The new ESPC certification for the often-overlooked profession of event servicing is historic on many levels.
Matt Robinette, CMP, believes the industry certification is about growing the profession. He said professionals who support meetings and events must understand event design, principles of meeting planning, association objectives and business principles.
“The Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA) is codifying best practices through robust continuing education programs, which will result in better service to clients, unambiguous internal metrics, and career growth,” said Robinette, who is vice president of Visitor Experience at Richmond Region Tourism. “In addition to the program contributing to better outcomes, the program will build a network of professionals that will work together to craft the future of the industry.”
In a post-pandemic events setting, experienced and credentialed event service professionals are more valuable to meeting planners, who face new audiences in different places through hybrid technology, attendance building challenges, expanded safety needs and city-wide labor shortages.
New Credential Bolsters Profession
Candidates for ESPC have two options to qualify to enter the program: 1) Take the Event Service Professional Foundational Training Program or 2) Obtain a waiver to bypass the training. Candidates can be “waived” if they can demonstrate at least 10 years of professional event service experience and comprehension of event servicing in convention centers, hotels and CVBs. In addition, 20 hours of continuing education, which focuses on event servicing topics, is required over three years.
Once the candidate’s enrollment is approved, they then embark upon a comprehensive capstone project which involves creating an Event Services Challenge scenario, then, once the “Challenge Area” topic has been reviewed and approved by a Review Board, candidates must provide a minimum of a 1,000-word response to the challenge with five cited sources. The solution must include hotel, facility/venue and DMO-related elements as well as describe the outcome. Candidates should consider the following when writing the response:
- Show evidence of the impact of the Event Service Professional in the outcome of the challenge.
- Demonstrate collaboration across all segments.
- Describe resources or relationships involved to achieve the outcome.
- Describe measurable outcomes or achievements.
The ESPC will be awarded for a five-year period at which time a recertification is required. A list of candidates will be maintained on a list on ESPA’s website.
ESPC Provides Sense of Recognition
Zack Davis, CMP, who is vice president of Destination Services at Louisville Tourism, said the new certification is about recognizing the valuable contributions provided by event service professionals.
“We needed an industry certification that recognized and validated the experience, abilities and skillset of an event service professional,” Zack said. “The certification provides a validation for those looking at the career path of an event service professional. The ESPC adds further legitimacy for not only the roles of those in services, but also for the association. It supports the event service professional’s place in the industry and the importance and relevancy of our profession.”
For Carol Gagnon, CMP, CEM, who is director of Event Operations at Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the ESPC is about highlighting ESPA as an industry resource. Gagnon was in the industry for two decades before learning about ESPA in 2014 at a PCMA conference.
“ESPC will bring recognition to and reinforce credibility for ESPA as a leading force in the hospitality industry,” Gagnon said. “As event service professionals we represent a far-reaching network of professionals supporting the hospitality industry via our clients, partners, vendors and our own colleagues. Earning the privilege to post the ESPC designation to our name will ignite awareness allowing us to build on that network.”
ESPA’s certification and training—both launched in 2022—offers a professional opportunity for younger, incoming talent, as well as experienced professionals in the event servicing space.
Certification Underscores New Training
ESPA’s curriculum provides foundational training for individuals new to event/convention services—and experienced professionals at convention centers, hotels and CVBs looking to broaden their understanding of event service across segments. Videos are available on-demand, enabling event service professionals to go through the training on their own schedule. A certificate of completion and continuing education credits can be earned by demonstrating participation through a post-training evaluation. The 13-lesson program provides material on servicing unique markets, emerging trends and performance measurements.
ESPC Helps Younger, Experienced Professionals
Robinette said the certification will show younger professionals that there is a future in the industry, outside of their own organization. “Professionals working in the event services industry are on their own when they join a new organization,” said Robinette, who was one of ESPA’s earliest supporters for the certification program. “Each vertical of the industry (Center, Hotel, DMO) trains young professionals in their ‘in-house’ programs which prepares them for the day-to-day work but without industry standards. ESPA created the ESPC to defines these standards and works to provide continuing education to further expand what it means to be an event services professional.”
Davis said the new certification is like a reward for younger event service professionals. “The ESPC provides an incentive for those newer to the industry to complete foundational training programs and expedite their knowledge and experience,” said Davis, who served on the certification task force along with Robinette and Gagnon. “It rewards those who want to grow professionally and adds value to their position within their organization, among their peers and with the meeting and event professionals they work with each day.”
ESPA’s certification also helps seasoned event service professionals. “Our roles are inimitable as we touch multiple facets of the hospitality industry,” Gagnon said. “Earning this certification, geared specifically to the event service professional, will highlight and strengthen our seasoned presence in hospitality—allowing us to build a unique network of like professionals and serve as valuable resources through ESPA.”
The certification program will also provide more seasoned professionals an opportunity to evaluate their growth within the industry, added Robinette. The program will provide experienced event service professionals with structure to train new hires, and the program offers industry leaders the framework to evaluate direct reports’ effectiveness.
“The pandemic demonstrated which units/departments leadership targets first for cuts, for many of our organizations that department was services,” Robinette said. “The ESPC provides industry leaders with some arguments against cutting services first.”