Event planning is a unique industry in that it requires both creative genius and pragmatism. Not only are you the visionary behind the big picture, you’re also the dedicated multi-tasker behind the detail work. Between creating your event design, implementing smart promotional strategies, and working with vendors, you do the work of ten people in a day! To top it all off, working with vendors to turn your dream event into reality requires excellent communication skills. Let’s be real: Event planners do a lot more than they get credit for. Succeeding in this competitive industry means having real passion for what you do.
Are you considering a career in event planning, and wondering whether you’ve got what it takes? There’s one way to find out before taking the plunge and investing in an event planning career. Today, we’re taking you on a journey into a day in the life of an event planner.
Designing Your Event and Communicating with Vendors
What most people don’t realize is that events are months in the making! Think of event planning like a complex machine; if one part suddenly stops working, the entire thing shuts down. If you’re detail-oriented to the extreme, this trait goes a long way toward success at event planning. Many people have the misconception that event planners simply hire vendors to take care of the details, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Event planners have to be great listeners who remember everything their client wants; no detail is too small or insignificant. Successful event planners are able to see how every element contributes to the whole.
Essentially, the job of an event planner is to bring your client’s vision to vivid life. Keeping an organized to-do list on a daily basis is tantamount to success. There’s simply too much to do to remember all of it in your head.
For example, let’s talk technology and production. In order to find the right technology team for your event, you’ve got to develop your event design. In order to find the right technology team for you, you’ll need to ask yourself: What kind of lighting do I need for this event? What kind of sound system would be compatible for the venue and event design? What sort of live digital effects will be featured during my event? What kind of photography and videography do I need? It’s impossible to evaluate vendors based on your needs unless you know exactly what they are.
You’ll also need to interview decorators, stationery designers, and/or florists. Since event planners are creative and highly visual, it comes naturally to them to picture the perfect event design. But hiring the right event design companies requires you to think in practical terms, too. For example, they have to determine how compatible a theme or design would be with the venue space, lighting, and other technology.
Speaking of venues, when choosing one, event planners need to be conscious of both space and location. The location of your venue matters. For example, if your venue is hard to get to or parking is complicated or expensive, people will remember that- even if they absolutely loved your event. Is that fair? Probably not. Okay, definitely not, considering all the hard work you put into planning the perfect event. But we live in a fast-paced world in which people simply don’t have a lot of time to enjoy themselves or even invest in workshops and conferences that help them develop professionally. That’s why your venue should be conveniently located and accessible to public transportation. It also helps if your venue is located near a popular restaurant or shopping center where non-local attendees can get their practical and entertainment needs met.
Down Time Isn’t Really Down Time
Emotional intelligence may not be the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of event planning, but it’s one of the most important qualities a successful event planner can have. Why? Well, think about it: Events are nothing without attendees, and attendees are attracted to brands they relate to. They attend events that meet their needs for entertainment, networking, professional development, and more. And all audiences are different. That’s why it’s important to know how to market to the niche audiences you are trying to reach.
You may be thinking, “But that’s what my marketing team is for”. Well, yes and no. Firstly, event planners and companies that are just starting out may not have the budget for a marketing or sales team. But even when they do, we’re living and working in an experiential market. That means that people want to feel a genuine connection with the brands they patronize.
How do event planners build meaningful, long-term relationships with attendees? They engage with them about shared interests. And they do so across multiple social media platforms. Twitter is important because it’s media and news focused; many people use it to follow their favorite celebrities, which means following certain public figures indirectly connects you to their large audiences.
In case you’ve been living in a cardboard box (which we know you haven’t), Instagram is a more visual platform. Not only does it allow you to share professional and fun, candid shots and videos of your events, but it’s an ideal platform for building personal relationships. Most users include narratives beneath the images they share, and influencers have ongoing conversations with their followers about world issues, personal struggles, and passions that are important to them. In some capacities, Instagram has become like an online support group for people who struggle to overcome certain challenges, such as chronic illness and mental health issues. Many Instagram networks are also a source of support for entrepreneurs and people trying to carve out a niche in creative careers, such as event planning.
As an event planner, you’ll also want to have an active profile on LinkedIn. The main focus of LinkedIn is professional development. It helps you build your professional portfolio, find work, generate leads, and recruit potential employees. Essentially, it’s a major source of industry connections you don’t want to miss out. Event planning relies heavily on networking, and with social media, you can make valuable connections from the comfort of home (or the convenience of wherever you’re at- event planners are busy people).
