When Brandi Langham made the move to San Diego from Los Angeles, she wanted to get more connected with the meeting and event planning industry, in which she had been working. Through online research, she found the Professional Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning program through SDSU’s College of Extended Studies.
“It was sort of a double whammy for me, as I planned to use the Extended Studies credits for my CMP [Certified Meeting Professional],” said Langham.
A chat with a program instructor led to a connection for Langham that eventually led to her job with Destination Concepts, a San Diego-based, women-owned destination management company that provides highly creative event design and production. Langham answered a few questions about her experience in the SDSU program, and her career.
How important was it that the instructors actually work as meeting and event planners in San Diego?
Extremely. I felt that the information in all my courses was very relevant to the industry, as some of the examples were used in real time. Instructors were able to explain what situations they were dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
What gems of wisdom stuck with you from some of the courses?
The Site Selection and Contract Negotiation course taught me quite a few things, especially when we went to a hotel and did a mock-up for negotiating the contract. The more business you bring to a hotel as far as rooms go, the more flexibility you’ll have with negotiating, and EVERYTHING can be negotiated.
Did you learn anything about the meeting and event planning industry that surprised you?
Not necessarily. I did realize how many different platforms there are within the event industry. Events can go in many directions such as weddings, social events, trade shows, meetings, incentive travel, destination management, hotels, and nonprofit. That is just a broad overview. The list goes on.
How did the program’s networking opportunities ultimately lead to your career with Destination Concepts?
I have always been interested in the incentive travel side of events and took Geraldine Gatehouse’s course. She happened to be the president of SITE SoCal [Society for Incentive Travel Excellence] at the time and had told the class about the association. I spoke with her after class and asked if I could come to one of the meetings. From there I went to a meeting and was introduced to a vendor that Destination Concepts uses frequently. They introduced me to Destination Concepts and here I am three years later. I started with an internship, was promoted to an account coordinator and now I’m an account facilitator. I’m also on the board for SITE SoCal Young Leaders and plan to continue to be involved. I have kept in touch with classmates and have worked with a few on programs, which is pretty neat.
How long did it take to complete the program?
About six months. I did all of my classes back-to-back.
How manageable was it to balance your day job while taking classes?
Very easy to balance both. Classes are at night or on weekends and it was fairly easy for me to plan around that.
What do you think are the top-five skills a meeting and event planner needs?
Organization, attention to detail, communication, people skills, and creativity. I think there is one more to add — the ability to multitask because programs or events will be at different stages of planning so some will be ready to operate and you plan that phase while others may be in the beginning phases. It’s all about switching your brain to jump from one thing to another without getting overwhelmed.
Would you recommend SDSU’s Meeting and Event Planning Professional Certificate program to others?
Absolutely and I have. It’s a great way to learn the industry and see if it’s the right fit for you. This industry isn’t for everyone, as we all know. It’s one of the five most stressful jobs, but when you love what you do, it doesn’t feel that way.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I used to want to be a cosmetic dentist. That dream came to a screeching halt when I fainted at my job shadow in high school. I quickly learned that blood and needles were not my cup of tea.
Anything you’d like to add?
This is a great program. I hope that more people take advantage and stay in touch with their classmates and teachers. It is all about who you know in this industry, so NETWORK like crazy!