EVENT PLANNER JOB DESCRIPTION
What It's Really Like to be an Event Planner
What Is It Really Like to Be an Event Planner?
If you are looking for an event planner job description, then you are more than likely wondering what it's really like to be an event planner. After all, if you are thinking about becoming an event planner, it's only natural that you want to know what your job will entail.
Cleary, you already know that an event planner is the person who plans every element of an event, and then also manages the on-site logistics of the event. But what does the daily life of an event planner look like?
First of all, I think it's important to clarify something. One thing that I hear all the time is "I want to be an event planner because I don't want a desk job." When people envision the life of an event planner, they seem to only envision the "visible" moments; in other words, they envision the actual event. Somehow, I think a lot of people think that all event planners do is hop from event to event, just showing up and enjoying the culmination of these events that just magically appeared.
Unfortunately, what people don't see is all the work that went into planning the event. It's called event planning for a reason; you'll spend three months, six months, or a year planning every last detail, and then only a few short hours or days at your actual event. What people don't see is the countless hours a planner spent cross-checking attendee lists, poring over contracts, designing the printed materials, working on the budget, securing insurance, cross-checking a thousand other lists, and working on the budget some more.
However, to be fair, event planning is not like other desk jobs. It's not like working as an accountant, who goes in and works on the same thing every day and never leaves his desk. As an event planner, no two days are ever the same. One day you're working on menus and staging, other days decor and music.
Some days you're driving across town to meet with florists and decor companies, other days you go to a show to check out the entertainment, and others you are out and about doing venue site selections.
So, in that aspect, event planning is everything you hope it will be! And the exciting part is, as soon as one event is finished, it's time to start over and come up with a completely new event, with its own identity, new decor, new entertainment, and new guests to impress. So in this sense, event planning is NOT a typical desk job. No two days are ever alike; no two events are ever the same, and your life will be anything but boring.
However, it's just as important to look beyond the event planner job description and ask not only whether the job is what you hope it will be, but if you have the right traits to succeed. Event planners are a very unique breed of people; you have to be both left and right-brained, you have to be creative but detail-oriented, you have to be both a "people person" and good with numbers. Keep reading below to see if you have what it takes to succeed as an event planner.
Traits & Skills of Great Event Planners
More than likely, you probably have already determined that you “have what it takes” to succeed in event planning. First and foremost (and most importantly), if you have the desire, than nothing else matters! We all hear stories all the time of people who succeed against all odds; athletes who are not naturally athletic or face physical challenges, musicians who don’t have a natural musical bone in their body, artists who succeeded when no one ever believed they could.
However, I do feel that it’s important to address this topic really briefly. Because, to be honest, many people believe that the only requirement to be a great event planner is to be a really organized person. And trust me, being organized IS IMPORTANT. Vitally important! Event planners juggle more tasks with long-reaching implications on any given day than just about any other profession I can think of. But, there’s more to it than just being organized.
In my personal opinion, I think one of the single most important traits for a planner to possess is the ability to think on your feet and solve problems quickly. And this is an entirely different quality than just being organized.
This is important because more than anything, you will be hit with dozens of decisions every single day throughout your career. Sometimes, you have a little bit of time to think about your options, and perhaps consult with your team of vendors to make the best decision. But there are other times, especially on-site at your event, where you have to make the right decision right then and there; a decision that you and your client will be able to live with, no matter what. These decisions can have huge consequences, and the pressure to make the right decision can be overwhelming.
If this is something that perhaps you don’t have a lot of experience in, but something you are confident you can do, then don’t worry. When I first started, I used to absolutely panic at every little thing that didn’t go my way; now, almost twenty-five years later, I hardly blink when something blows up in front of me.
My problem-solving skills kick in, I get focused and analyze what the options are, and pick the one with the most logical outcome. I still get that adrenaline rush, and still feel the surge of stress; but I’ve seen a lifetime of things that can go wrong, and know that they almost always turn out ok.
If, however, you know that you will absolutely melt down if thrown into a “think on your feet” situation, or at the very least are convinced you’d never think clearly enough to find a solution, then you need to reevaluate if this is the career path for you. Because in the event planning industry, this saying really is true:
“It’s not a matter of IF things go wrong,
but WHEN they’ll go wrong.”
