There are industry associations for every type of meeting and event niche. Here is a brief overview of some that may be just what you’ve been looking for.
While most event professionals have at least a passing knowledge of the two most well-known event industry associations — Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) — there actually are niche associations for event pros of every imaginable stripe.
Here is a sampling of these associations geared to fit the needs of a specific slice of the event planning pie, plus a brief overview of the broader organizations serving the industry.
International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)
ICCA specializes in serving the international association meeting sector, which it supports with education, data, communication channels and networking opportunities. It has more than 1,100 member organizations in almost 100 countries. Its signature event is the annual ICCA Congress, which is held in different cities around the world.
American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)
ASAE is geared toward, as its name suggests, association management, but it also provides a wealth of services for meeting professionals who work in the association sector. Representing both organizations and individuals in trade associations and individual membership societies, ASAE serves 48,000 individual association members and supplier partners in 7,400 organizations. ASAE, which turned 100 in 2020, focuses on providing tools, resources, community, advocacy, and signature conferences that include the ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, the Marketing, Membership & Communications Conference, and the Technology Exploration Conference.
Event Marketing Pros
Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA)
CEMA, which serves senior-level event marketers in a corporate environment, recently became a member of the Events Industry Council (EIC). It prides itself on providing a non-selling, peer-to-peer environment where participants can share best practices and knowledge through educational and networking opportunities offered each month around the country. One popular professional development offering is its CEMA Study Tours, which provide behind-the-scenes knowledge sharing about industry events.
Special Event Planners
International Live Events Association (ILEA)
ILEA serves the global community of event professionals, including event planners and producers, caterers, meeting planners, decorators, audiovisual technicians, convention coordinators, entertainers, educators and pretty much everyone else who is involved in making live events happen. Its signature event is ILEA Live, at which it presents its annual ILEA Esprit Awards.
National Association for Catering and Events (NACE)
NACE serves more than 3,500 catering and event professionals with more than 40 chapters nationwide. It provides education, tools and resources, as well as a community. The non-profit also offers the Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE) designation and several educational resources for caterers and event professionals.
International Festivals and Events Association (IFEA)
IFEA is a 501(c) 6 not-for-profit organization that serves festival and event professionals, those who sponsor these events, and the professional global event industry. It offers an IFEA Annual Convention and Annual Expo, as well as a quarterly magazine and weekly enewsletter, an online event resource marketplace, a job bank and several networking and career resources.
Business Travel Professionals
Global Business Travel Association (GBTA)
GBTA’s membership includes more than 9,000 business travel professionals around the world, including both global business travel and meeting planners, as well as suppliers across the global travel industry marketplace. Its signature event is the annual GBTA Convention; it also offers the Global Travel Professional (GTP) certification.
Trade Show and Exhibition Planners
International Association of Expositions and Events (IAEE)
IAEE represents more than 12,000 individuals in 50-plus countries who conduct and support exhibitions around the world. More than half of IAEE’s members is directly involved in the planning, management and production of exhibitions and buyer-seller events; the rest provide products and services to the industry. IAEE offers the Certified in Exhibition Management (CEM) professional designation, as well as webinars, MATSO events for senior-level professionals, a Women’s Leadership Forum, and its signature event, Expo! Expo! IAEE’s Annual Meeting & Exhibition.
UFI: The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry
UFI serves 50,000 of the world’s top trade show organizers and venue owners, as well as 62 national and international exhibition associations and select industry partners. Current membership total 772 member organizations in 84 countries. UFI hosts several in-person and digital events, including the UFI Global Congress, the Global CEO Summit, regional conferences and forums, and its UFI Connects series of webinars.
Association of Collegiate Conference & Events Directors-International (ACCED-I)
ACCED-I connects collegiate conference and events professionals to resources, knowledge and other professionals through virtual education and networking events, online learning and roundtable discussions on trending topics, and interactive online forums, social media channels, sample documents, and benchmarking and salary studies.
Government Meeting Professionals
Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP)
SGMP is a national organization dedicated exclusively to serving individuals who plan and execute government meetings in the U.S. It currently has 2,000 members in 19 chapters. Its signature event is the annual SGMP National Education Conference and Expo, and it offers the Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) certification to planners and suppliers who demonstrate their expertise with the rules and regulations of running high impact, ethical government meetings.
Black Meeting Professionals
National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals (NCBMP)
NCBMP, founded in 1983, is a non-profit organization dedicated primarily to the training needs of African American meeting planners. Members of NCBMP include meeting planners from numerous business, civil rights, church and fraternal organizations. Associate membership also is available to individuals who represent hotels, convention bureaus, city government officers, airlines and other suppliers who offer services to the meeting and convention community. Since its founding, NCBMP has made a significant impact in the hospitality community by identifying the sizable purchasing power and impact of the African American convention. Its signature event is the NCBMP Annual Conference, and it also offers a Career Center to provide more opportunities for employment and training.
LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBT MPA)
LGBT MPA is a 501(c)3 organization committed to connecting, advancing, and empowering the LGBT+ meeting professional. It provides research-driven data to help others better understanding this community, and shares best practices. As an inclusive, international association, LGBT MPA aims to provide an opportunity for all meeting professionals to be a part of the larger goal of inclusion throughout the industry. It provides meetings for its members at industry shows, including IMEX America and PCMA’s Convening Leaders.
Healthcare Industry Planners
Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association (HCEA)
HCEA is a nationwide trade association that aims to increase the effectiveness and quality of healthcare conventions and exhibitions as an educational and marketing medium. Since 1930 HCEA has worked to bring together healthcare exhibitors, healthcare exhibition and meeting organizers, and industry suppliers and promoting healthcare convention marketing and exhibitions as vital components of the healthcare marketing mix. Its signature event is the HCEA Annual Meeting; it also offers a job board and other learning opportunities.
Financial and Insurance Industry Planners
Financial and Insurance Conference Professionals (FICP)
FICP provides access to education, experience and resources targeting the needs of financial services and insurance meeting professionals from across North America with conferences, symposia, virtual networking and educational opportunities. FICP serves a community of 1,500 meetings and events professionals and hospitality partners and maintains a balanced planner-to-hospitality partner ratio at all events.
Incentive Research Foundation (IRF)
While the IRF is a foundation, not an association, it does serve more than 5,000 incentives and rewards professionals in corporations and incentive houses, and the suppliers who serve them, in its database and more than 55,000 unique users access IRF’s research each year. It also provides hundreds of hours of education each year and holds its own annual event, the IRF Education Invitational, and partnered with Prevue on its Meet Well program.
Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE)
SITE, a professional association of 2,500 incentive travel industry members who work in corporations, agencies, airlines, and cruise companies in 90 countries globally, is dedicated exclusively to the global incentive travel industry. It offers an extensive membership directory, online research, trends and data resources, education at the Incentive Summit Europe and SITE Global Conference, among other chapter and regional events and webinars, and advocacy. SITE also provides two certifications: the Certified Incentive Specialist (CIS) and the Certified Incentive Travel Professional (CITP), and is developing a new certification, the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE).
Religious Meeting Professionals
Religious Conference Management Association (RCMA)
RCMA is a nonprofit, multifaith organization for those who plan and manage meetings, tutorials, conferences, conventions and assemblies for religious organizations. Its signature event is the annual Emerge Conference, where religious planners and suppliers of faith-based meetings network and learn together, as well as its Aspire magazine. RCMA also has launched the Certified Faith-Based Meeting Professional (CFMP) certific
Military Event Planners
The Military Reunion Network is a community of veterans interested in, curious about, tasked with or actively planning their military reunion as well as destinations, hotels and attractions that are equipped to serve this market. MRN is committed to helping veterans stay connection and, through these connections, help to reduce the suicide rate among military veterans. The network offers resources including event insurance, checklists, downloadable forms, contract reviews, online workshops, a list of venues and attractions that understand the special needs of this market, special offers and discounts, a speakers bureau, a podcast and a blog.
General Event Industry Associations
Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
MPI is an international event industry association that serves 60,000 event professionals and has almost 70 chapters, clubs and members in 75-plus countries. With the slogan of “When we meet, we change the world,” MPI has two signature events, the World Education Congress (WEC) and the European Meetings & Events Conference (EMEC), as well as offering its Digital Event and Experiential Event series, several print and digital publications, the MPI Academy, and the MPI Foundation.
Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)
With more than 8,400 professional and student members and 17 chapters in 40 countries, PCMA’s main event is the annual Convening Leaders convention. It also offers print and digital publications, a Digital Experience Institute that supports the Digital Events Strategist certification, and is home to the PCMA Foundation.
International Association of Professional Congress Organisers (IAPCO)
Unlike most industry associations, professional congress organizers must go through a rigorous process to become an IAPCO Accredited PCO, including proof of organization of 10 international meetings, of which at least five must be of over 400 participants. Among the member perks are its Knowledge Hub, IAPCO Edge seminars, and access to its online learning platform.
Association of Meeting Professionals (AMPs)
The nonprofit AMPs offers educational and networking programs to 250 U.S.–based planner and service provider members. To keep its members up on the latest industry trends and best practices, AMP offers a series of seminars, as well as an industry golf tournament.
Events Industry Council (EIC)
While not an association for meeting planners per se, EIC is the big daddy umbrella group of more than 30 events industry organizations that represent over 103,500 individuals and 19,500 organizations involved in the events industry. With a vision dedicated to being the global champion for event professionals and event industry excellence, EIC promotes high standards and professionalism in the events industry with the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. EIC’s four signature program — Sustainability and Social Impact, Accepted Practices Exchange (APEX), Knowledge and Leadership — represent the EIC’s key initiatives, assets, services and products.