Tarin Horan, CMP, knew that meeting planning was the industry for her when she began interning with sports teams. She originally earned a bachelor’s degree in history with a political science minor, intending to go to law school. Afterwards, she began working in sports, as a customer service and community relations manager with DC United. In this role, she planned their season ticket holder events. “I was hooked,” she says.
After working at two startups, she joined Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC) as an event coordinator. After two years of hard work, she was promoted to director of programs and events and led the events team. Now, she serves as NVTC’s vice president of events and sponsorships.
Her career path boils down to one of her favorite quotes: Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” Horan says, “I love what I do. I love working with our members and designing great event experiences with fantastic speakers and content.”
Preparing for the Exam
She remembers, “When I first started out, I was a sponge trying to learn as much as possible.” She attended several events, webinars and conferences. There, she learned of the CMP designation. “The CMPs were people to look up to, the best of the best. As I grew as an event professional, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it—that I had the knowledge to be a CMP.”
She studied for the exam on her own but urges future candidates to look to the valuable learning and collaboration opportunities of study groups. As she prepared for the exam herself, she turned to vendors for many of her questions. “For example, the AV team I worked with was generous with their time and answered all of my questions about AV terms I didn’t know,” she says. “I learned a lot, and it was great for relationship building on both sides.” Horan’s reliance on her professional network as a way to prepare for the CMP exam is a shining example of creative ways to learn, and to develop meaningful professional relationships along the way.
As future CMPs study for the exam, Horan says, “Don’t get overwhelmed with the amount of information. Take it one section at a time, master it, then move on to the next.” It’s hard work, but being thorough in your preparation, taking your studying step-by-step and keeping a level head is the key to success.
Where She Is Now
As a successful CMP, Horan turns to another favorite quote, this time attributed to Walt Disney: “If you can visualize it, if you can dream it, there’s a way to do it.” Horan turns to this quote when she works to bring her meeting visions to life. “One year, I had the idea to theme our gala as country chic. I worked with our graphic designer and AV partner to bring the theme to life,” she says. “We had string lights in the ballroom, a wine barrel for a podium, wagon wheel and fence decor with a metal ridged backdrop. When you entered the room, you were transported to an event in the country.”
None of these events can come together without constant communication. “We are a small but mighty team,” Horan says. She explains that they hold a pre-con meeting to assign everyone their duties, and her team checks in regularly throughout the event. Horan shared a third favorite quote—Henry Ford said, “Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.” She encourages her team to be solution oriented. “Things are going to go wrong no matter how hard we plan to prevent them.” In the face of things going wrong, she wants her team to think on their feet and be strong problem-solvers.
Over her 20 years at NVTC, her team has produced a long list of memorable events. “We have had incredible speakers from U.S. senators to Virginia governors to supreme court justices to CEOs of big tech companies,” she explains. “My members may tell you about the time we had a living statue painted gold, or about the time we used video mapping at the start of the program.”
Horan says that she can also attribute her success to her company environment. “My CEO constantly challenges me to look at things differently, to be a continuous learner and to try new things,” she says. Just last year, she oversaw the marketing and events team. In this role, she worked hard to improve the email marketing strategy; as a result of her and her team’s efforts, their events began selling out. Horan’s commitment to her team and her drive to learn continue to propel her even further in her career, and she certainly upholds the reputation of the CMP designation as a badge of honor.
The industry sees many new tools coming coming in, which is endlessly exciting to Horan. “There are so many new technologies that are being developed right now that will help in all aspects of events, from the user experience at the event, to marketing and registration,” she says. “It is only going to get better and easier.”
She feels thrilled to see the continuing growth of resources available for CMP candidates. There are more study groups, more prep courses and, overall, more help and support for people currently preparing for the exam.
“The wealth of knowledge I learned while studying for the CMP has helped me immensely over the years. I have taken that knowledge and used it to improve our events, budgeting and marketing.” Horan shows just how wide of a scope in professional knowledge the CMP designation can offer those who hold it and those who are earning it.
She says, “The industry certainly looks to the CMP as the gold standard for meeting professionals, and more and more companies are looking for the CMP certification when hiring for their event positions.”
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