June 9, 2010

A new professional association taking shape in Missouri will keep a finger on the pulse of the medical meeting planning industry.

Planners will get a formal introduction to the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association (IMMPA) when it launches at this year’s Missouri Meetings and Events Expo in Kansas City on November 3, 2009.  The association, which was founded in June of this year, has offices in St. Louis and Beijing, China.  Its purpose is to advance and support health-care meeting professionals through advocacy, education, certification and research.  The St. Louis office will reach out to U.S. planners, and the Beijing office will serve China, Hong Kong and Macau.

   Led in St. Louis by meeting and event veteran Pat Schaumann and her daughter Marissa Wolfard, both of whom are certified meeting professionals, IMMPA aims to provide service and networking opportunities.  “There are 98,000 medical meetings a year in this country, from small dinner events and pharmaceutical launches to large conferences,” says Schaumann.  “But right now, things are fairly fragmented in planning for this industry.  There have been some small professional networks in different states, but there was definitely a need for a more central, formalized organization.”

   “From the feedback we’ve gotten, we know that the biggest need out there is simply to bring medical meeting planners together,” says Lisa McNutt, vice president of the Durham, N.C.-based Professional Meeting Planners Network, which was instrumental in the formation of IMMPA.  “There’s really no other association that does that.  IMMPA gives planners ‘instant colleagues’ they can easily be in touch with to help make their meetings more successful.

   “It’s important for international planners to be able to learn about medical meeting compliance in other countries, too,” McNutt adds.  “If you are located in Italy, and you are doing a meeting in London, for example, you need to know what the laws are there. As another example, here in the U.S., the federal government stipulates how much can be spent per person on continuing medical education dinners and meetings. IMMPA will be a clearinghouse for this type of information.”


   IMMPA will offer planners the opportunity to earn a new designation, the Certified Medical Meeting Professional, according to Schaumann.  “There’s a test available out there for it, but we’ll re-engineer it a bit and add new textbooks and professional requirements,” she says. “We are working on that now.”

   Schaumann says pharmaceutical makers and other health-care companies already have expressed interest in having their entire planning departments test for CMMP certification.

   “We hope to do some physical test sites a couple times a year,” Schaumann says.  “The education component is a key reason we are aligning with Missouri Meetings and Events Expo to launch the association.  We will offer our first round of training for certification at the Kansas City expo.”  Planners at the MM&E event also will be invited to share their thoughts on programs and services they would like to see IMMPA offer.

   “The medical meeting education industry is very strong on the East Coast, with a number of pharmaceutical companies headquartered in New York and New Jersey,” Schaumann says. “There are already good shows and conferences there in the medical field.  But we don’t have the same level of that in the Midwest. That’s another reason we are choosing to launch the association here, at the MM&E Expo, and establish our headquarters in St. Louis.”  IMMPA currently is looking at commercial office space in the city of St. Louis, and plans to open headquarters there soon, she says.


   According to Schaumann, the new association and its programs will be open to all planners connected with health care, including those in the mental health, dental and veterinary fields.  It will sponsor conferences and scholarships in addition to its professional development opportunities. And in October 2009, IMMPA plans to roll out BizKit IQ, a bundled technology, software and business management program to help independent meeting planners start their own firms.

   “So many people in the meeting planning industry are being laid off from companies and organizations, and many are trying to survive as independents,” Schaumann says.  “Helping them is one of my first aims.”

   Membership goals for the association are already in place, according to Schaumann.  “We’d like to capture about ten percent of the market the first year,” she says. “I would estimate there are close to 20,000 medical meeting planners in the United States alone.”

   Plans also are afoot to promote the new organization to medical planners via industry publications, press releases and newsletters.

   “We’re glad to have the association be Missouri-based,” Schaumann adds. “We really want to drive people to the Midwest.  It’s an affordable area, and it’s good for the state to bring them here.”


   IMMPA is owned by Schaumann’s St. Louis-based meeting and event management company, Meeting IQ.  James Montague, owner and chairman of the Durham, N.C.-based Professional Meeting Planners Network, was instrumental in shaping the direction of the new association, she says.

   IMMPA’s founding members are Schaumann, Wolfard, Montague, David Gillette and Paul Lam.  Hailing Wang is director of the organization’s Beijing office.  The association is endorsed by, and partners with, the Professional Meeting Planners Network; Meeting IQ; event production and communications company Image Technologies Corp.; and meeting, incentive and destination management firm China Connect.

   At this writing, a new IMMPA Web site,, is under development. It will soon feature a wealth of information on networking, educational and certification programs offered by the association.

   “We want to help medical meeting planners stay in the game,” Schaumann says. “It may not have been necessary to become certified 10 years ago, but it’s definitely important now. There is a lot more competition than there used to be, and the medical industry is complex and highly regulated.  Education is of paramount importance for planners in this field.”

   Visit http://www.meetingIQ.comfor more information.

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