When I graduated from college with a degree in criminal justice, my goal was to work for the
federal government, such as the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms or FBI. My dad, who
was executive director for the Wisconsin Institute of Certi;ied Public Accountants, asked if I would
help out at registration for an upcoming conference. One conference turned into two, three and
eventually a full-time event planning job. The job had everything I was looking for in my career ;ield:
working with people (albeit law-abiding people), travel and variety. I also decided that I would live a
safer life and rather than carrying a gun I would arm myself with RFPs and ESGs.
Being at the genesis of defining a degree in event management—the Meeting and Event Management
Degree Program at Madison College—has been profound. I will never forget the day a student walked into
my of;ice and said, “I want to be a meeting planner.” I smiled and wished our entire community could hear
it. I knew right then and there that our profession advanced from my generation of planner that “fell into
the industry” to a profession of choice for the next generation. Having the opportunity to shape the minds
and hearts of the next generation is a gift. Being able to tap into hopes and dreams and make them reality is
something I don’t take for granted, and I’m honored every day to be on that journey with my students.
So much of our industry’s energy is put towards what events consume—sleeping rooms, F&B,
transportation—instead of on what we create. As event professionals we create community. We create
experiences that offer a place for collaboration and innovation. I often think about how we can reposition
meeting planning from an activity to a career that claims its place as an instrument of transformation.
Meeting and event professionals are in the business of driving innovation and inspiring hearts and minds
to solve problems for today’s complex world. When we do that, we really move our profession and industry forward.
I met the love of my life, my wife Marge Anderson, in 1996 at the MPI Professional Education Conference in Nashville, Tenn. We didn’t know each other, even though we were/are both from Wisconsin. I’ll
always be grateful to MPI for bringing us together. The best thing that has ever happened to me has been
Our industry has given me the opportunity to explore and re;ine different aspects of my skills and
abilities as a planner and business professional. Event management is a complex, dynamic, multi-faceted career. Having opportunities to learn, re;ine those skills and build business acumen and professional
skills on top of that has been profound.
My mom always told me I could do anything I put my mind to. It gave me the
con;idence to work in a profession that was young and unde;ined as a planner,
Janet Sperstad, CMP,
is director of the Meeting
and Event Management Degree
Program at Madison ( Wis.)
College. She has been an MPI
member since 1986.
JANET SPERSTAD, CMP
MPI WISCONSIN CHAP TER
Photo by Orange Photography