7 tips from someone who has graded your CMP application

Virginia benefit auctioneer CMP Certificate

Yesterday I prepped you about my work with the Convention Industry Council®. From morning until early evening today, I sat with ~40 reviewers (I’m pretty sure I was the only Virginia benefit auctioneer) at the Westin Arlington Gateway and scored (“reviewed”) application after application. We were seated at round tables to facilitate group help. If one of us had a question or wanted a second opinion, she could easily pose it to another CMP® for feedback.

We read applications, checked math, confirmed transcripts, and considered the veracity of job responsibilities, adjusting as necessary. CIC takes your application seriously. Each CMP application is checked by at least two different CMPs. If one miscalculates a score or feels differently about a job description, it’s likely to be caught.

I learned that the CMP program has some hard core fans who serve regularly as reviewers. Although they enjoy this “grading” process, it seems more that they are called from a position of service. They want the designation to be recognized … to be impressive … to mean something. This core group is driven to make the program better and are by-the-book, straight-shooters. 

They taught newbie reviewers like me where to focus, what to immediately reject, and how to detect (pardon the expression) bullshit.

Have you watched Project Runway, with Heidi Klum’s distinctive, “You are OUT!” phrase when she dismisses a hopeful designer from the competition? Our core reviewers taught us when to look at an application and say, “You are OUT!”

By sheer volume of grading, I observed what I believe to be the seven most common mistakes made on the CMP application form. What I’m sharing is nothing new; it’s requested on the CMP application. 

But as we planners are busy people and the application is voluminous, so I suspect that in the bustle of everyday life, parts of the application don’t seem as relevant.

But they are!

As I slogged through applications today, I noticed where applicants consistently stumbled. Sometimes it meant only a small deduction of points which didn’t affect the applicants ability to qualify for the test.

In other cases, it was a substantial deduction — or just enough of a deduction that the required 90 points were not met.  It required the applicant to do further work (or provide supplemental material) to qualify.

Here are seven tips on how to ensure you get the “Q” grade (for “Qualified for Exam”) on your CMP application:

1. Be thorough in describing your job responsibilities.

CIC encourages you to attach a resume. Do it. In addition, on the single, tiny line CIC gives you to document your responsibilities, make an attempt. Add a page, if you must, just be sure to describe your responsibilities. Do not simply say your responsibilities were “meeting planning.” Seriously, folks. You are applying for a meeting planning certification that is judged by meeting planners, and we know that there are hundreds of aspects to meeting planning.

Tell us what you are responsible for managing. Is it budgets, SoE, hotel negotiation, and security detail? Do you oversee F&B for 40 events at the hotel? Are you the primary registration contact for a 700-person conference in your association?

Spell it out, or (imagine Heidi here) “You are OUT!”

Here’s a kicker: If the reviewers are unable to clearly determine your responsibilities, the second portion of the application (management responsibilities) is immediately dropped to zero points. They can’t evaluate section two without understanding section one.

2. Be realistic in estimating how much of your time is spent on event management work.

Would an Executive Director of a non-profit with six staff spend 90% of his time working on an annual convention for 300 people?


Would an Event Assistant… reporting to a Director of Events … who reports to a VP of Events … be solely responsible for a conference of 20,000 people?


Don’t try to pull one over on the reviewers. They’ll cut your points, and “You are OUT!”

3. Organizing internal company meetings isn’t true event management, so don’t use it on your application.

When I worked at GE, I would schedule a meeting for 8 or 10 people in one of our conference rooms. I usually did this via our online conference system and it took 3 minutes. I could not count this as a legitimate “event” in my CMP application, and neither can you.

If you do, “You are OUT!”

4. Details matter when it comes to continuing education documentation.

Like the “experience” category, this is a section in which many points are often cut.

If you attend a seminar from an event management conference, save a page from the program describing the seminar. If your company is sending you to a training, tuck an outline from the speaker into your application. At the least, write a description about the key points covered yourself. Anything is better than nothing, and you don’t want the reviewer to be wondering if this course really counts as meeting planning training.

I’m telling you — when in doubt, “You are OUT!”

5. Date ranges don’t work.

Assume you are a member of your local chapter of MPI. You’ve attended 8 of the group’s last 12 monthly meetings. On your CMP application, we need to see each date listed with each topic mentioned. If you put “8 meetings between January 2008 – September 2009” that will not count and (you guessed it), “You are OUT!”

6. Spell out acronyms.

I graded applications from Hawaii to Florida today. There are a slew of regional event-focused organizations across the USA.

If we reviewers don’t know that the SEOCPMPESCND stands for the Special Events Organizers, Conference Planners, and Meeting Professionals Educational Steering Committee of North Dakota, we won’t give you the points. (My apologies to the SEOCPMPESCND, if there is one.)

7. Include documentation of your membership in hospitality-related associations.

Most national groups — MPI, ASAE, ISES, etc. — provide easy methods of proving your membership. Include a copy of something that shows you really are a member. It could be a receipt, a certificate, or even your printed-out profile from the organization’s member directory. This section is easy to prove, and one membership gives you a significant amount of points (5).

Some applications today were presented in voluminous 3-ring binders; others were held together with binder clips. The presentation isn’t as important as the content.

Follow these tips to ensure everything is included on your application. I want you to sail through the process without any hiccups.

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About Sherry Truhlar

Fundraising auctioneer and sage, helping schools and nonprofits across the USA plan more profitable benefit auctions. A prolific writer for her own blog and other fundraising sites, her advice is tapped by thousands of auction planners seeking to improve their benefit auctions. Read her book, take her classes, or read what others say as she’s been covered in Town & Country Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, Northern Virginia Magazine, AUCTIONEER, and other publications.