Growing up, Allyson Gee, CMP Fellow, told everyone she would be an artist one day. “Then,” she says, “I realized traditional art, like drawing or painting, wasn’t my gift.” Her gift, she would later discover, lay elsewhere.

Fast forward to the present day, and you’ll find her working as event venue manager at Hines@Airbnb. “I may not have grown up to be a professional artist in a traditional sense,” Gee says, “but I can confidently say events are now my canvas and the details have the greatest impact on how an event is received.”

Gee was born and raised in San Francisco, and still lives there today. Raised by parents who were both purchasing managers in their respective fields—her mother for a clothing manufacturer, and her father for a Bay Area hotel—Gee says, “I could spot a thread out of place or a lightbulb out in a hallway from a mile away.

“Unbeknownst to the younger me, my mother’s passion for the smallest of details, and my father’s hospitality background inevitably influenced who I am today.”

Becoming a CMP

While she was in college, working as an intern in hotels, Gee noticed that many catering managers and conference service managers had the designation “CMP” following their names. When she asked her father what it meant, all he really knew was that it was “a prestigious accolade that signified they knew what they were doing.”

Upon landing her first job after graduating from college, Gee’s manager was a CMP. “She was young, really understood the industry, encouraged me to get connected to others in the industry and showed me the ropes. I really looked up to her,” Gee says. “I knew I looked young and sounded even younger on the phone. In my mind, in order to have more clout so people would take me seriously, I had to get my CMP. I wanted people to see my name and for them to know I knew what I was doing.

“I set a goal to attain my CMP as soon as I was eligible.”

And achieve this goal she did. Right before her 26th birthday, Gee was notified that she had passed the CMP exam.

Studying for the Exam

All CMPs—and future CMPs—know the exam is no walk in the park. Preparing can be a months-long process, but those who have been through it know that the time spent studying was a worthwhile investment of their energy.

The first piece of advice Gee offers is, “Get the books and read the books. The test is based solely on the material from the books and is less about what you may have learned on the job.” She also, like many CMPs, recommends joining a study group or having a study partner and taking practice exams. “I forced myself to read a chapter from each book each night before going to bed. Then I took the practice questions over and over until I was able to get them all correct. [It was] a lot of drills, memorization and note taking.”

Maintaining a regular study plan is key—and so is the willingness to dedicate yourself. “Consider giving yourself a deadline to take the test so you can’t keep pushing it out,” Gee says. “[In the] week leading up to the test, I decided to take a week off from work to really cram.” And it paid off. She passed on her first attempt.

The CMP’s Impact

“When I first earned my CMP, it gave me more confidence to be a planning partner. I felt like I belonged in the same room with folks who had been in the industry for years,” Gee says.

After becoming a CMP, she was asked to present and teach classes for MPI Northern California Chapter’s CMP University, and later was invited to serve as a co-chair for the committee. “I’ve met so many wonderful people through teaching the class and organizing the sessions,” she says. “It warms my heart to be connected with so many smart people from all areas of the industry.”

The CMP Fellow accreditation is another step up. “With the CMP Fellow program, CMPs who have given back to the industry, as well as continue to keep up with their CMP accreditation, are being recognized,” she says.

Gee also considers herself fortunate to have attended CMP Advance twice, an annual conference where CMPs gather to learn and connect. “I left thinking it was one of the best educational conferences I’ve ever attended. The speakers were knowledgeable, the sessions were well thought out, and the level of education was perfect for those in attendance,” she says.

Looking Forward

As Gee looks toward the future, she is excited to see how the trends of hybrid meetings and technological developments will evolve. She feels a growing desire among all people who touch the events world to gather in person. “As our industry continues to recover in a post-pandemic world, our challenges continue to evolve,” she says. “Requests now seem to be a mix of what’s possible and what’s less possible, expectations of planners have shifted, and even more apparent is that people are relearning what it’s like to interact in-person with each other again.

“Hybrid meetings are here to stay. Instead of trying to push back on these developments, I find this all to be exciting.”

Gee concluded: “As people continue to try to gather in person as much as possible, our challenge is to do this in meaningful ways, providing space and ideas to foster these connections. Then once business travel starts to pick back up, the overall industry will continue to rebound.”

Read More: CMP Spotlight: Get to Know Aaron Wolowiec, CMP Fellow