As meeting planners, you are probably quite familiar with the value of education and certification through a formal testing process. Whether the certification is CMP, CSEP, CMM, CEM or another designation, this is a symbol of professionalism and commitment to the industry. The same goes for membership in professional associations such as Meeting Professionals International, Professional Convention Managers Association or International Special Events Society. So, when evaluating your AV professionals, what designations or industry affiliations should you be looking for?
Currently, there is one primary certification available to AV professionals that is recognized around the world and the only one accredited by the American National Standards Institute. This is the Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) certification program, offered by InfoComm International. The job description of a CTS, as determined by InfoComm, is “a Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) performs general technology solution tasks by creating, operating and servicing AV solutions, while conducting AV management activities which provide for the best audiovisual resolutions of the client’s needs, both on time and within budget.” To achieve the certification, a CTS must have particular experience and undergo testing similar to that of a CMP.
Another certification is the Entertainment Technician Certification Program. This program is offered through the Entertainment Services & Technology Association. The specific topics for certification fall under “rigging” and “entertainment electrician.” This certification is geared towards safety issues and is highly technical in nature.
In addition to, or in place of, certification, you should always inquire of your service provider as to any specialized training or education they require of their employees. For instance, you can inquire as to what percentage of their staff holds CTS or other professional certifications, and if new hires must undergo any training. Also important to consider is the job experience of those technicians who will be working your events; when your budget is easily in the tens of thousands of dollars, asking for an informal resume isn’t an unreasonable request!
As for affiliations, membership in InfoComm and ESTA, plus meetings industry-specific associations, demonstrate support of the industry as a whole. Occasionally, some AV pros will have a CMP or CSEP designation. While this may not be a technical certification, it certainly equates to a clearer understanding of and sympathy for the needs and processes of you, the meeting planner.