What is an Event Planner?
From meetings to weddings, conferences to sporting competitions, and expositions to
political fundraisers, event planners are individuals or teams responsible for establishing
dates, goals, objectives, themes, venues, staffing, marketing, décor, transportation,
food and beverage, entertainment and on-site logistics and management.
As an event planner, you will work for a company, non-profit or government entity, or run your
own event planning and management consulting firm. Whether you choose to specialize—focusing
on meeting or wedding planning exclusively for example—or provide services for a wide
range of event types, you will need training, experience and a comprehensive understanding
of the art and science of bringing people together for a common purpose.
The event management industry is highly competitive. In the United States as of 2010, the $7 billion
event management industry was comprised of about 3,500 companies, the top 50 of which
grossed approximately 45% of the industries revenues. However, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS) indicates that the industry will grow 16% in the next decade and employ
approximately 66,000 meeting and convention planners by 2018. By 2005, the wedding planning
industry was about 15,000 people strong; although BLS does not compile detailed statistics about
this industry sector, they do combine data on wedding and funeral professions and which
indicates steady growth there as well. As an event planner, there are a number of
objectives you must incorporate in each event. The first objective is to identify the event’s
primary goal, and any secondary goals. For example, the primary goal for a company building
a hybrid vehicle might be to introduce it to as many people as possible by showing and
demonstrating it for a period of time at the main entrance of major science and industry
museums nationwide. A secondary goal for this touring exhibition might be a “green”
event initiative in which the sales mission is augmented by demonstrating a green car
while using a paperless planning and management system.
Once the overall goal or goals of the event itself are established, the event planner
works with the client to develop the overall vision for the event. The event vision for
this hybrid car tour includes, but are not limited to:
* Choosing event dates and venues where other exhibits are drawing large crowds and the
chance of conflicting events or inclement weather limiting attendance are unlikely.
* Determining how much time will be required for transporting the vehicle from venue to
venue. * What the display will look like; should
it be futuristic or evoke an environmentally friendly and healthy feeling through use of
greenery and running water. * What will the presentation be? Will there
be a canned presentation running on a video screen, or will the vehicle be attended by
knowledgeable models who will simply chat with visitors and answer their questions?
Once the overall objectives of the event are targeted and fleshed out, the event planner
will nail down the specifics of the event process and implementation.
For the hybrid car tour or any other event, it is the event planners responsibility to
make sure every detail is included in the plan and process. At the very least, every
event planner, for every event, is responsible for:
* The plan: The plan, a written document with timelines and checklists, relates all of the
steps that need to be taken to the vision of the event. It may be many years long for
very large events, and it serves as the blueprint for the event.
* The budget: Perhaps the most critical element of the plan is the budget; it establishes
how much can be spent and drives all of the event planning decisions.
* The Location and venue: A well chosen location and venue will enhance the experience of attendees
and reflect the goals and vision of the event; conversely, a poorly chosen location can ruin
an event. * The agenda: Even simple events need a schedule
of activities and responsibilities during the event, whether this includes a roster
of speakers and topics, or the staff scheduling at an exhibit booth.
* The contracts: Always, always in writing, contracts must be negotiated and signed by
the planner and any and all venue and service providers.
* The permits and insurance: Without these in place, authorities can close an event down
without notice, at any time. * The staff: Both paid and volunteer staff
are critical to a good event and should include specialists in financials, legalities, risk
management and other key areas. * The speakers, models, entertainment, etc.:
These people need to be identified and contracted with well in advance; they also need regular
reminders of their commitment and special services on-site.
* The marketing: From invitations to securing press coverage, marketing the event is the
responsibility of the planner. * The transportation: If the happening is
a destination event, it is the responsibility of the planner to help make the travel easy
and comfortable. Transfers from location to location during the event are also part of
the planning. * The on-site logistics: Once the planner
and management team arrive at a venue, all the facets of the plan must come together
seamlessly in order to give the attendees the best possible experience.
* The overall success of the event: At the end of the day, it is the event planner’s
responsibility to make each event a success in the eyes of the client and all the attendees.
There are dozens of qualities and event planner and manager must have in equal measure. Depending
on the event, some qualities may be called upon more than ever, but you must:
* Be a good communicator: Your vendors, staff, client and attendees all rely on you to keep
communication positive, effective and open. * Have superb organizational skills: You’ll
have dozens of balls to juggle for every event, figuring out how to keep them all in the air
at the same time is critical. * Be an excellent motivator and manager of
people: You need your team because you can’t do it alone; make sure you are capable of
managing the team members effectively and compassionately.
* Have passion for your profession: If you don’t love what you do, it will show in
the results. * Be flexible: Even the best laid plans can
get destroyed in moments; expect it and be prepared to change boats mid-rapids.
* Have great stamina: You may be on your feet for 16 hours a day during the event and just
before it; event planning is not for the faint of heart.
* Be a time management guru: Everybody will rely on you to set the example of getting
the most done in the least time. * Have a level head: Don’t lose your cool
and have confidence in your ability to think clearly even in the most trying times.
* Be creative and innovative: Don’t fall back on any conventions in your planning unless
they are perfect for your event; bring fresh, new ideas and enhancements to every detail.
* Maintain grace under fire: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer by communicating
clearly, calmly and concisely at all times. * Command respect: Do good work with great
style. * Be a multi-tasker: Remember, you’ll have
dozens of balls in the air at all times. Dozens! * Be a team player: This cannot be emphasized
enough—you can not do it alone. * Have an eye for and commitment to detail:
Detail is what separates okay events from fantastic events.
* Possess extensive industry expertise: Before you start an event plan, do your research
about the industry your client is in; know your client, the attendee base, the current
trends, etc. * Be capable of thinking on your feet while
never letting them see you sweat. There are a number of ethical issues that
arise when you plan an event. During the planning stages, you may be “romanced”
by destination managers. People who are in the business of selling event venues and space,
encourage site selection visits—or familiarization (fam) trips—by putting you up for free and
perhaps wining and dining you. While this can be great fun and very useful, if you really
aren’t planning to use a certain venue, it is unethical to take a fam trip to it.
Often, vendors will offer event planners incentives like gifts or front-row tickets to an event.
This is not an unethical practice necessarily. Showing appreciation for a business associate
by gifting them is fine as long as it is within reason, and the gift is not used to garner
favor. It is up to you, the event planner, to draw an ethical line in the sand where
incentives are involved. The same considerations should be given to
rebates and kick-backs. Yes, receiving room block rebates can really help your budget,
but don’t choose a hotel, for example, that really isn’t ideal for the event’s purposes
just because they offer a rebate incentive program.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 figures indicate meeting and convention planners average
between $35,000 and $58,000 a year. As of 2008, specific salary breakdowns by
client industry include: Management, scientific, and technical consulting
services: $49,600 Business, professional, labor, political,
and similar organizations: $47,670 Other support services: $44,290
Colleges, universities, and professional schools: $41,860
Traveler accommodation: $41,470 Industries like wedding planning don’t publish
exact salary data because some planners only do one or two events a year and may only make
$5,000 while others do dozens and make over $250,000.
BLS statistics additionally indicate that event planners with bachelor’s degrees and
event management certifications were viewed more favorably by employers. Furthermore,
the opportunities for freelance planners and event planning companies are increasing as
businesses try to keep the overhead of in-house event planning down.
With education, experience, certification, and the qualities discussed in this presentation,
your career as an event planner is readily available.