People say all sorts of things about the Millennial generation, and not all of it is kind. However, lots of those things are generalizations, and they’re based on statistics that don’t necessarily reflect the reality that plenty of young professionals are driven to succeed, and to not only meet expectations, but surpass them. Professions, like anything else, go through trend cycles. When the Baby Boomers were hitting their professional stride, the “hot” professions were in medicine and law. Now, the world has cracked wide open with opportunity and one of the things we’ve learned is that you can have a great, prosperous career that’s far outside the “traditional” jobs.
One of the smartest ways to advance your career is through event planning.
If you are under the impression that “event planner” is really code for “wedding planner”, well, I’ll just say it: You’re wrong.
I can tell you what event planning isn’t: It’s not all about food tasting and choosing flower colors. What event planning does involve is so much more — it’s budgeting, scheduling, acquiring permits, coordinating bus charters or other transportation, courting and arranging speakers, lining up alternate speakers, configuring location support (like electricity, wifi and other utilities), arranging decor, establishing emergency contingency plans and much, much more. The skills and talents that an event planner must have go far beyond knowing whether peach goes with mauve (which is debatable). Instead, the event planner must have, first and foremost, excellent communication and organization skills.
How is corporate event planning a good career move?
Corporate event planning is stressful, fast-paced, demanding, and often requires long hours. As well, it can be a fabulous career move, even if event planning isn’t your long-term goal. It could open doors for you in ways that almost no other professional move can. This is because if you do a good job as an event planner, it’s a great way to get noticed by the people at the top rung of an organization or business.
During an actual event, you’re likely to be behind the scenes as the event planner. However, in the months leading up to the event, you’re having near-constant interaction with the thought-leaders and decision makers in the company. As well, you’re working alongside executives from every other company or agency involved with the event, including representatives of any high-profile or celebrity speakers who are scheduled to appear.
There are a few ways to build a career by being an event planner. One is to be the in-house event planner for a large business or organization. There are lots of companies that need in-house event planning for conferences, trade shows or other large-scale events, that you may not have even considered: chambers of commerce, government organizations, nonprofits, cruise lines/entertainment venues, hospitals, universities, pharmaceutical companies, professional associations, PR firms, trade associations, and plenty more.
If you’re more into the “party” scene, you might choose to be an event planner for a hotel, restaurant, resort or other venue so that you would work with the clients who come in to have their events at your location. Or, you could be a private event planner (think Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner), but like any business; it’s hard to start from scratch unless you already have a reputation in the industry. Which of these methods you choose really should depend on what you want your end game to be. In other words, if you’re using event planning as a stepping stone to gain recognition, network and cultivate contacts within a particular industry, going in-house for a business or organization in that industry would be the best way to do so. If you’re looking to build a career as an event planner, working for a hotel or other venue would be great experience because you would be building a resume of events and would likely have events in various stages of development all the time.
How can I leverage my current skills to be a great event planner?
Perhaps the four most important traits for an event planner to have are (1) good communicator, (2) organized, (3) attentive to detail, and (4) ability to think quickly (aka “conduct damage control”).
By using these qualities, you can translate them into skills that someone would look for in an event planner. Communication is key: Not only do you need to communicate with the heads of the company, who ultimately need to approve decisions you make and be happy with the result, but you could also be dealing with event guests. If you’re planning a corporate meeting or conference, you might be bringing in high-profile speakers or panelists. One event planner recounted a story where his celebrity panelist became locked in a bathroom while wearing a wireless mic. Oops. What if you’re coordinating a $10,000-per plate fundraising dinner for a big-time politician and your keynote speaker shows up with six people in his entourage whom you didn’t expect? You need to be able to act fast to diffuse a situation in a way that’s going to avoid hostility on the part of the guest, and also to be sure that your boss is happy. Or, you could be planning a major industry conference and need to schedule shuttle bus rentals to get hundreds of people from multiple airports to multiple hotels, all at different times in a 24-hour period. And, that’s just step one of the event’s coordination — getting everyone safely into town and where they need to be happens before the event even takes place!
Whether you’re working in-house for a company, for a venue, or on your own, the aspect to planning an event that is as important as the event’s execution is the budget. Without doubt, you want to show that you can pull off a classy event, and add as many little touches as you can, while still staying within the client’s budget. No company or client wants to be a few weeks away from its signature annual or other major event, only to find that the guests’ charter buses haven’t been paid for, or that you forgot to add in the cost of the audiovisual equipment. A spreadsheet or other budgeting and list-making app is an event planner’s best friend.
It may sound like a lot of guts and little glory, but that doesn’t have to be the case. By tweaking each event, finding out what would give it that extra splash that would make it unique to your company or client, and being prepared to deal with any situation that might arise, you can set yourself apart from the average event planner. The executives and decision makers will definitely notice and appreciate if you’re someone with whom they like to work, and who gets things done efficiently and correctly. Once you have a portfolio of events under your belt, that’s when you make your move… by then, you’ll have the experience and proven skills to get the job you want, and you’ll have the contacts who can help you do it.
Glenn is the CEO of Metropolitan Shuttle, a company that provides shuttle and bus charter services for every major metropolitan area in North America. Glenn has years of experience in the event planning industry in addition to coordinating the transportation for groups and events of all sizes through his extensive network of vendors.
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