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Do you love the idea of creating and curating fabulous experiences that will leave people talking about them for months and years to come? Does planning the perfect event give you tingles of excitement? Event planners are experts in hospitality and communication, working tirelessly to put together seamless events that cater to clients and attendees alike.
Perhaps you have considered entering this field before, or are interested in working as a professional event planner but are not quite sure where to get started. Becoming a successful event planner requires skills, education, determination, hard work, and hustle. If you are curious about how to become an event planner and would like to know exactly what it takes to succeed in this field, you have come to the right place.
Types of Career Planners
Become a Consultant
Event planners fall into a few main categories. In deciding how to become an event planner, you must first identify which niche you would like to work in. Whichever area you choose to specialize in is often a matter of personal preference, based on the type of career you would like to have and the money you would like to make.
Your first option for how to become an event planner is to work as a freelance consultant in the social scene. If you would like to be in charge of your own business and make your own hours, this could be the route for you. You have the freedom to choose what kind of events you like to handle. For example, you could specialize in birthday parties or wedding planning.
Enter the Corporate World
If you would prefer to work in a larger office setting, becoming a corporate event planner could be a solid option for you. If you are curious about how to become an event planner in the corporate world, there are a few key points you need to be aware of. Your hours will be full-time, dictated by the office you work for. You might have the chance to work with more lucrative, premier brands than you would as a free agent.
Corporate event planners work with narrow deadlines, and must be able to function well with a team of vendors to put together the perfect experience. Much of a corporate event planner’s work could focus on advancing a unique brand on a large scale. Working in the corporate world usually revolves around many hours on the job and close time constraints.
Choose a Nonprofit
Finally, when examining how to become an event planner, you can choose to work in the non-profit sector. These tend to be some of the most rewarding options available and often focus on fundraising efforts. Whether you are putting together events for NGO’s or promoting a particular cause for an organization, the work is incredibly varied and keeps you on your toes at all times.
Education and Training
Know What’s Involved
Before embarking on the path to become educated and trained as a professional event planner, it is important to know what the job entails in and of itself. An event planner’s work starts before the event ever takes place, continues during the event, and goes on after it has finished.
Before the event, the planner must know what is expected by the client, the magnitude and costs involved, where the event will happen, and when it will occur. You must work closely with vendors to determine who will provide services like catering and equipment during the event. Understanding the client’s goals for the event is key to the planning process.
During the event, it is your job to ensure that the guests are attended to, that your team is running efficiently, and that the event is running effectively on the plan. You will need to make notes throughout the experience for use later on.
After the event has concluded, you will have to put together a comprehensive report, detailing items like costs, revenue, and head count. You will likely create surveys to send out to those who attended to enable you to work out any issues and create an even better event in the future.
Obtain a Degree or Certification
The first step in learning how to become an event planner often starts with your undergraduate education. It is possible to enter the event planning sector from other fields, but it is more typical and preferable to have a bachelor’s degree to begin with, in fields like marketing, communications, business, public relations, or hospitality management.
Graduates working in the event planning field, including coordinating meetings and conventions, typically make around $47,000 per year. Depending on whether you operate as a freelancer, for a company, a government organization or a non-profit, this number is subject to definite variance.
If you do not have a degree, you must have 1-2 years of experience working within the field to become hired as an event planner. You need to have a collected demeanor, as well as strong communication, organizational, interpersonal, multi-tasking, and leadership skills. You should also have a good grasp of technology and social media.
As previously mentioned, having a bachelor’s degree in a related field is highly favored, as courses will often cover everything from hospitality management to event design and meeting planning. Many programs require internships, which will provide you with relevant, on-the-job experience. Becoming a part of professional event planner organizations such as Meeting Professionals International could help you obtain learning opportunities and build your network in the process.
Taking things a step further and becoming certified is highly favorable to employers. You can opt to take the Certified Meeting Professional Exam, specifically geared for meeting, exhibition, and convention planners. To qualify to take the exam and earn the certification, you must already have 3 years of experience and recent work as an event planner and earn additional credits.
Another option for certification is the Certified Government Meeting Professional choice. You will have to have some experience and be a member of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals. A 3-day course and exam are also necessary to become certified.
How to Become an Event Planner: Building a Portfolio
If you are wondering how to become an event planner and work successfully within the field, one of the crucial elements to bear in mind is the value of experience. During and after obtaining your degree and any certifications, you must work to build your portfolio. A vast number of event planners start on less grand scales working with smaller entities. You may work in a position with a different title when starting out, such as an administrative assistant whose role entails event coordination. Alternatively, you might start out in catering and work your way up to the role of an event planner.
Volunteer work is another great way to build your portfolio and gain experience. Working for another event planner or working alongside vendors like caterers and florists will give you first-hand knowledge of the field and prepare you for your career.
You can also gain experience by taking on a role in an event planning company or heading a non-profit organization while you decide what your area of specialty will be. In the meantime, you are establishing relationships, deciding what areas you prefer to work in over others, and determining which services you will offer.
Make a Plan and Build Your Network
Having a solid business plan and enhancing your network is essential when deciding how to become an event planner. If you are going to be working on your own, make sure you have business cards handy, go to networking events, and let people know about the work you do. If you hand out your business card to someone, try to get that person’s contact information so you can send an introductory follow-up e-mail. Building your network also involves forming relationships with vendors and suppliers like florists, photographers, and caterers.
Putting together a solid portfolio with pictures, invitations, brochures, and other documentation related to events you have planned will be key in helping you secure jobs down the road. Keep everything organized and aesthetically pleasing. If you are going to be starting your own business, make a strong plan and register your business name with the local government to obtain the necessary licensure.
Social media and personal websites are invaluable tools to event planners looking to build their book of business. Have client contracts drawn up so that every event you handle involves a formal, written agreement.
Even if you are working for a corporation or other organization, rather than as a freelance consultant, building your portfolio is the key to success. Not only does it prove your mettle, but it will help you if you want to switch companies down the road or go into business for yourself. Keep all your notes, pictures, and relevant materials, organizing them according to the area of specialty.
Working as an event planner can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding career option. It requires you to be deeply organized, a strong communicator, able to juggle a lot of responsibilities, hone your technical skills, foster project management capabilities, and have an entrepreneurial spirit. The field also requires you to be educated and opens up many doors to those with a certification and valuable experience to bring to the table.
If you are intrigued with how to become an event planner and are interested in embarking on this path, know that it will take time, experience, and patience. You may have to start in roles other than as an event planner and work your way up. However, with determination and drive, you can gain the tools and abilities required for ultimate success.