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14 April 2016 

Ten Event Planning Associations Organizers Should Know

Daniel Mendelson
Ten Event Planning Associations Organizers Should Know

As an event planner, you are part of a multi-billion dollar industry that is constantly changing, innovating, and expanding. Keeping up with the industry’s major associations for event planners has become essential for staying on top of these changes.

It is often easy for planners to get lost in the many associations in the events industry. How do I know if I qualify? What if I am in the industry, but I am not an experienced event planner?

In this post, you’ll find a comprehensive overview of the industry’s top associations for event planners, with important details that will simplify the process of finding which one will match your professional and career goals!

Directory Of Event Planning Associations:

  • ILEA: International Live Events Association
  • NACE: National Association For Catering And Events
  • ESPA: Event Services Professional Association
  • MPI: Meetings Professionals International
  • ICCA: International Congress And Convention Association
  • GMIC: Green Meetings Industry Council
  • CEMA: Corporate Event Marketing Association
  • IAVM: International Association Of Venue Managers
  • NCBMP: National Coalition For Black Meeting Planners
  • Eventovation: A Community For Anyone In The Events Industry
  • PCMA: Professional Convention Management Association
  • SGMP: Society of Government Meeting Professionals

1. ILEA: International Live Events Association

What Is ILEA? Besides networking with professionals from the industry and offering business opportunities, ILEA’s (formoraly ISES) focus is on providing a community by which event planners can build relationships and work together to discover ways to creatively develop the events industry. The community is really what drives this event planning association’s success: ILEA has 53 chapters and over 5,500 members internationally. Membership ranges from meeting planners, caterers and decorators to journalists, audio-visual technicians and photographers.

A major focus ofILEA is on providing research analyses and education to those within the industry. ILEA offers educational programs, like the Certified Special Events Professional distinction or continuing education events for event planners like ILEA Live, to help further professionalism and knowledge among planners and other members. With the CSEP program and other initiatives like the ILEA Approved tag to recommend educational content relevant to events, ILEA has become a standard within the creative events industry.

How Do I Join? Membership procedures vary depending on your local chapter. There are also a variety of membership options, ranging from Corporate Primary Membership to Student Membership.

Read: Top Event Planner Certifications For Event Planners

2. NACE: National Association For Catering And Events


What Is NACE? NACE is the first non-profit organization dedicating to strengthening the knowledge and network of those within the catering and events industry. NACE encompasses a wide range of tasks, including hosting conferences, maintaining an industry blog, offering scholarships and community grants through its Foundation, and more.

Additionally, NACE offers excellent networking opportunities for industry professionals, and it is also dedicated to providing career services to members. The event association offers a members-only online community, MyNACE, where members can network and discuss important industry topics.

Like ILEA, NACE offers a certification program and educational resources such as NACE University.

NACE’s CPCE certification and the Business Academies Certificate Program are meant to further the knowledge of catering and event management among organizers, and to promote a level of professionalism among those in the industry.

How Do I Join? NACE is a North American organization with more than 45 chapters and over 3,500 members. Membership types range from Professional and Corporate to Nonprofit and Student, thus the joining process differs based on membership type.

3. ESPA: Event Services Professionals Association


What Is ESPA? Founded in 1988, ESPA’s mission is to provide the necessary education and preparation for members to excel within the events industry, and to play an important role in its innovation. Although the association initially served convention managers, ESPA has grown to include a diverse range of association members, from Catering Managers to Audio Visual technicians.

ESPA provides knowledge forums and continuing education hours to help members keep up with industry trends.

How Do I Join? There are many different membership options. There are opportunities both for students and for educational institutions, and for individual members or organizations. Benefits of membership include access to the ESPA Annual Conference, the ESPA Mentor Program for young professionals, and other opportunities like access to the ESPA Social Network Groups.

4. MPI: Meeting Professionals International


What Is MPI? If you’re a seasoned event organizer, you’ve probably heard of MPI. MPI is the largest international events association, with a strong and influential voice in the industry. MPI offers both networking opportunities for its members and educational resources.

There are over 18,500 members and around 80 MPI chapters in 22 countries. With MPI Membership, event association members would be joining an international community of professionals where you can form strong business and social bonds and stay informed on industry insights and trends.

Similar to NACE, MPI has a Foundation dedicated to providing scholarships and grants for members in order to further develop and research event industry trends. MPI is also famous for its CMP program, which offers an internationally recognized event planning certification.

How Do I Join? Membership to MPI gives members access to a wide variety of educational resources and networking tools. Rates depend on membership type, which can range from Government Meeting Professional to Faculty members in academic programs related to meetings and hospitality.

5. ICCA: International Congress And Convention Association


What Is ICAA? ICCA is strongly dedicated to the future of the international events industry, and offers membership as a means of providing event planning professionals with the opportunity to express their commitment to the craft of event organizing. ICCA is especially strong on the international front in its representation of meetings and events professionals across the world, offering professionals access to a truly international community.

