Event Planner

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Convention Services Manager (CSM), Conference Planning Manager, Conference Services Manager, Catering Manager, Events Manager, Conference Planner, Conference Manager, Director of Events

Job Description

Event planners organize, plan and coordinate activities to make arrangements for professional events.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • You get what you put in: After years of experience, you can start your own business and you will have the power to decide your schedule/how hard you want to work/how much money you want to make.
  • It’s dynamic: You do sit in an office for part of the job but you are also meeting with clients, vendors, and travelling.
  • It’s a growing industry: It is projected that in the next 10 years there will be more opportunities for planners.

“I’m in the business of creating environments where people relax and have fun.  When the doors open and everything you planned works, it’s a total rush. It is totally gratifying.  Also, you can never stop learning – both about new elements to put into an event and learning about new ways to get people to meet and retain information.” Heather Keenan, President, Key Events, Inc.

The Inside Scoop
Description of Services

DMC- Destination Management Company

  • Provides services based on their extensive local knowledge, expertise and resources specializing in the design and implementation of events, activities, tours, transportation and program logistics.
  • Example) Let’s say a company wants to have a convention on the west coast. That company’s meeting planner chooses San Diego. The meeting planner would hire a DMC who has extensive knowledge of San Diego and already has the relationship with the vendors to arrange local travel (airport transfers, shuttles), meeting and entertainment (a tour of the city, a sporting event, a group dinner…etc).

Meeting Management

  • Organizes and plans large meetings/conferences for companies and organizations.
  • Responsibilities include site selection (which city? What venue?), contract negotiations (vendors, speakers), registration, speaker selection/management, housing, logistics management, financial management, and exhibits.

Event planning

  • This is what you think of when you think of what an event planner does, but in reality, event planning is a small part of an event planner’s book of business. More glamorous and high-profile than the other services but less frequent.
  • Responsibilities include establishing dates, selecting and reserving the event site, budgeting, acquiring permits, coordinating travel/parking, developing theme of the event, arrangement of speakers, arranging décor/rentals, catering and security.
  • Example) Plan a festival, ceremony, competition, party, concert, wedding, company launch party…etc.
Skills Needed on the Job
  • Strong organization skills
  • Communication skills
  • Negotiations skills: Be able to negotiate with vendors and your clients. Have general knowledge of contracts.
  • Physical Stamina: Day of the event you are juggling a lot of tasks and you will be on your feet for many hours.
  • Problem-solving skills and being able to think quick on your feet
  • Inter-personal skills: Good with people. You are able to develop relationships with new people quite easily. Have them trust you.
  • Know how to use digital technology: software to help keep track of your budgeting, scheduling, details.
Where would I work?
  • Event planning company (includes Destination management company)
  • In-house: Corporation, Law Firm, Hotel/Casino, Non-profit…etc.
  • For yourself: many event planners are independent especially wedding planners.
Expectations/Sacrifices Necessary
  • Not regular business hours: Must work nights and weekends since events are not always during the week during regular business hours.
  • It’s tiring: May have to work long hours to make sure everything is set for the event.
  • It can be stressful: Events are a “live” entity. You are performing on a daily basis.
  • May have to work with demanding people.
  • Social events (wedding, Bar Mitzvah, birthday) are the hardest: less pay, more headache b/c you are dealing with emotions, goodbye to summer vacation b/c most wedding are from May-October.
Current Industry Trends
  • In the past, people thought they can be event planners without experience/training b/c of the internet but now people know that event planning is a professional service, needed for the marketing/image of their company.
  • In a down economy, business conferences are the first to go. So corporate event planners might get laid off.
  • Healthcare is a booming industry. So those who specialize in healthcare events, will have a lot of work because health care professionals are obligated to do continuing education and go to conferences to keep up with their professional requirements/licenses. 
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...

“Everything I did when I was young was performance-related whether it was costume design or in fashion, travel. I’m not performing but I’m making a performance happen. Everything I did was an asset to where I eventually ended up.” Heather Keenan, President, Key Events, Inc.

2016 Employment
116,700
2026 Projected Employment
129,400
Education Needed
  • HS Diploma or GED is mandatory.  
  • A 4 year degree is not mandatory but without it, it is more of an uphill battle. Many employers look for the 4-year degree when hiring.
    • Suggested Degrees: Hospitality Management but people with a diverse array of majors enter into this career.
  • If you want to start your own business one day:
    • Suggested Degrees: Marketing, Business Administration, and Accounting.
Credentials

This could look good on your resume; however, EXPERIENCE trumps education/certification. This is just a plus but definitely not something that will automatically get you a job or clients.

Certified Meeting Professional

It is a voluntary certification for meeting and convention planners.  To qualify, candidates must have a minimum of 3 years of meeting management experience, recent employment in a meeting management job, and proof of continuing education credits. Those who qualify must then pass an exam that covers topics such as adult learning, financial management, facilities and services, logistics, and meeting programs.

Things to do in High School and College
  • Any job you can get that allows you to SEE and OBSERVE events: coat check, waiter/bartender for catering company, floral arrangement, restroom attendant at an event…etc.
  • Intern for an event planning company.
  • Join the events committee for a club or social organization (i.e. Greek system) and plan an event at your high school or college (a dance, a fundraiser…etc). Getting experience even if it is volunteer experience is crucial for your resume.
  • Volunteer for a non-profit and help organize their events.
  • Create your own “lookbook” or Pinterest page: Gathering different looks, styles, decorations, food, styles so you can start developing ideas and your own style of what you want an event to look like.
Education Stats
  • 10.7% with HS Diploma
  • 8.2% with Associate’s
  • 49.7% with Bachelor’s
  • 9.7% with Master’s
  • 1.1% with Professional

(% of employees aged 25 to 44 in the occupation whose highest level of educational attainment is)

Typical Roadmap
Event Planner roadmap gif
How to Land your 1st job
  • Work for a company that is involved with events: caterer, florist, bus company, bartender, lighting designer company and network! This experience will allow you to see from the inside what it is involved in putting together an event.
  • Intern at an event planning company.
  • Build a portfolio of relevant experience that you can show to prospective employers.
    • Keep records of any events you helped to plan, such as photographs and professional references from clients and vendors attesting to your reliability and expertise.

"Anything you can do to SEE events. That's where people get the most exposure. Any extracurricular jobs you can get. I started as coat check. I saw every event that ever happened. If you can be a waiter, be a waiter at an event. If you can arrange flowers, get in with a floral company that does flowers for events.  If you are a janitor, be a restroom attendant where there are events. SEE IT!" Heather Keenan, President, Key 

What does an employer look for?
  • High energy: Can be up at 4 am, sleep at 1 am for 5 days in a row during an event and be on!
  • Resume: Worked on events.  Worked in college because it shows that you were able to do many things at same time.
  • Professional: Can you write a professional e-mail? Are you presentable?

“I look at where they have worked before and how long they have been there. I’m looking for someone who has passion, attitude, confidence, energy, someone who can think on their feet, someone I’d be proud of that can interact with a client…” Heather Keenan, President, Key Events, Inc.

How to stay competitive
  • Knowing multiple languages: This opens your options up to more clients and more events.
  • Keep up to date with technology: virtual meeting software, social media (twitter, Facebook).
  • Create a distinct brand and market that brand.
Words of Advice

"Make sure you love it because it's hard work. It's sort of like the circus. It's a calling, not just a job." Heather Keenan, President, Key Events, Inc.

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Source: Interview, Bureau of Labor Statistics
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