Meeting professionals rely heavily on the event servicing teams behind the scenes to execute on the best-laid plans for effective meetings. To ensure that those support networks are skilled in current best practices, a new Event Service Professional Certification (ESPC) from Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) will help everyone sleep easier at night.

“The new ESPC certification for the often-overlooked profession of event servicing is historic on many levels,” said Paola Bowman, CMP, CMM, who serves as president of ESPA and director of client services and events at Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau in Texas.

In addition to evaluating for proficiency in the areas of event design, principles of meeting planning, association objectives and business principles, it will also be a tool to develop the next generation of meeting professional.

Richmond Region Tourism Vice President of Visitor Experience Matt Robinette, CMP, believes the industry certification is about growing the industry. “This is codifying best practices through robust continuing education programs, which will result in better service to clients, unambiguous internal metrics and career growth,” he said.

“In addition to the program contributing to better outcomes, the program will build a network of professionals that will work together to craft the future of the industry,” Robinette added.

In a post-pandemic events setting, experienced and credentialed event service professionals can help meeting planners, who face new audiences in different places through hybrid technology, attendance building challenges, expanded safety needs and city-wide labor shortages.

What ESPC Proves

ESPC members have either taken the Event Service Professional Foundational Training Program or demonstrated at least 10 years of professional event service experience and comprehension of event servicing in convention centers, hotels and CVBs.

In addition, 20 hours of continuing education, which focuses on event servicing topics, is required over three years. They have also completed a comprehensive capstone project in a chosen “challenge area” that demonstrates collaboration and an ability to impact measurable outcomes or achievements.

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Individuals will be recertified every five years and meeting planners can find a list of candidates on ESPA’s website.

ESPA’s curriculum provides foundational training for individuals new to event/convention services—and experienced professionals at convention centers, hotels and CVBs looking to broaden their understanding of event service across segments.

Videos are available on-demand, enabling event service professionals to go through the training on their own schedule. A certificate of completion and continuing education credits can be earned by demonstrating participation through a post-training evaluation. The 13-lesson program provides material on servicing unique markets, emerging trends and performance measurements.

For Carol Gagnon, CMP, CEM, director of Event Operations at Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the ESPC is about highlighting an industry resource. “As event service professionals we represent a far-reaching network of professionals supporting the hospitality industry via our clients, partners, vendors and our own colleagues. Earning the privilege to post the ESPC designation to our name will ignite awareness allowing us to build on that network,” she said.

 Building the Pipeline

Louisville Tourism Vice President of Destination Services Zack Davis, CMP, said the new certification is about recognizing the valuable contributions provided by event service professionals.

“The certification provides a validation for those looking at the career path of an event service professional. It supports the event service professional’s place in the industry and the importance and relevancy of our profession,” he said.

Robinette said the certification will show younger professionals that there is a future in the industry, outside of their own organization. “Professionals working in the event services industry are on their own when they join a new organization,” said Robinette. “Each vertical of the industry (center, hotel, DMO) trains young professionals in their ‘in-house’ programs which prepares them for the day-to-day work. ESPC to defines industry standards and works to provide continuing education to further expand what it means to be an event services professional.”

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Davis said the new certification is like a reward for younger event service professionals. “The ESPC provides an incentive for those newer to the industry to complete foundational training programs and expedite their knowledge and experience,” said Davis, who served on the certification task force along with Robinette and Gagnon.

ESPA’s certification helps seasoned event service professionals build a network and be more effective. “Our roles are inimitable as we touch multiple facets of the hospitality industry,” Gagnon said.

It will provide structure to train new hires and offers industry leaders the framework to evaluate direct reports’ effectiveness.