SDSU Meeting and Event Planning Program Constantly Evolving to Meet Industry Needs

Annette Gregg

Annette Gregg

Annette Gregg has been an essential part of San Diego State University’s Professional Certificate in Meeting and Event Planning since the popular program began in 1993. For decades, she’s been sharing her expertise as both instructor and advisor. As the senior vice president of Allied PRA, which offers a full-range of destination management services for clients around the world, Gregg is uniquely qualified to guide the discussion of where the SDSU program needs to go.

“As a leadership team, we review the course offerings every year to make sure they’re current and addressing the evolving needs of the meetings and event industry,” said Gregg, winner of the Planner of the Year award from the Meeting Professionals International San Diego chapter in 2016. “We saw a trend in students wanting to start their own business, so we added Starting Your Own Business several years ago and it’s a consistently sold-out course. Due to global trends in terrorism and security, we added an event safety course to our line-up recently. We also extend the duration of courses when student feedback clearly shows a need for more time on a topic, like contract negotiations. It’s been successful for over 20 years, and we want to ensure the SDSU program stays relevant and current for students.”

Gregg answered a few questions about the industry and SDSU’s program.

Who could benefit from taking courses in the program?
We know that a lot of people in our industry end up as meeting and event planners by chance in their company. They might be an administrative assistant or marketing coordinator and then they’re tasked to put on face-to-face events. The SDSU Meeting and Event Planning program really fills the gap by giving the education that’s needed — the baseline education for someone who might be new or somewhat a junior to the industry. The target audience for the program is someone who’s either investigating the industry or someone who is probably newer to intermediate in the industry. These courses are going to give a good cross-section of what the meeting and event industry has to offer and what are some of the core competencies a person needs to have to succeed in the industry. We spend a lot of time giving a broad overview of the basic skill sets that are needed.

What do you think is the biggest strength of SDSU’s program?
The number-one difference — and its biggest strength — is that the classes are taught by professionals currently working in the meeting and event industry. This is way beyond theory, we teach from a practical point of view. Our stories are current and from our actual experience, so we can give students the most relevant and real picture possible. The tools and information we share will immediately help students with their event needs. We also have powerful local networks that we leverage for the students to help with finding them internships, mentors, and jobs.

Tell us about your course, Professional Development.
We added Professional Development several years ago because we noticed that in addition to learning the core competencies of meeting and event planning, having general business and professional skills are critical to advancing in your career. This class covers competencies that are applicable in any industry: communication skills, self-branding, stress management, career pathing, positive thinking. Students don’t learn those skills in formalized education settings and they are often differentiators in the workplace. This is routinely one of the highest-rated classes we offer each semester and I feel it’s because we don’t often have the time or settings to discuss these life skills.

What tips do you have for current or aspiring meeting and event planners?
Grow your professional curiosity. By asking questions, taking chances, pushing yourself, you will stave off boredom and becoming stale in your work. Your clients will appreciate that you will never do the same event the same way, just because it’s easy.

Embrace change and variety of job tasks.
This industry rarely offers the luxury of working on one thing at a time. You will be interrupted with unforeseen circumstances constantly, disrupting your plan. If you are comfortable with not being able to see each step through to perfection, you will save yourself a lot of stress.

Think hospitality. The big difference between straight project manage­ment and meeting and event planning is that we do what we do for audiences. If you find the attendees or the volunteers a “hassle,” it might not be a good career for you. We will be faced with long to-do lists to get the meeting and event pulled off, but we can never be ef­ficient at the expense of kindness to whom the meeting is for in the first place.

Anything you’d like to add?
If you like a job where every day is different, you can use your creative right brain along with our logical left, and you get energized by people, then embrace your inner meeting planner and join us.

Learn more about SDSU’s Meeting and Event Planning program at