The Top 13 Event Planning Associations and How They Can Work for You

The Top 17 Event Planning Associations and How to Leverage Them

Becoming a member an event planning association is a great way to take your business or career to the next level.

But it’s important to find one that is the best fit for you and your company. When choosing one of the event planning associations, there are a few things to consider:

  • Make sure there’s a local chapter
  • Check out the benefits that come with membership
  • The cost of the membership
  • Understand opportunities for leadership
  • Know whether there’is a national or an international presence

Not sure where to start? Here are some of the top industry associations to look into.

1. WIPA

Stands for: The Wedding International Professionals Association (WIPA)

Who it’s best for: Wedding planners, officiants, hoteliers — anyone involved in the wedding industry.

What it’s all about: This association was formed to bring together wedding professionals and provide an opportunities for continued education.

Chapters: There are nine chapters around the country, as well as the option to be an at-large member.

Membership perks: You get access to all WIPA meetings, mentoring programs for emerging businesses, up-to-date information about the latest industry news, and a tight-knit community of like-minded individuals. 

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2. NACE

Stands for: The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE)

What it’s all about: The organization offers catering and event professional the chance to network within a local market and meet neighboring peers.

Chapters: NACE is a national industry association with over 40 local chapters.

Membership perks: Check out the annual NACE Experience Conference. It’s an incredible chance to take in both innovative education and plenty of networking opportunities with peers. 

3. MPI

Stands for: Meeting Professionals International (MPI)

What it’s all about: MPI is the largest meeting and event planning association in the world, with a focus on high-level education and business best practices.

Chapters: There are more than 90 chapters spread across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.

Membership perks: MPI offers different levels of membership, allowing you to customize your involvement based on your time and preference. MPI offers access to an extensive network of professionals. In addition to networking opportunities, MPI also provides relevant educational resources digitally and in-person.

4. ACCED-I

Stands for: Association of Collegiate Conference and Events Directors – International (ACCED-I)

Who it’s best for: Event planning pros who plan events for a university or college

What it’s all about: ACCED-I members include over 1,300 campus professionals who design, market, coordinate and plan conferences and special events on the campuses of colleges and universities around the world.

Membership perks: ACCED-I has increased the visibility of the collegiate conference and events profession and also hosts an annual conference to bring these planners together.

5. ILEA

Stands for: The International Live Events Association (ILEA)

Chapters: ILEA is a global association with 51 international chapters.

Membership perks: With a membership, you not only extend your network exponentially, but also you get access to invaluable resources. Members get access to the ILEA Career Center, exclusive events, and the chance to enter the ILEA Esprit Awards.

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6. AEP

Stands for: Academic Event Professional (AEP)

Who it’s best for: Any event planner who focuses on events that take place at or for educational institutions. 

What it’s all about: Founded over a decade ago, AEP works to support academic event planners both new and established with programs that help professionals further develop their skills in this field. 

Chapters: Rather than run regional or local chapters, AEP hosts a yearly conference in January while also maintaining a thriving online community through their newsletter and on LinkedIn. They have other, smaller events (sometimes in collaboration with related programs) that pop up from time to time. 

Membership perks: Eligibility to attend their annual conference, advice on related events that have been approved by the association, and access to exclusive digital networking opportunities make becoming a member worthwhile.

7. ESPA

Stands for: Event Service Professionals Association (ESPA)

Who it’s best for: Event service professionals who work at CVBs, hotels, and convention centers in North America and are interested in learning how to better promote destinations as well as facilities. Event planners and other types of service providers who want to network within this niche are also invited to join. 

What it’s all about: Education and networking are the main focus of ESPA’s two-pronged approach for bettering the members of this association and, as a result, the industry as a whole. 

Chapters: In lieu of local chapters, ESPA invites the community to their annual conference. The organization also hosts a number of high quality webinars and even have their own Celebrate Services Week, an unofficial festival that shows appreciation for all members in the industry. 

Membership perks: Besides having a tiered membership fee system, those who join can look forward to year-round educational opportunities, certification eligibility, professional resources updated monthly, and networking opportunities that range from volunteer days to formal mentorships.

8. GMIC

Stands for: Green Meeting Industry Council (GMIC)

Who it’s best for: Anyone who considers themselves a champion of sustainability in corporate event planning, regardless of your past experience or credentials. 

What it’s all about: GMIC aims to help make sustainability practices the norm through education, outreach, and support. Their thesis is that green events will help promote healthier, more conscious communities and improve sales all at the same time. 

Chapters: Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, Northern and Southern California, Oregon, Florida, Washington D.C., New York, Mexico, and Europe all boast chapters of the organization.

Membership perks: Access to vital research, opportunities for certification and accreditations, information on the latest best practices, formal networking programs, and a communication platform for increasing partnership opportunities can all be yours if you join.

9. CEMA

Stands for: Corporate Event Marketing Association (CEMA)

Who it’s best for: Corporate event marketers (at a senior level) looking for a peer-to-peer environment that will help them continue to develop their skills. 

What it’s all about: Building industry relationships that help create a stronger community and raise the level of excellence for corporate event planning across the country. 

Chapters: Because the focus is on the community at large, chapters are not defined and instead give way for nationwide opportunities to connect through their traveling events. 

Membership perks: Enjoy monthly CEMA Study Tours (educational events on the latest market trends and best practices) as well as genuine ways to connect with other professionals both in person and online. They also have an exclusive newsletter, job board, and member directory.

