“When I was little, I had this wild dream of becoming a truck driver,” says Teri Jakob, CMP. “Picture a tiny me with big aspirations of cruising cross-country, soaking in the sights, and never settling down in one place for too long.
“Fast forward to today, I may not be behind the wheel of a big rig, but boy, do I still love to drive! Life took a delightful turn, and instead of trucking, I found myself globe-trotting.”
As an adult, she stumbled into non-profit work, which later sparked her passion for event planning. She is now associate director of special events at UPMC Pinnacle Foundation.
When it comes to busy event days, she leans on her people. “We understand each other in a way no one else does,” she says. “Staying in touch with my event friends, both onsite and off, keeps me going. Getting a text mid-event from one of them wishing me luck and asking me what flavor coffee I need makes my day—and knowing they are thinking of me really makes my day. We keep each other going.”
Discovering the CMP
“I love to study, learn and try new things,” says Jakob. “I have taken a hands-on approach, diving headfirst into volunteering at countless community events, immersing myself in conferences, and tapping into the wisdom of industry leaders—both locally and nationally.”
She learned about the CMP a few years before she began to pursue it, feeling intimidated at first. “It had been a long time since I was in school, and the cost was enough to scare me off. I did not want to let myself or my boss down if I didn’t pass. I decided I would ease my way up to it,” she says. At that point, she pursued the Certified Meeting Manager (CMM) accreditation after talking to people in her Middle Pennsylvania MPI chapter. During that time, she also advanced from the role of committee member to vice president of communications for her chapter.
After continuing to gather experience, Jakob says she felt more confident. From there, she shifted her focus to earning the CMP.
Preparing for the Exam
She started by creating a study plan, broken down week by week. “Creating a study plan will keep you on track,” she says. “Finding a study group or study buddy is a huge help.” Jakob joined her MPI chapter’s study group, where she and her peers developed a detailed 12-week plan and kept each other motivated and on top of their work.
“Having my study group made all the difference. It helped to talk things through and to be held accountable when we wanted to slack off.”
She and her study group bonded through this process, she says, and they still get together regularly. Not only is it a valuable study tool, but a study group is a community of planners who support one another through the process of earning an ambitious designation and share the passion for events that inspires a person to pursue it.
Jakob also encourages taking practice tests. “I read the recommended books, The Events Industry Council Manual and the PCMA Manual and reviewed the questions in the book before doing the readings,” she says. “This way, I knew what the writers wanted me to take away from the chapters. Keep in mind that the EIC book is key—EIC guides the test, so if something in the PCMA book is different, stick with the EIC book for the exam.”
Throughout the study process, Jakob remembers, she used a flashcard app with exam questions that she would review regularly in her free time. “If I were in line at the grocery store or on the bike in physical therapy, I would be reviewing questions.”
Taking the Exam
“Have the confidence in yourself to know you can do it,” Jakob says. “Schedule your exam date early and stick to it. Otherwise, you will keep pushing it off. Hold yourself accountable to the study plan and the date you set for yourself. Study the charts and areas that the book emphasizes. Do not be afraid to talk to others in the industry that have earned their CMP for advice.”
Sitting for the exam is a long process. In addition to being a meeting planner, Jakob is also a nurse. It reminded her of taking her nursing boards, and she remembers being just as nervous taking the CMP exam.
Despite this nervousness, she passed the exam in 2021. “Earning my CMP designation has been a milestone in my career, elevating my skills and professional confidence within the events industry,” she says. “The comprehensive education and rigorous training associated with the CMP have not only deepened my knowledge but also equipped me with a skill set for success in this dynamic field.”
Where is She Now?
Throughout her time in the meetings industry, she has remained committed to staying active with her network and has annually participated in the Catersource + The Special Event Conference. This year, she will be a speaker and presenter there.
She also continues to actively work as a nurse. “It might sound like a strange combination to be an event planner and a nurse but at the root, they are so similar, in vastly diverse ways,” she says. “We are helpers, simply in different situations. Hospitality and hospital both come from the same root word.”
As a planner, she says, “I live to fully embrace a theme…If one were to reflect upon the most splendid of events that graced my production, none would be more unforgettable than the August 2023 Soiree: Promenade on the Riverfront.”
The fundraiser event served The Women’s Behavioral Health Fund, which she describes as “a discreet yet essential endeavor assisting women through the unspoken challenges of life, from post-partum depression to the harsh realities of cancer diagnoses.”
The regency-themed event paired attendees with dance cards, and activities included waltz lessons in the ballroom, croquet on the lawn, a pop-up Modiste shop offering tiaras and a King’s Lounge offering card tables and cocktails. At the entrance, attendees were greeted by a handcrafted “Wisteria Tree of Hope” adorned with notes from patients expressing their hopes for mental health care. “Scandal Papers” from a Lady Healthspire circulated, detailing patient struggles and how contributions will help.
“The August 2023 Soiree proved not only a remarkable event but a testament to the transformative power of compassion and celebration,” says Jakob. “As you can sense, no detail was overlooked from the flowers to the food. It even included a game at the end of the night to guess who our elusive Lady Healthspire might be. It was a memorial and successful inaugural Soiree fundraising event for the UPMC Pinnacle Foundation.”
Just look at what a CMP can do!
“Here’s to a career forged in experience, adorned with hard-earned certifications, and fueled by a passion for the world of events!” says Jakob.