I recently received an email from “the ISMP Board of Directors” inviting me to join the International Society of Meeting Planners, and, for additional fees, receive up to six meeting industry-related certifications:
  • CEP – Certified Event Planner
  • CDS – Certified Destination Specialist
  • RMP – Registered Meeting Planner
  • ITS – Incentive Travel Specialist
  • CEM – Certified Entertainment Manager
  • CMC – Certified Meeting Consultant.

A single designation and membership is $195 and *only* $45 for each additional designation.

The ISMI home page (http://www.iami.org/ISMP/home.cfm) claims that ISMP is one of the largest professional associations in the United States with "more members in more cities than any other organization.”

These assertions caught my interest, so I called ISMI headquarters and spoke with Mr. Keith Starkey, ISMP’s Associate Director.

Here is what I found out:

  1. Mr. Starkey thought that ISMI has about 200-250 members – certainly not "one of largest professional association in the U.S.” as claimed on the website. 
  2. There is no posted list of the Board of Directors. Mr. Starkey said that ISMP’s Executive Director Bob Johnson, may have this list but, according to Mr. Starkey, he is “simply too busy to return calls.”
  3. Mr. Strakey informed me that ISMP does not hold meetings, although "weekly seminars and an annual Planners Expo and Conference" are claimed on the home page. Instead, they rely on "web content" which I found to be limited and plagiarized.
  4. Mr. Starkey said that ISMI was a “not-for-profit” organization but had “no idea” about any bylaws apparently unaware that a board of directors, annual meetings and bylaws are required for 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status.
  5. There are no testing or experience requirements for the professional certifications -- payment is all that is required. I asked Mr. Starkey if anyone applying had ever been turned down, and he replied “no.” He quipped that the selection criterion is that "they must be able to spell International Society of Meeting Planners.”

In reviewing their limited web content, I opened one of their newsletters (Winter 2001) to find that it contained an unauthorized, pirated and uncredited copy of my article Ten Hotel Web Sites.

In further poking around, I discovered that the parent organization, International Association Managers, Inc. (IAMI) offers similar “certification services” for real estate appraisers, mortgage underwriters, environmental assessors, construction inspectors, and housing inspectors – each with a several “pay for certification” options.

In my opinion, these certification diploma mills demean our profession and the legitimate certifications for our industry as well as other industries. 

Do you want your home inspected by someone who earned their “certification” by simply forking over $45? Or your meeting planned by someone who padded their resume with phony certifications?

What do you think? Please let me hear your thoughts and what should be done – I will be happy to post comments in future issues of TechTalk.

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