ICCA members can take advantage of a plethora of educational programs led by industry professionals, from expert seminars to forums for young professionals. ICCA is geared towards event organizers who do business internationally, because membership provides organizers with global networking events and to over 1,000 suppliers in the international meetings industry.

How Do I Join? With members in over 90 countries, ICCA membership is a great way to expand your network internationally. To join, you will need to complete an application form, wait for confirmation, and pay the entrance and first year membership fees.

6. GMIC: Green Meeting Industry Council


What Is GMIC? GMIC is often regarded as the most respected authority on sustainability in the events industry. GMIC has partnered with the Convention Industry Council (CIC) in order to further actualize its mission to promote sustainability standards and best practices. The GMIC community is global in scope, and all members share an interest in sustainability.

Membership to GMIC includes access to comprehensive educational resources at all levels, suitable to both higher education faculty or to full time students. Membership also puts association members within a global community of over 600 other members from over 23 countries. This number is growing, especially as sustainability has recently jumped to the forefront in discourse about event venues and event planning.

How Do I Join? By becoming a member of GMIC, organizers will be joining a community dedicated to environmentally responsible practices in the organization and management of events and conferences. Many industry related professionals can join, including hotels, transportation and audio/visual providers, and more.

7. CEMA: Corporate Event Marketing Association

What Is CEMA? Unlike the associations above, CEMA is targeted specifically toward event marketing professionals. CEMA serves as a “thought leadership association” in that it fosters a community of event marketing professionals that share their expertise and experiences in order to further advance industry best practices. It also publishes white papers and maintains a blog in order to create relevant content for event marketing professionals.

There are many perks to joining CEMA. For example, in addition to networking sessions and educational programs, members also get access to the CEMA Summit and to an online forum called Ask CEMA.

How Do I Join? Rates and packages vary depending on membership types. Whether you are paying the $475 individual IP Membership or the $3,500 Gold IP Membership, all members have access to a plethora of educational and networking resources to support career development.

8. IAVM: International Association of Venue Managers


What Is IAVM? IAVM is dedicated to providing event venue managers with with educational resources and networking opportunities. IAVM particularly prides itself on being committed to the values of integrity, diversity, education, and service.

IAVM members come from a diverse range of venue types. For example, active members include executives and managers from convention centers, university complexes, performing arts centers, and amphitheaters.

How Do I Join? Not all IAVM members are senior executives of venue management. IAVM offers memberships to faculty in order to keep them updated with industry knowledge and trends, as well as to young professionals under 30 who want to advance their careers.

9. NCBMP: National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners


What Is NCBMP? Founded in 1983, NCBMP is geared toward the training of African American meeting planners and is committed to improving the meetings and conferences industry as a whole. NCBMP’s mission is to educate planners within the African American community on all facets of the planning profession and to provide a networking community that promotes professionalism and planning best practices.

Membership gives you access to the NCBMP’s Annual Educational Conference and Expo, a quarterly newsletter, great networking opportunities, scholarships, and continuing education credits toward the CMP certification.

How Do I Join? Like other associations above, NCBMP membership is offered both to meeting planners and to academics.

10. Eventovation: A Community For Anyone In The Events Industry


What is Eventovation? Launched in 2016, Eventovation is the fastest growing community for people in the event planning world. With nearly 800 members, Eventovation is an online forum and live networking series that facilitates learning and networking between event experts.

Members who belong to Eventovation range from corporate event planners for companies like Hewlett Packard, to freelance organizers, and event technology experts.

How Do I Join? To join the online eventovation community, simply click the button below to join! There are no application or membership fees, and members will instantly gain exclusive access to community discussions and insightful eBooks.

Bonus Associations

PCMA: Professional Convention Management Association 

What is PCMA? Established in 1956, PCMA has been ededicated to teaching and inspiring the professional events community through senior level networking and multiple educational opportunities for their members. Through education & networking, the association seeks to inspire, connect, and innovate the business events community on a global scale. They hold multiple events per month, ranging from webinars to large-scale conferences.

How do I join? Joining PCMA is simple as visiting their membership page and choosing the package that best fits your need. The pricing for each package ranges from $40 to $485.

SGMP: Society of Government Meeting Professionals

The Society of Goverenment Meeting Professionals strives to improve the quality of, and promote the cost-effectiveness of government meetings. This association, founded in 1981, is the only national organization in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to government meetings. The SGMP has 23 chapters across the country with each one promoting the expertise of the government meeting professionals.

How do I join? There are a variety of membership roles with each role containing its own categories. Thus it’s important to properly research and apply for the membership that is relevant to you. The cost for each membership varies per package.


There are a number of fantastic event planning associations available for event planners to choose from. The key to finding the right event association to join is by outlining your goals for joining.

Looking for great networking opportunities? Then be sure to choose an events association with an active local network.

Hoping to find a event planners association that has great education resources? Be sure to choose an organization that has a well-respected certification program and that welcomes scholarly members.

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