That sums up what I personally feel is the most important trait; but let’s discuss a few other traits that will help you in your career. Most great event planners possess most, if not all, of the following traits and are:
- Extremely Organized: While the most obvious trait, it’s an important one. It is imperative that you are an insanely organized person. In your professional and your personal life, organization is key. Do you make "To Do Lists" and follow them religiously? Is your file cabinet organized? Do you know where everything is on your desk (and your computer) at all times? Event planning is a high-paced environment where you truly need to be on top of your game.
- A Problem Solver: As I mentioned above, event planning is like one giant word problem. Things don't occasionally go wrong; rather, occasionally a few things go right! You must be able to see a problem, work it through calmly in your head, and think through to find the most logical, economical, and all-around-best solution. This includes every day of the many months leading up to the event, and of course once you're on-site and the event "goes live."
- A Multi-Tasker: At any given moment on any given day, an event planner is juggling a number of completely different projects. She must research hotels for a project happening in six months, finish the billing from the last project, be writing the content of the brochures for the event in two months, and be finalizing the last-minute details for the trip she leaves on tomorrow. Your mind must be able to "switch gears" at any given time without notice, and remember to complete every detail of every task. If you are applying for a job and the job description lists "multi-tasker" in its requirements, you can guarantee you'll be working one more than one project at once.
- Great at Time Management: This goes hand-in-hand with multi-tasking. You need to understand, create, and stick to time lines and deadlines; and guide your colleagues, suppliers, staff, or client to do the same as well.
- Creative: The world of events has become amazingly diverse, creative, and competitive. It seems those who have been around long enough really have "seen it all." Are you able to come up with concepts that continually "wow" your clients, time after time, year after year? If a job description lists "creativity" as a desired trait, then they are looking for someone that is truly innovative. If your idea of great decor is limited to balloons and colored napkins, you might not get the job.
- A "People Person": This industry really is all about people and your relationships with them. From the dozens, or hundreds, of suppliers you work with, to the hundreds, or thousands, of attendees or guests at your events; it's all about your relationships with people and working together to reach a common goal….a great event.
- Customer-Service Oriented: Some people want to be an event planner because they think it's all about wining, dining, and relaxing at fun parties. If this is you, keep looking! When it comes to meetings and events, it's all about the client and the attendees, not you. You need to do whatever it takes to get the job done; even if it means helping an under-staffed venue pick up dishes off the buffets. You need to have a never-ending sense of customer service, or else your client will go elsewhere.
- Eloquent in Both Speaking and Writing: A large amount of this job is all about communication (both written and verbal) and interaction with other people. You must be able to convey your ideas, thoughts, and opinions in a clear and concise manner, both on paper and in person. You cannot communicate as if you are texting a friend; you must be able to write emails, documents, sales copy, and content for materials clearly and eloquently with no grammatical errors.
- A Good Budgeter: To your client, it's all about getting the most “bang for her buck.” Especially these days, every event suffers from "the incredible shrinking budget," yet clients have higher demands and expectations than ever before. You must be a whiz at crunching numbers, predicting unknown costs, and, basically, performing Money Magic at all times.
- Computer Proficient: The “planning” part to event planning is all done on computer. All of it. There is not a single part of event planning that does not start off or end up on the computer. You'll have online registration, travel bookings, budgeting, to-do lists, rooming manifests, transportation manifests, presentations, pre-trip material, agendas, signage, printed material, and so on.
So, it is imperative that you at least know Microsoft Word and Excel, inside and out. You need to know how to do mail merges and how to create all kinds of documents. You need to be very comfortable with the internet, and often (but not always) it is helpful to know PowerPoint. And, above all else, you need to be so comfortable with the computer that you're not afraid to learn anything.
If you aren't incredibly comfortable with computers and the programs listed above, I suggest that you do whatever it takes to learn. Almost every city has community colleges, community centers, or libraries that offer affordable weekend or weeknight classes. Or, if you're adept at self-teaching, there are many online tutorials that can guide you to teach yourself.
As mentioned before, these are just a few of the personality traits that are important to have if you are considering pursuing a career as an event planner. If you are more clear now on the reality of an event planner job description and if most (or all) of these points fit you to a "T", then you are going to be a fantastic event planner!
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