Becoming an Event Planner

young woman writing in a planner while sitting in front of a laptop
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Anyone interested in becoming an event planner should begin by understanding that it is not party planning. This is the case whether you're considering a path with social events or corporate events. The final program may appear as if the profession is about throwing great parties, but the event planning professional focuses on the rationale or goal of having an event, and whether it is achieved. And the real work is in the details that lead up to the event.

Meeting and Convention Planners

A quick search of the U.S. Department of Labor will educate you that the government classifies this occupation under the title of Meeting and Convention Planners. That can serve as the first clue that this is a much more serious profession. The U.S. Department of Labor introduces the nature of this work as follows:

Meetings and conventions bring people together for a common purpose, and meeting and convention planners work to ensure that this purpose is achieved seamlessly. Meeting planners coordinate every detail of meetings and conventions, from the speakers and meeting location to arranging for printed materials and audio-visual equipment. Meeting and convention planners work for nonprofit organizations, professional and similar associations, hotels, corporations, and government. Some organizations have internal meeting planning staffs, and others hire independent meeting and convention planning firms to organize their events.

The event planner creates programs that address the purpose, message or impression that their organization or client is trying to communicate. Event planners work long and non-traditional hours to plan and execute all details related to a variety of meeting formats including seminars, conferences, trade shows, executive retreats, incentive programs, golf events, conventions, and other programs.

Successful Event Planners — Developed Skills

  • Verbal and written communications
  • Organization and time management
  • Project management and multitasking
  • Self-starter and team player
  • Understand Microsoft Office applications
  • Detail and deadline oriented
  • Calm and personable under pressure
  • Negotiation
  • Budget management
  • Staff management
  • Marketing and public relations
  • Interpersonal skills with all levels of management

Successful Event Planners Developed Knowledge

  • Venue selection
  • Catering
  • Production
  • Entertainment
  • Gifts
  • Transportation
  • Lodging
  • Conference Services

Those who pursue a career in event planning come from a variety of professions and academic backgrounds. Many employers prefer a bachelor's degree in hospitality management, business administration, marketing, public relations, or communications. However, many successful planners begin in other professions or enter through administrative roles that include meeting planning responsibilities.

Skills You Need to Be an Event Planner

You don't need a background in event planning to get started, but the qualities of a good event planner can include: 

How to Get Started as an Event Planner

Starting a career as an event planner can feel overwhelming at first. It often feels like there's so much to know and so little time to learn it all. However, with an action plan and by taking small steps each week, you will soon have the skills and knowledge you need to succeed as an event planner. Attention to detail matters, as an event planner, so plan your move into event planning the same way you'd plan your next event — with a plan and a strategy. Here are steps to getting started: 

  • Volunteer your time with a non-profit organization or another business like a catering company, florist, event designer, or another event planner. 
  • If you're already planning events for another event company or planner, move into a position of authority and take on more responsibility. By showing your value and knowledge, it's often as simple as asking your event manager for more work or responsibility. 
  • Get out there and network. Join associations like Meeting Planners International or the International Special Events Society, for example. The more people you know and the more relationships you develop in the industry, the easier it is to build your event planning career.
  • Create an event portfolio to showcase your expertise and knowledge.
  • In addition to developing relationships with other event planners, network with outside vendors or partners, like caterers, musicians or media personalities, to increase your exposure and circle of influence.