How To Become An Event Planner

From planning a board meeting of CEO's to organizing a wacky Flintstones-themed party on an exotic island, event planning spans a huge range of occasions. However, event planners themselves tend to have certain qualities in common; principally, they are excellent organizers with strong interpersonal skills.

How To Become An Event Planner

If this describes you, event planning could well be your ideal job or business. What's more, it is a relatively secure one:

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According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, the events industry growth from 2004 was "faster than average," and is expected to be that way through to at least 2014. More companies, organizations, and individuals than ever are hosting events of one kind or another; this presents a superb and lucrative opportunity for those entering this area.

If you are thinking of becoming an event planner, you probably know what type of event planning you want to do or have a good idea of the niche you want to get into.

Just to clarify, the events that planners oversee can broadly be classified as "corporate" (which includes associations, charities, and non-profits) and social: weddings, birthdays, parties, bar mitzvahs, etc. Many (but by no means all) corporate event planners are full-time employees of the companies/organizations they plan for. While most social event planners are self-employed.

Essential Skills for Event Planning – Is It Really the Job for You?
Whatever type of event planning you wish to pursue, there are certain skills and personal qualities that are essential in this industry. Now, you may have some experience of event planning and be in no doubt about your suitability for it. Otherwise, it is wise to make an honest assessment of your abilities before taking it any further.

Here are the main skills that most planners would regard as essential for success in this line of work:
  • Organized. Obvious but worth emphasizing: you need to be organized and have excellent time-management skills. Planning definitely is not for the perennially late or scatter-brained.
  • Hardworking. Event planning – surprise! – involves long hours and hard work. Do you enjoy rolling up your sleeves and getting stuck in? If not, best to pursue something less demanding.
  • Decisive. Event planning means making decisions – lots of them. You must be decisive and be able to think on your feet. Ditherers need not apply.
  • Resourceful. As an event planner, you will have many plates spinning, and inevitably things will go wrong. You must be able to solve problems and improvise.
  • Boundless energy. You will be on your feet all day and be managing multiple people and projects – energy and stamina are a must.
  • Communication skills. You will be dealing with all kinds of people so you must be able to communicate clearly. And if you want to work in the corporate world, you must be comfortable talking to all members of the organization – from the security guard right up to the CEO (and everyone in between).
  • Sense of style. Depending on the type of events you want to plan, a well-tuned aesthetic sensibility can also be a must-have if you�re going to be in charge of choosing things like d�cor, dining layouts, outfits, and so on, knowing what will look right and what won't is essential.

Quite a list, but the good news is, you do not necessarily need any formal qualifications to get into the profession. That said, two programs are worth looking at if you think a planning-focussed qualification will be of help to you.
The CMP (Certified Meeting Professional) program is offered by the Convention Industry Council. It was launched in 1985 to enhance the knowledge and expertise of meeting professionals, to establish uniform codes practice, and to add status and credibility to the profession.

The CSEP (Certified Special Events Professional) program is run by the International Special Events Society and, again, was designed as a way to establish a recognized level of education and professionalism for the industry.
Check out the resources below for more info.

Breaking into event planning.

Broadly, you have the following three ways in which to enter the events industry:

1. Get a job as an event planner.
Many companies and organizations employ their own in-house event planners. In this role you would be responsible for organizing things like:

  • Board meetings.
  • Annual general meetings.
  • Stockholder�s meetings.
  • Awards ceremonies.
  • Galas and fundraisers.
  • Company picnics.
  • Trade shows.
  • Conventions.

Many employers in this area will prefer you to have a degree of some kind, although many place more value on personality and experience. If you do not have a degree, a CMP or CSEP may well be an acceptable alternative (and is a worthy addition even if you do have one).

If you browse the job listings of the type of organizations that appeal to you, you can get an idea of the kind of qualities/qualifications they look for.

2. Get a job with an event planning company.


Event planning companies obviously require staff in various capacities; this can be a terrific point of entry into the industry. These companies/entrepreneurs often specialize in certain kinds of events (weddings, children�s parties, etc.) and can be a perfect training ground if you want to enter a particular specialty.
And these types of companies, unless they have a particular reason for needing highly qualified staff, will likely place much more value on enthusiasm and experience than paper qualifications.

3. Start your own events business.


If you have EP experience – whether personally or professionally, this can be an attractive option, as stated in the introduction, it is a growing industry that offers plenty of potential for a motivated entrepreneur.

And do not forget volunteering; this is a terrific informal way to get a taste of the industry and see if it is right for you. Try contacting local companies and organizations (schools, churches, wedding shops, community centers, etc.) and offering your services. Practice your skills in one of these settings, and you will gain invaluable experience (and references) for the future.

What Do Event Planners Earn?


This depends very much on experience, education, specialty, and the size and type of organization planners work for. In the private sector, a planner just starting out can expect to earn from around $31,000. The more experienced can expect to earn up to around $64,000.

Planners in the public and non-profit sectors can expect somewhat lower salaries.

Self-employed:

According to Entrepreneur.com, self-employed event planners earned an average salary of $39,476 in June 2009. This rather unimpressive figure probably reflects the small scale of most EP businesses. The truth is, your earnings as an EP are really only limited by your ambition; a six-figure income is by no means unrealistic for someone with the vision and ambition to make it happen.

All in all, the events planning profession offers a varied and stimulating way of life for the right person. If you get a buzz from working under pressure, love to use your creativity to solve problems, and get a glow of satisfaction from creating someone's perfect day, then being an event planner could well be your perfect career.

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