10. IAVM

Stands for: International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM)

Who it’s best for: As the name implies, IAVM is for venue managers, but not just anyone can join. This organization primarily caters to those who want to be known as leaders in the industry. 

What it’s all about: Through passionate exchanges with members of this global community, venue managers get to energize their careers, have access to new opportunities, and join a group that dedicates itself to continued education in this realm. 

Chapters: They have multiple active chapters across the United States, including California, Georgia, Illinois, and Arkansas. 

Membership perks: There are six different types of membership levels, each with its own perks tailored to where you are in your career.

event planning associations

11. IACC

Stands for: International Association of Conference Centers (IACC)

Who it’s best for: Members include venue representatives, event vendors, professional corporate event planners, students or faculty focused on hospitality, and certified management companies. 

What it’s all about: Diversity, collaboration, and creativity are the core values that drive all of their education and networking initiatives that strive to promote better business meeting and event planning practices. 

Chapters: No formal chapters are advertised but the group hosts so many events around the world every month that you won’t even miss it. 

Membership perks: If you join, you’ll have access to global venue listings, access to exclusive events and digital content, entrance to their global competition, and – most importantly – data reports that compare your property’s performance with local competitors.

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12. IAEE

Stands for: International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE)

Who it’s best for: Originally founded in 1928, IAEE now serves as the leader of the global exhibition industry, with the majority of its members being directly involved in all aspects of buyer-seller events. 

What it’s all about: Professional development, industry news, and advocating for better exhibition practices worldwide. 

Chapters: They have chapters in 50 different countries. 

Membership perks: In addition to the other perks already mentioned, members enjoy service partner discounts and advocacy in both government policy-making and general media as well as community gained from local chapter participation.

13. SEPA

Stands for: Student Event Planners Association (SEPA)

Who it’s best for: Students pursuing higher education in any field related to event planning for both corporate and private events. 

What it’s all about: Forming tomorrow’s leaders in the events industry through passionate engagement, unique career opportunities, and exclusive partnerships that will enhance their academic pursuits. 

Chapters: The organization announced in May of 2019 that they would be closing their doors and would no longer act as the overseer for the many existing chapters on college campuses nationwide. However, some groups will still remain active as independent entities. 

Membership perks: It’s hard to say which opportunities will remain the focus of each remaining chapter’s operation now that the association is closing. However, it is safe to assume that students can expect to see more career-building resources available through these groups in the future.

15. PCMA

Stands for: Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) 

Who it’s best for: Anyone who plans, executes, or partners with conventions for live events. The membership page specifies that you must spend more than “51% of your time in the development, organization and management of meetings, conventions, exhibitions and seminars.” 

What it’s all about: Networking on a global level is the primary function of this organization but they also provide peer-to-peer education as well as an impressive amount of educational resources you can use to obtain additional certifications. 

Chapters: There are separate student chapters on campuses all over the U.S., but you can easily find and join one of the 18 nearest professional chapters spread out across America and Mexico. 

Membership perks: Online boot camps, exclusive recorded lectures, event ticket discounts, and members-only resources like forums, directories, etc.

16. APA

Stands for: American Planning Association (APA)

Who it’s best for: Although people from other countries are allowed to participate, the program does largely cater to event professionals in the 50 states of America (despite having members in over 100 countries). Their various membership levels focus on students, academics, planners, and commissioners. 

What it’s all about: Helping event planners at every stage of their career. From giving students the tools they need to kick start their life after school to helping established planners navigate every region and discipline of the profession, APA has something for everyone regardless of where they are in their education or in the world. 

Chapters: They currently have 47 active chapters within the U.S.  

Membership perks: Besides the perks we’ve seen from the other prestigious organizations on this list, the APA also offers training workshops and awards.

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17. ICCA

Stands for: International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)

Who it’s best for: Any planner or supplier who primarily deals with large scale, global events. For suppliers, membership is limited to those who have experience with handling, transporting, and accommodating corporate events in almost 100 countries worldwide. 

What it’s all about: Networking, education, and self-promotion opportunities are the driving force behind this association. 

Chapters: They have 11 chapters that cover the majority of the world. 

Membership perks: Suppliers benefit from winning more business, continuing their education, and expanding their network while associations gain access to tailored supplier bids, advice on RFPs, and industry event invitations.

Making the Most of Event Planning Associations

Regardless of what you choose, keep in mind that it’s up to you to take full advantage of your membership. And there’s so much more to these groups than just membership

Volunteer your time for an organization event

Consider volunteering your products or services for an event. Being a sponsor not only helps those on the planning committee, but it’ll also put your work front and center at the event and with your network.

If you choose to sponsor, be sure to be attentive and communicative. It will also benefit your company with referral business if you’re easy to work with.

Look into leadership opportunities

Check out the different teams in the organization and see what you’re most interested in. Membership? Programs? Education? Wherever you find your calling, reach out to the director to see if they have any open slots to fill. Even if you just start out as a helping hand, your effort will be noted. In time, you’ll find yourself in a position to advance in leadership.

If you’re looking for a way to grow your network or to learn more about the events industry, look no further. Do your research and discover which is the best of the event planning associations for you and your brand, and get involved!

If you happen to be planning an event for your own association, don’t forget to check out Social Table’s Event Software.

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