Seven out of 10 respondents to Convene’s annual Salary Survey said they are satisfied with their jobs and half reported being satisfied with their annual compensation. And although eight in 10 are happy with the business events industry as a whole, respondents cited high levels of stress, competing demands, and the long hours that come with the role as significant drawbacks.
First, let’s get to the important stuff: Nearly three-quarters of our annual Salary Survey respondents received a pay increase over the past 12 months, the same as last year’s survey results. The 7-percent increase they received (for those who got a raise) is similar to last year’s results, which is more than double the average percentage increase for the U.S. workforce as a whole, reported in a number of media outlets as being in the 3.2-to-3.4-percent range.
Beyond their take-home pay, a majority of respondents said they are happy with their jobs. Dozens of planners said that what they like most about their work is the ability to be creative. “Organizing events and using my creativity (a requirement working for a nonprofit),” wrote one respondent, “is what brings me to work every day.” Said another: “I get to have significant input on the educational content for our annual meeting as well as all the logistics and networking functions. I believe being involved in the educational content makes the job much more interesting over the long term — and you can’t separate out good content from good planning when it comes to satisfying your constituents.”
Others said they found satisfaction in seeing how their efforts contributed to making a difference in their particular profession or industry, and beyond. One planner noted that a favorite aspect of the job was the “ability to make an impact in a sector (health and human services) which is changing communities and lives.” Another appreciated “being a part of connecting a group of professionals dedicated to improving the quality of life and mobility of a group of individuals.”
It’s that focus on creativity, collaboration, and relationships that will future-proof this profession. As we look to what lays ahead for knowledge workers, experts say that few industries will be untouched by technology that will replace jobs — or more precisely, as a Harvard Business Review article points out, “the people holding those jobs.”
McKinsey, according to the article,“The Future of Human Work Is Imagination, Creativity, and Strategy,” has been studying what kind of work is most adaptable to automation, and has found that machines skew toward tactical applications. “On the other hand, work that requires a high degree of imagination, creative analysis, and strategic thinking is harder to automate. As McKinsey put it in a recent report: ‘The hardest activities to automate with currently available technologies are those that involve managing and developing people or that apply expertise to decision making, planning, or creative work.’”
Would it be too optimistic to imagine a future in which the long hours and stress planners complain about being part of their jobs will be reduced by automation? It’s not a stretch to see how AI can take over administrative and accounting tasks, which many respondents mentioned as being unwelcome additions to their workloads. That would free them up to spend more time on the creative aspects of bringing people together.
In the meantime, here’s how your colleagues are handling — and being compensated for — their many responsibilities.
Age + experience
The average respondent is 43 years old with 10 years of experience. Fifty-four percent of respondents are age 40 and older; 60 percent has more than 10 years of meeting-management experience. Eighty-nine percent are female; 11 percent are male; and less than 2 percent identified as transgender male or preferred not to answer.
Pay + experience
The average salary for meeting professionals with 1–3 years of experience is $52,986; 4–5 years, $65,042; 6–8 years, $66,802; 9–10 years, $75,156; and 10-plus years, $94,284.
Sixty-seven percent of respondents have earned a college degree; 14 percent have an advanced degree.
Of those respondents that have earned a designation, 86 percent have earned the CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) designation; 7 percent have earned a CMM (Certification in Meeting Management); 5 percent have earned their CAE (Certified Association Executive); and 7 percent have earned the DES (Digital Event Strategist) credential. Respondents with a CMP earned on average more than $8,600 a year than their colleagues without the designation: $87,510 versus $78,850.
The average salary for an association executive is $103,750; association meeting professional, $79,989; corporate meeting professional, $84,298; government meeting professional, $70,357; independent meeting professional, $89,490; medical meeting professional, $83,782; and education/non-profit meeting professional, $70,000.
Forty-six percent are managers, followed by directors (28 percent). Four percent are at the VP level, and 6 percent combined are in the executive suite (CEO/president/owner/executive director). Half of respondents supervise a meetings staff and 28 percent of them supervise more than two employees.
Respondents work an average of 46 hours per week. More than half (56 percent) put in between 41 and 50 hours a week; 16 percent are on the job 51 to 60 hours; and 6 percent burn the midnight oil, working 60-plus hours each week.
Respondents said their pay is in part determined by the number of meetings they oversee annually (36 percent); size/scale of their largest meeting (22 percent); number of staff who report to them (19 percent); and post-meeting metrics (16 percent).
Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) said their employers regularly pay for them to attend educational events, including conferences and workshops, or provide training funds for their professional development. Eleven percent said the level of that support has increased, while 79 percent said it has stayed the same.
Sixty-seven percent said they have had more responsibilities added to their job description this year and three quarters — 75 percent — have not been compensated for taking on those extra duties.
Related: 5 Tips for When You Get More Work, but no Pay Raise
Mostly more pay
Less than three out of four, or 72 percent received an increase in pay within the last 12 months, the same as last year’s survey. Only 2 percent of respondents said their salaries decreased in the past 12 months. Forty percent reported that their salary increased by less than 5 percent; 15 percent said it increased by 5 to 9.9 percent; and 16 percent received increases of more than 10 percent. Twenty-seven percent — the same as in last year’s survey — said their salaries remained flat. For just the respondents who received a salary increase, 54 percent received a raise of less than 5 percent; 21 percent said their salaries increased by 5 to 9.9 percent; and 22 percent had a boost in pay of more than 10 percent. Raises were primarily due to regular salary increases (68 percent); 17 percent received a promotion this year. Fifty-five percent said they expect to get a raise within the next year.
The average salary increase of 7.22 percent for those who received a raise was about the same as in our 2018 survey. The average increase in salary for all respondents was 4.64 percent. The average salary for all respondents was $82,769, around $1,000 less than last year’s survey average of $83,782.
More than half (62 percent) of planners earn $70,000 or more annually. Annual compensation ranges: $30,000–$39,999, 2 percent; $40,000–$49,999, 7 percent; $50,000–$59,999, 14 percent; $60,000–$69,999, 15 percent; $70,000–$84,999, 22 percent; $85,000 to $99,999, 15 percent; $100,000–$124,999, 12 percent; $125,000 or more, 13 percent.
Half of respondents (51 percent) report that they are satisfied with their current salary; 34 percent expressed dissatisfaction. Sixty-nine percent of respondents are satisfied with their specific jobs, and 84 percent said that they are satisfied with the meetings profession as a whole.
While respondents work at locations throughout North America, they were most likely to be based in the Washington, D.C., area (23 percent), followed by the Chicago market (15 percent), Canada (8 percent), and the New York City area (6 percent). Nearly half of respondents live and work in other areas of North America. Here’s the geographic breakdown: Northeast, 15 percent; Midwest/Central, 25 percent; South, 37 percent; West, 13 percent; Canada and other non-U.S. areas, 11 percent.
Most (94 percent) of the respondents plan meetings in the United States; 36 percent in Canada; 23 percent in Europe; 14 percent in Asia; 13 percent in Mexico; 10 percent in the Caribbean and/or Bermuda; 10 percent in South America; 9 percent in Australia/Pacific Rim; 6 percent in the Middle East; and 5 percent in Africa.
Michelle Russell is Convene Editor in Chief.
More Salary Survey
The Salary Survey was conducted by Lewis & Clark. All material © 2019 by PCMA. Nearly 550 respondents participated in this survey, conducted in March and early April 2019.