Attending Networking Events and Developing Social Skills
Which brings us to another part of the day (or evening) of an event planner. Ironically, a big part of planning events for a living involves attending them. Networking events are opportunities to build valuable industry relationships. In order to make the most of networking events, we advise event planners to set goals for the specific event they are attending. Your goals could involve anything from generating new leads to simply meeting new people in your industry. Maybe there’s someone specific you want to meet, or you’d like to connect with someone who is proficient in a technology you need to learn. If there is someone specific you want to connect with, do some research on this person. This way, when you approach them, they’ll see that your interest is genuine. Doing research also helps save time on introductory conversation, so you can get right into how you can help each other professionally.
That said, event planners have good social skills (or they fake it until they make it). What do we mean by this? Well, even if you don’t feel confident, let your sincerity shine through. Make eye contact and smile. To take the pressure off, start by asking the other person questions about their brand and what they do. Again, being a good listener comes in handy for event planners. People tend to instinctively move away from people who seem to be listening just to form their response. Listening because you really want to hear what someone has to say gives the impression that your interest is sincere- and that you’d be easy and pleasant to work with in the future.
If any or all of this sounds daunting, don’t worry- it’s natural. Networking and mingling with other professionals comes naturally with practice, and confidence builds over time.
Expecting the Unexpected
In a nutshell, event planners tend to hope for the best and plan for the best. You always need to be ready to tackle unplanned issues as they arise- which they do, trust us. Event planners are essentially organizers, supervisors, and artists all in one multi-talented package! But even the most naturally talented event planners make mistakes, and that’s okay. It’s normal and expected. The important thing is to be able to use your creative problem solving to patch things up when they go wrong.
Many event planners write up a contingency plan for last minute emergencies. They deal with scheduling conflicts, technical difficulties, and miscommunications on the fly. A contingency plan is basically a list of things that could go wrong in every area of planning the event. Include a contact list of everyone involved in planning your event, such as staff, vendors, suppliers, entertainers, and speakers. Make sure all of your staff members have a copy of your contingency plan and contact list.
Here’s where communication comes in…again. You may not have the time or energy to discuss your contingency plan with all twenty or so of the vendors involved in your first event. But keep the key players in the loop to make sure they’re on the same page as you regarding unexpected issues that may come up. Your venue itself should definitely be on board with your entire contingency plan.
Perhaps most importantly, event planners need to be calm and efficient in crisis. If this doesn’t sound like you, but you have a real passion for event planning, take heart: Dealing with last minute crises in creative, effective ways becomes much easier with practice. For now, just stay as calm as you can, communicate clearly, and take action when you’ve figured out a plan to solve the problem. Part of your contingency plan should include specific contacts you’ll reach out to in case of specific emergencies. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel.
There are going to be problems that you can’t solve. That’s just reality. Sometimes a client will want the event to be rebranded at the last minute, which is extremely challenging. Again, communication is key. Find out what the client wants and why. If the entire event can’t be rebranded, what can you do to grant at least some of the client’s wishes? Can you implement last-minute promotional strategies that won’t cut too deeply into your budget or take up too much time? Are there any live aspects of the event that you can ask vendors to change?
If you can’t do something, patiently explain why. Most clients will be happy if you genuinely listen and explore options with them. Keeping an open mind and working as a team with clients goes a long way toward building a valuable relationship.
It’s also a good idea to tactfully encourage clients to be on time with their decisions. Ideally, they shouldn’t take too long to give you the specifics. For example, what will the theme be, and who is going to speak?
Dealing with Those Pesky Last-Minute Fees
As skilled a communicator as you are, sometimes venues and vendors aren’t as forthcoming. For this reason, it’s important to be diligent when reading over contracts before singing them. Sometimes extra fees are hidden in the print. If hidden fees don’t seem fair or aren’t ideal for your budget, don’t hesitate to negotiate.
More than anything else, event planners need to have a fun-loving personality and spirit for adventure. While these may not sound like typical job requirements, they’re vital for event planners. If you don’t truly love your work, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and unhappy with so much to do- and in so little time. A passion for event planning not only makes it all worth it, but helps you see unexpected challenges as opportunities for growth. There is so much creativity and diversity in this industry, you can be certain it will never get boring!