Event management is a fast-paced career that will keep you sharp. If you like working with people and staying organized, consider becoming an event manager!
Not sure how to become an event manager? I’ll tell you exactly how to get started.
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Let’s Review the Basics: What is an Event Manager?
An event manager handles the logistics of event planning. They make sure that every piece of the event comes together – including the master of ceremonies.
Events large and small have event managers! From the most glamorous Hollywood wedding to a local middle school graduation ceremony.
There are more elements to event management than one might realize.
Here’s an example: think about a professional conference you’ve attended.
- The chairs may have been set out in neat rows.
- Perhaps there were stage lights and microphones.
- Maybe lunch was served.
- Or you left the conference with free merchandise in a gift bag.
All of that doesn’t just happen magically… we have event managers to thank!
Now, without further ado, let’s talk about how to become an event manager!
#1: Invest in Your Education
I want to start by saying there is no one way to become an event planner.
You can attend college and earn a bachelor’s degree, or you cannot. There are many ways to gain experience both in and out of the classroom.
What major should I choose?
Some institutions of higher learning offer event planning as a major. However, most do not.
But fear not! There are plenty of degrees you can pursue that are directly related to event planning.
Here are a few examples of related careers that still benefit event planners:
- Hospitality Management
- Business Management
- Public Relations
Alternatively to college degrees, consider certificate programs in event management.
For example, you can become a Certified Special Events Professional!
Event planning students can also join industry associations. Examples include the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). These are great resources for networking and learning.
Search for online courses
Event planning has moved into the modern age. Perhaps attending an in-person program is not feasible or convenient for you right now. That’s okay! Many certification programs are fully virtual.
#2: Hone Your Skills
Whether you go to school, apprentice, or learn on the job, event planners need certain skills.
Event management is all about timelines. Let’s say you need a DJ to spin at a party on September 2. You wouldn’t wait until September 1 to book them, right?
Event planners have the ability to plan ahead and see the big picture. They need to know what must already be in place in order for everything to get done.
Top-notch event marketing
There is a difference between being an event planner and a day-of coordinator. The latter is brought in, well, the day-of. They ensure that an event someone else has planned runs smoothly.
Event planners are involved from the get-go.
This means they are frequently part of the event design and marketing strategy for an event – maybe even in the hiring process of an emcee. If you want to be in event management, stay up to date on event marketing trends. This is where creative thinking really comes in handy.
After all, there’s no point in planning an event no one attends!
Don’t get nervous – all event planners aren’t math whizzes. But a major factor in a successful event is an effective event budget. You must understand:
- How much you can spend;
- What purchases are necessary versus optional;
- How to track what has been spent and how much you have left.
Event planning is all about relationships.
You are managing your relationship with the client, of course. But successful events may involve caterers, musicians, designers, photographers, and more.
And the event planner is the watchful eye over everything.
#3: Familiarize Yourself with Technology
These days, many event planners managing large events use technology to be successful.
There are software programs to track RSVPs, map out venues, plan seating, and more. If you are the event planner for a fundraiser, chances are you will use technology to track gifts.
If you’ve never used this type of technology before, that’s okay! Most have diligent staff who are ready and eager to help you learn.
#4: Start Small and Strengthen Relationships
When you are first starting out, don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Remember: you should constantly be learning throughout your career. You will not know everything at the very beginning (or ever)! If you feel you know everything, you are in the wrong place.
There are many ways you can start to gain experience in the events industry.
Assist a professional event planner
Reach out to a local event planning company that produces events you like. See if they have entry-level job opportunities in support positions.
Assistant-style positions are a great way to shadow industry professionals and learn. They will impart industry knowledge and show you what it’s like to be on the job.
If you end up deciding that event management is not for you, better to know early!
Attend trade shows
Trade shows are events where vendors and clients can mix, mingle, and make connections.
Trade shows are a great opportunity to meet other industry professionals. Network as you walk around the show. Introduce yourself to event planners and ask what type of events they manage.
Stay friendly, curious, and humble. If you make a good impression, word of mouth will get around. A connection you make at a trade show may lead to your next job!
#5: Develop a Business Specialty
Once you have your foot in the door, the sky is the limit in this career path! Eventually, you may even decide to start your own event planning business.
But whether you go solo or work in-house, all successful event planners have a niche. The event planning industry encompasses all sorts of events.
Event planners work with all types of industries! For example, they plan:
- Corporate events (with corporate emcees, of course)
- Sporting events
- Social events
- Nonprofit events
- Fundraising events
- Academic events
It is important to specialize in a particular type of event because you become the expert. When people think of theater after parties, they think of you. When they think of opening day at the baseball stadium, they think of you.
Is It Worth It to Become an Event Manager?
Before pursuing a career as an event planner, you should consider your priorities. What is most important to you in a career? Is it pay? Flexible time? Creative license? There are so many factors that can be important to a person.
Consider the following with regard to event management:
Event managers’ salaries can vary widely. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, meeting, convention, and event planners made an average salary of $49,470 in May 2021. It all depends on your fee structure.
Becoming an event planner means your career will be interesting and fast-paced. You will meet many new people and probably see beautiful places. There will always be something new to learn.
Event planners tend to develop strong relationships with vendors and clients. You can find incredible professional and personal fulfillment in this work.
The potential challenges
This won’t come as a surprise, but being an event manager is not always 9-5. It can be quite time consuming because you work with vendors whose hours all differ.
In addition, depending on the event, be prepared for weekend work. Many planners find themselves managing weddings, parties, and/or conferences on weekends.
Do you feel like you have a better understanding of what it means to be an event manager? Great! Let’s look back at what we’ve learned.
#1: Invest in your education.
#2: Hone your skills.
#3: Familiarize yourself with technology.
#4: Start small and strengthen relationships.
#5: Develop a business specialty.
If this career excites you, I know that you can accomplish your goals. Start by mapping out a plan, then get to work. Good luck!
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Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.