An event planner does the organizing, makes the arrangements, and coordinates it all so the activity runs smoothly. If your dream job is planning parties, pulling together corporate meetings, setting up conventions, etc., read on.
How to Break Into a Fab Job as an Event Planner
by Jan L. Riddell, FabJob.com author
A village feast to welcome home hunters in the wilds of Borneo and a glittering fund-raiser soiree at a swanky New York hotel may not sound like they have much in common, but they do have at least one similarity.
Someone, somewhere, got the ball rolling and using a little resourcefulness, creativity, and sheer determination successfully pulled off a spectacular event. (Well, someone had to figure out how much food and drink was required at the feast and where the chief would sit!) That person is an event planner.
If event planning sounds like it could be your dream career, here are seven steps to get started.
1. Assess Your Skills
Before you quit your day job to become an event planner, take the time to honestly assess your current skills to ensure you have what it takes to succeed.
Event planners must be creative and well organized, but they must also have excellent interpersonal skills. Events are about people, so successful event planners must be able to effectively listen to what clients want, develop relationships, and negotiate with vendors (companies that supply products and services for events).
TIP: If you're creative and have great people skills, but could use some help getting organized, event planning software is available to help you keep track of event details.
2. Learn How to Plan Events
Almost all events have common components such as some type of meal or refreshment, a form of entertainment or speaker, invitations or registrations, etc. The event planner is the person who pulls all of the components together.
There are excellent resources available to help you learn how to organize events and assist with each stage of making the arrangements, including how to: choose a date, decide who to invite, budget, create timeline schedules, work with vendors, and market events. If you want a formal education, many colleges offer degrees or certificates in event planning. If you would rather break into event planning without a formal education, you can quickly learn how to plan events with books such as the FabJob Guide to Become an Event Planner.
3. Get Hands-On Experience
The easiest way to learn about the steps involved is through personal experience (i.e. coordinating events for family and friends).
Non-profit groups are always looking for help with their fundraisers and galas, and you'll get the double benefit of helping a worthy cause while you hone your skills. This is also an excellent way to make contacts in the community to help you land a paying job when you are ready.
You could also volunteer to organize events at your own workplace, if you have one. For example, if your company has a public relations department that is notoriously short-staffed, offer to help them out. The beauty of this plan is that you will be learning a new career while still being paid at your old job!
4. Create a Portfolio
A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work, plus any other documents that can show people why they should hire you. A portfolio helps you stand out from other applicants, and prove that you have the skills to do the job. Your portfolio might include pictures, recommendation letters, and anything else that shows prospective clients and/or employers what you have done or can do.
Material for your portfolio can come from any event you have organized (such as a family reunion, birthday bash, etc.) or from ideas and themes you have for future events. Show your best work and don't worry about giving away your great ideas. People will believe you have many more brilliant ideas that you haven't yet divulged.
5. Get Hired
Getting hired as an event planner (even if you plan on opening your own event planning business) will give you invaluable contacts and referrals for the future. Meeting and convention planners are projected to have faster than average job growth in the coming years. This is good news for the industry and for you.
Companies that hire event coordinators include hotels or resorts, non-profit organizations, convention centers, country clubs, and even fun destinations like theme parks.
Some people work their way into a position as their company's activity planner just by volunteering to organize internal events such as company picnics and meetings.
6. Start Your Own Business
If the idea of being your own boss and earning up to $100,000 or more per year as an event planner sound appealing, it may be time to take the plunge and set up an event planning business. Many event planners have home-based businesses, which makes this type of business inexpensive to start. With the wealth of information available on starting a business you should be able to get your own event planning business off the ground quite easily.
When starting your own business, you should consider what types of events you want to plan. If you have a flair for the spectacular you may want to tackle proms, charity events, and galas. If you prefer planning corporate events, you may choose to plan meetings, conventions, and the like.
TIP: Unsure of what type of event you'd prefer to plan? Consider interning or working for a number of companies whose specialties are quite different.
7. Develop Relationships with Vendors
You've probably heard the adage "it's not what you know, but who you know." The most important relationships you will build as an event planner are with the vendors for your events. These are companies that supply products and services for events, such as caterers, florists, equipment rental companies, hotels, photographers, etc.
Learn about each one's business by conducting informational interviews and ask about discounts they can offer you. Be polite and courteous with the owners and their staff, and always follow up afterwards with some sort of acknowledgement or thank you. You can also arrange to have vendors refer clients to your event planning business.
TIP: Further your career. You can continue to learn and grow after you have become an event planner. One of the best ways to succeed is to look upon every social occasion or event you attend as an opportunity to learn. Make a mental note of what worked well and what bombed. Attend tradeshows, read everything you can related to event organizing, and watch for what's hot. Seek out the advice of trendsetters and don't be afraid to try something a little different. You may start a trend yourself!
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The author of this article, Jan L. Riddell, has been planning events for more than 15 years. She has organized public events attended by over 2500 people, television show premieres, corporate annual meetings, and dinners with high-profile politicians and corporate leaders, as well as family reunions, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. She is co-author of the FabJob Guide to Become an Event Planner.
This article is based on the FabJob Guide to Become an Event Planner. The complete guide gives detailed advice on how you can break into a career in event planning, get hired as an event planner, or start your own event planning business.