Against all odds

By Nguyen Xuan Dinh on 13/03/2017

Overcoming language and network barriers to become the first Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) in Vietnam.

I love what I do because I want to find new experiences and make things possible: from what I imagine into what is delivered. Creativity is also one thing that I want to develop. Every event is different, and creative thinking makes things happen closer to what you expect and want it to be. I also get to meet new people in the industry, see our clients happy with our delivery and share and talk to people doing the same work I do.

Working in this industry and at Pacific World (PW), I get the freedom to think out-of-the-box and find new things that meet clients’ expectations. Every event, from large to small, from short lead time to long-term planning, we need to foresee things that may or may not affect the events and find a solution for each of them. I also get to be in touch with new technology and new trends within PW and at industry events.

However, in Vietnam, there are no professional networks that I can join, discuss with and develop professionally. There are only people working together for events and they talk and share. It is a closed group and they are not willing to share about new things, new technology or what event professionals need to know in order to stay ahead of the game.

It is hard to find a class that teaches you the knowledge needed. For example, you can’t find an Audio/Visual class when you want to be an A/V professional and work with A/V in events.

There is also little support from the local government: when you have a request of a large conference group that looks for grants or sponsorship from the local government in order for them to bring the conference to your destination, you can’t find any sponsorship or grants (unless you as a planner work with the contacts that you know are government officers).

Despite these, i chose to complete the CMP certification as it was an inviting title for me. I did not even know the certification exists until I joined the Professional Conference Management (PCM) and CMP courses organised by the Singapore Association of Conference and Exhibition Organisers and Suppliers (SACEOS).

I really wanted to acquire the certification as this was created by and for the meeting professional. Through the course, I got to know what event professionals think, do and apply to their work. I got to know the professional standards. Above all, it provides me with a necessary tool to be successful in my work.

The word CMP was new to me and to the event professionals in my country. After the three-day course in Singapore, I spent time to read and really study. Even when I read the books twice, some of the knowledge felt new to me.

Some of the challenges I faced include:

  • CMP study group - there is no study group in my destination so I needed to search online and find one to join for three months.
  • Language barrier - as English is not my first language, I needed to look up the dictionary and Google for the new terms that are not available in the dictionary. I had to record the lectures and listen again when I had some free time whenever I didn't understand what the trainer is saying in English.
  • Difference in time zones - the class is at 8 pm, while it is 8 am in my hometown – time to work. So I needed to organise my time well.
  • Buddy - I did not have anyone speaking Vietnamese to discuss with and ask questions when I didn’t understand. Instead, I have to read again and again, guess, and look up the internet.
  • Sitting for the online exam for four consecutive hours. I had to do a trial twice before sitting for the exam.

Professional development is important to get yourself updated with knowledge in the industry. In connected communities, there are many channels a meeting planner can find information and compare. Planners are now younger and more technologically savvy. In order to be selected as a destination management company (DMC) for events in my destination, I need to know what they expect, study new things and be ready when asked. We also need to speak the same language as clients.

Fortunately, more and more events are happening in Vietnam. The events come in different sizes. More and more organisations want to bring their events to Vietnam, as some of them said they want to bring the meeting out of the US and Europe. Event companies in two big cities Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi can handle large corporate events or international events in Vietnam.

I encourage budding event professionals to ask questions and contribute to the event planning process and operations, as well as brainstorm on the new and fresh ideas in the destination.

Nguyen Xuan Dinh (Danny) is an Account Manager for Pacific World in Vietnam and has been in the meetings and events industry since 2006, having worked for Sofitel Legends Metropoles as an events manager working on meetings, caterings and banquet services.

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