Time to Get CSEP Certified!

TWG Staff Editorial by Rob Brown, CSEP

Best practice is a term used a lot in the events industry but what constitutes best practices can differ greatly from organization to organization. The event planning industry allows for a great deal of creativity from our planners and produces while at the same time requiring us to figure out new and complicated challenges on a daily basis. This is half of the fun for us! But it also allows for event planners to become set in their ways of what works for them. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; experience matters in our industry and we should value that hard-earned wisdom that so many have.

Last year I found myself wanting to broaden my perspective on the larger events industry and tap into that earned wisdom from my peers. I wanted to challenge my assumptions about what I thought was the right way to do things, I wanted to put my hard earned wisdom on the table and see how it stacked up and I wanted to see if I could learn to do things better.

I began my foray into the acronym soup that is the continuing education landscape for the events industry professional. A quick Google search will give you a dozen different certifications from a dozen different organizations and it can be confusing as to where to start. The three certifications that seemed to get the most discussion and were the most requested on job postings were the CMP, CSEP and CGMP.

  • The Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) is hosted by the Events Industry Council (EIC).
  • The Certified Special Events Planner (CSEP) is hosted by the International Live Events Association (ILEA).
  • The Certified Government Meeting Planner (CGMP) is hosted by the Society for Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP).

I was drawn to the Certified Special Events Planner for two main reasons.

  1. A lot of my experience in the events industry is within the festival, concert, and athletic event side of the industry and I consider myself a Special Event Producer more so than a meeting planner.
  2. ILEA does not require earning multiple continuing education credit units prior to sitting for the exam.

ILEA does require three years of verified professional experience before taking the exam and when I sat for the exam I was very happy that I had much more experience than just three years.

ILEA is currently redeveloping the exam format for 2020 to achieve a variety of goals they have set for itself and my experience with the exam will differ than someone taking it in the future. Let me start with what the exam was before delving into what the exam will be.

 

Studying

ILEA provided a small packet of study materials for the exam and it was very worthwhile to review this information. It was less than I was expecting to receive, and this left me a little bit nervous. The exam is largely based on your experience in the industry, but I would have been comforted by more information and guidance on the exam. I strongly recommend reaching out to local CSEP holders to get more guidance on what to expect with the exam. In lieu of this, I studied the materials provided quite extensively.

 

Exam

When it came time to sit for the exam, I took it at a testing location in Northern VA. There are several times throughout the year that you can take the exam; I found the number of locations and times to be very convenient. The exam itself takes five hours so you should expect to take some time off from work for this. The exam consisted of a 120 multiple choice questions over 90 minutes and an essay portion of the exam that took the other 3.5 hours. For the essay, I was given two different event scenarios to pick from, and then had to answer 11 essay questions on the scenario.

The multiple-choice questions covered a wide variety of topics: general event planning, contracts, budgeting, logistics, theatrical knowledge, transportation, technical production, safety and security, and many more. Because of the number of questions and the time limit, you don’t have a lot of time to ponder each question. I took the approach of answering what I knew outright, debating quickly when I could narrow down the answer to two choices, and then leaving ones that I knew would take more thought. I was able to answer every question and give each the time that I needed for it. Do not get stuck on any single question early on; you don’t want to be rushing at the very end.

The essay portion of the exam is going away, and for what it’s worth I think that’s a mistake by ILEA. I found this part of the exam truly made me prove my understanding of the events industry. There’s no way to cram for this part of the test, it’s not about memorizing terms or being able to “test well” by implementing good test taking strategies. The essay portion required critical thinking skills and made me demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of how to plan an event. I think keeping this bar high is important for the integrity of the certification and the essay portion does that.

 

How did I do?

Well, I’m happy to say that I passed. It took a couple of months for ILEA to get back to me with the results of the exam and I think this is one of the primary drivers of the test restructuring. Finding CSEP volunteers to grade exams is likely a challenge and I applaud ILEA for working to constantly improve its testing procedures and serving as a leader in the industry for establishing best practices.

In uncertain times like we are in now it’s important for industry professionals to have a community to rely on and guideposts as to how to conduct ourselves and our businesses. Undoubtedly there will be many collective lessons learned from the industry now and I hope that ILEA is able to capture these learnings in future versions of the exam.

I highly recommend this exam for industry professionals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re signed up for it or thinking about it signing up.

Top Story

International Security Foundation Virtual Reception

1/28/2021

“The ISF has enjoyed a successful partnership with The Webster Group since 2015.  Their guidance and expertise has helped our annual fundraising dinner grow beyond any of our wildest dreams.  This past year, when everything changed because of COVID-19, The Webster Group helped us quickly pivot to planning and executing a successful virtual fundraising event. We are still getting wonderful feedback on our program and know that a large part of its success was because of The Webster Group’s guidance and creativity. We look forward to many years of working with The Webster Group.”

-Peggy O'Neil, Executive Director of the International Security Foundation

read more

Features

Client Spotlight: International Security Foundation

1/21/2021

Client Spotlight for the International Security Foundation (ISF)

The Webster Group has long had ties to the intelligence and security sector. We are privilegded to support the production of the International Security Foundation's annual gala. While this year's event was entirely virtual, it served as a emphatic reminder of just how important the work of ISF is. Read more below to see how.

 

Tell us about the role of the ISF.

We are an innovative nonprofit that was created to support the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security ...

read more

The Webster Group Nominated for 2 Prestigious EventsAIR Virtual Events Awards

12/18/2020

This week EventsAIR held its “Bring On 2021 - EventsAIR Global Customer Gathering” conference. During the final session, EventsAIR CEO Trevor Gardiner announced the 2020 virtual event award winners. The Webster Group was selected as finalist for two of these prestigious awards.

The Webster Group was 1 of 3 finalists in the category for 2020 “OnAIR Virtual Event of the Year” for the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum we produced in the summer using our in-house virtual platform, OnAIR. Additionally, The Webster Group’s Senior Director, Phil Hargis, was selected as 1 of 3 finalists for the category “2020 Virtual ...

read more

Client Spotlight: HealthyWomen

10/14/2020

Client Spotlight for HealthyWomen

As a Woman-Owned Small Business, The Webster Group takes special interest in partnering with woman-led organizations. This year we were honored to work with HealthyWomen to produce its annual event focused on women's health education and access. The Webster Group supported the complete transition of HealthyWomen's annual live event to a fully virtual event - more to come on the event details in the next post. We spoke with the HealthyWomen team about the organization and the important work they are focused on this year.

 

Describe the mission of HealthyWomen.

The mission behind HealthyWomen is ...

read more