Desireé Dolecki, CMP, has always been an artist. To her, being an event professional is much in the same vein. “You need creative vision, planning and organization, budget management, marketing, promotion, collaboration, adaptability, time management and, of course, the ability to create a memorable experience,” she says.
When she was young, she knew art wouldn’t necessarily offer her a lucrative career. By junior college, she began studying graphic design. She earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising and design. As she prepared to graduate, she took on a role as a marketing coordinator at a major healthcare company. There, she began working closely with the event planner. “As she began to trust me with more of her work, I realized how much I enjoyed it,” says Dolecki. “It was my first practical experience in the field. I had the opportunity to work on a large national sales meeting, which gave me on-site exposure.”
Where She Is Now
Dolecki now serves as director of conferences and events for The Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME). It is a non-profit that organizes practitioner-based events and workshops and brings together companies to explore enterprise improvement methods, exchange best practices and network. She lives in Crystal Lake, Illinois, just 50 miles north of where she grew up in West Town Chicago.
She leads successful events with the help of the AttendeeHub app. In the app, participants build their schedules, check in to sessions, complete surveys and connect with speakers, sponsors and one another. To manage the team communication necessary to execute a great event, Dolecki develops a staff playbook. She provides all event leaders—venues, suppliers, speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, board members and stakeholders—with detailed communication outlining their roles, expectations, a checklist of to-dos and due dates. Of course, all with the help of all-caps “COFFEE!”
This preparation falls in line with her favorite quote, by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
Dolecki says, “Burnham’s quote…captures the essence of ambitious and strategic event planning. It encourages me to reach high, inspire others and create exceptional event experiences that leave a mark on participants’ hearts and minds.”
Preparing for the Exam
Not only does Dolecki aim high for her events; she aimed high to achieve her CMP designation. She first learned of the designation in 1999 while looking for ways to learn more about the industry she was so interested in. The professional credibility it would provide, as an internationally recognized standard of excellence, inspired her. “The process of preparing for continuous education involves gaining in-depth knowledge of various aspects of meeting and event planning, from tactics to strategy,” she says. “The knowledge I need to maintain makes me more effective in my role and helps me deliver better results for my company.”
Before even looking into the exam, Dolecki advises future applicants to set up an account in the MPI portal to keep track of their CEs. Volunteer to gain experience. Focus on growing areas of your skillset you don’t feel as adept in.
When it came time to prepare for the exam itself, she began early utilizing a study group, the CMP Pocket Prep app, the CMP handbook and EIC’s industry glossary—available online for free. As her exam date drew closer, she found enrolling in a boot camp course indispensable. It covered key concepts, the exam format and the types of questions test-takers would face
“Build your knowledge over time and start the process when you know you will be ready,” she says. “Make a plan and stay committed to your plan!”
Thanks to her CMP designation, Dolecki says, “I am seen as a trusted advisor, consultant and credible resource for the association I work for. This commitment to staying current in the field can help me stay at the forefront of industry trends and best practices.”
She says that the future of the events industry, especially post-Covid, is bright. “The pandemic accelerated the adoption of hybrid and virtual events [which] allow a global reach and greater accessibility and inclusivity.” Technology such as AV, VR and mixed reality connects people and helps them to foster meaningful relationships. Advances in personalization and data analytics help planners tailor experiences and deliver meaningful content like never before. For these reasons, event design only grows more imaginative and experiential.
Talk around sustainability is rising as well, she says. “This will continue to be an important issue as it relates not only to the protection of our environment but the way it resonates with socially conscious event participants,” she says. “The industry is committed to diversity and inclusion, embracing a wider range of voices and perspectives to help enhance and appeal to a broader audience.” Like many leading planners, she is committed to producing events that collaborate with local businesses, artists and communities to create unity with the destination and boost the local economy.
We can’t forget about wellness either. People have widely begun to prioritize their mental and physical health and incorporate wellness into events. She shared examples of yoga sessions, mindful workshops and quiet spaces, all of which help attendees destress and recharge. When attendees have more time in-between sessions, she says, they can better digest information and enjoy an event that feels meaningful and purposeful.
The CMP Today
When Dolecki first looked into applying for the CMP designation, she remembers, she organized a manila folder with all her paperwork and supporting documents. “The digital transformation—from the application to the test itself—helped make the process a lot less daunting.” Today, applicants can track their continuing education process through EIC’s online portal. On EIC’s website, they can access numerous resources and FAQs.
“Change is inevitable,” she says. “The one constant concerning the CMP certification that I have seen over the last 20+ years is that it is still widely recognized throughout the world as the premier industry certification that distinguishes holders as career professionals who have demonstrated a high level of experience, skill and knowledge.”
Read More: Get to Know Constance Samuels, CMP