Heike Mahmoud, CMP, was one of the first European meeting professionals to earn the Certified Meting Professional (CMP) designation through the Events Industry Council (EIC) in 2006. Now, she feels inspired as she sees the certification’s global spread. “It is a seal of quality that is immediately understood and is one of the foundations for success in the international meetings industry,” she says.
Since a young age, she felt driven to interact with other countries and people, saying “I always wanted to work abroad and build an international network.” She began working in a travel agency and later moved into business.
Her business studies took her to Berlin, which is still her main residence. She also partially resides in Hamburg, for her current role as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at CCH-Congress Center Hamburg, a multifaceted location for conventions and events in Hamburg. She grew up in the small but international city of Weimar, Germany, known for being the home to Bauhaus University and literary figure Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Now I live in two very international cities, and my professional job gives me the opportunity to bring people together,” she says. “This is my passion—and being part of the global events industry is my second passion.”
Preparing for the Exam
In 2004, when Meeting Professionals International (MPI) held their EMEA Conference in Berlin, Mahmoud was working as director of conventions at the Berlin Convention Office. At the conference, she felt overwhelmed with the content and networking opportunities available. One session introduced the CMP certification. “That was the moment I decided, the CMP I want, the CMP I must have!” she recalls.
When she began to study for the exam in the early 2000s, all the resources were on paper. “Digitization had not yet reached the point where you could watch webinars or videos with the course content,” she says. Mahmoud dedicated this period of her life to studying the CMP documents and APEX guidelines. She attended seminars at the IMEX and IBTM World trade shows and sought advice from leaders and professionals who had expertise in areas that she was less familiar with.
The personal exchange with colleagues who already had their CMP was valuable. Looking back, she would have worked to connect with these colleagues even more. “Exchanging experiences, learning and discussing together on a topic is irreplaceable and incredibly motivating,” she says. “There is a global network of CMP professionals who are all willing to help and even mentor. I didn’t know that in 2006!” However, we know this now—and Mahmoud encourages future CMPs to take advantage of this resource.
Even before earning her CMP, Mahmoud was deeply involved in her professional education. She remains dedicated today, relying regularly on the resources of technical literature, surveys, podcasts and digital webinars—and, not to mention, intensive exchange with clients and business leaders. Trade fairs like IMEX and IBTM World as well as other conferences that bring members of the global meetings industry together, put on by ICCA, PCMA, SITE Global and more, are incredible sources of education. She is a member of various industry associations, is involved with EIC as a volunteer and holds board positions in several other associations and networks.
“The CMP certification has greatly promoted and shaped my professional development,” she says. “EIC invests a lot of know-how to keep developing and adapting this program to current developments and customer expectations…The contents are kept constantly up-to-date, and quality is assured.”
One of her most memorable events was the official reopening of the new CCH-Conference Center Hamburg, in 2022. “The venue was inaugurated with over 400 guests from politics, business, science and culture.” During events, her team uses their own special events tool containing all the important information and key points to keep everyone aligned. Their digital team is currently developing an event platform to circulate information even more quickly to everyone involved.
At the end of a successful event, Mahmoud says, she wants to offer gratitude to her team. They receive this through anything from a personal recognition meeting to a team gathering where they toast to the success of the recent event. She says, “The team concept is very important to me because we need every team member to be able to carry out unique events for our customers.”
The global events industry, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic, has taken a new direction. She says, “We are all working hard to be sustainable, to not waste resources and to make processes easier through digitization.” She recognizes that the core of a meeting planner’s work is to bring people together and is proud of the industry’s success in attracting many new young professionals. “Innovations and new products and services will change our industry enormously. It’s great to be part of this change and contribute to the future.” She sees the number of CMPs increasing steadily and celebrates its global growth. “It started in the USA and has spread and been implemented across all continents.”
Mahmoud shared her favorite quote: Cesare Pavese, Italian novelist and poet, said, “We do not remember days…we remember moments.” The business events industry is on a constant journey. “We deal with change, organization, contacting our customers, learning, training and much more on a daily basis,” she says.
“Unforgettable moments are what bind us emotionally and remain in our memories. Be it private or professional, special moments give us strength, energy and motivation.”
As a CMP for the past 17 years, and a planner for much longer, Mahmoud is an expert in creating these special moments and bringing them to every attendee.