successful does not prove it was well managed. The processes that were employed may or may not be repeatable or capable of being transmitted to others or transposed to a different project. It is the process that must be quantified and will be measured within a conformity assessment.



For event management to attain the status as a true profession a body of knowledge must be established; an agreed-upon scope of skill competencies necessary for one to be considered qualified to practice must be identified; a reliable system of formal knowledge and its transmission must be created; a consistent method for measuring competency must be devised; and an equitable system of accountability must be developed.  Only then will this occupation warrant an exclusive jurisdiction based on expert knowledge and experience — a legitimate profession.


Abbott, Andrew (1988). The System of Professions: An Essay on the Division of Expert Labor, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Capability Maturity Model (n.d.). Retrieved October 31, 2003 from U.S. Department of State Web site: http://www.state.gov/m/a/sdbu/pubs/9729.htm

Crow, Kenneth (2000). Capability Maturity Model, DRM Associates. Retrieved October 31, 2003 from DRM Web site: http://www.npd-solutions.com/cmm.html

Freidson, Eliot (1986). Professional Powers: A Study of the Institutionalization of Formal Knowledge, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Global Performance Based Standards for Project Management Personnel (2003) Working Paper No 1: Report from Working Session 24-26 February, 2003, Lille, France. Sydney: UTS. ISBN 0-9750645-0-9. Retrieved May 12, 2003 from http://svc148.bne092u.server-web.com/global/files/GPM_06.pdf

Jeynes, Jacqueline (2002). Risk Management: 10 Principles, Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann

Krug, Susan, ed. (2000). Convention Industry Council Manual: A Working Guide for Effective Meetings and Conventions, 7th ed. McLean, VA: CIC

O’Toole, William J. (2002). Competencies and Maturity Models, ISES Conference for Professional Development, Sydney, Australia

Polivka, Edward G., ed. (1996). Professional Meeting Management, 3 rd ed., Birmingham, Alabama: Professional Convention Management Association

24 September 2006


William R. Host, CMP, of HOST Meetings & Events Management and the Roosevelt University School of Hospitality & Tourism Management passed along this announcement regarding the status of the profession:

"It was announced after the United Nations meetings; Expert Group on International Economic and Social Classifications, 20-24 June 2005 and Technical Subgroup of the Expert Group, 27-28 June 2005, that the profession of meeting and exhibition organising has been recognised by the UN in their "International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities" (ISIC, Rev 4 provisional draft) as follows:


8230 Convention and trade show organisers


This class includes the organisation, promotion and management of events such as business and trade shows, conventions, conferences and meetings, whether or not including the management and provision of the staff to operate the facilities in which these events take place.


7920 Other reservation service activities


This class includes the activities of marketing, promotion and arrangement of accommodation and other services including tours for conventions and visitors, tourist guide services, condominium time-share exchange services and other travel-related reservation services (including for transportation, hotels, restaurants, car rentals, entertainment and sport). Activities of ticket sales; theatrical sports and all other amusement and entertainment are also included."


Retrieved July 19, 2005 from: http://www.iccaworld.com/npps/story.cfm?ID=830

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