Becoming an Event Planner

young woman writing in a planner while sitting in front of a laptop
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While it may seem like being an event planner is about throwing great parties, it's more about creating programs that address the purpose, message, or impression that your client is trying to communicate.

Event planners work long 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. 

The U.S. Department of Labor lists this occupation under the title of Meeting and Convention Planners, which should give you an idea of just how serious they take the profession:

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.

Skills Needed to Be an Event Planner

To be successful, event planners must possess a variety of skills. Foremost, they should excel with verbal and written communications and have exceptional organization and time management skills. It’s also essential for them to have project management experience and be able to multitask. 

Self-starters who work great with a team and can remain calm and personable under pressure also tend to do really well. Negotiation, budget, and staff management skills are also necessary, as well as being able to interact with all levels of management. Successful event planners also have developed sensibilities when it comes to venue selection, catering, production, entertainment, gifts, transportation, lodging, and conference services.

Having a Degree Helps, But It’s Not Imperative

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 planners begin in other professions or enter through administrative roles that include meeting planning responsibilities.

How to Get Started as an Event Planner

Starting a career as an event planner can feel overwhelming at first. Having an action plan and 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.