I have received calls over the years from people trying to decide if this was the career they wanted. Asking if they could chat and pick my brain. I have also run into people that have said (ok, this actually happens really often) that I have a “such a fun job”. I smile politely. The reality is I LOVE my job. But let’s peel back the onion a bit, because while it can appear pretty darn glamorous, with all the fancy events, great food and famous faces – much like looking at someone’s Instagram and judging their life – judging an event planners job by the finished product, while a compliment, is a bit misleading.
How do you become a planner?
Well, this is a broad question, because like a professional athlete being either a football player or hockey player, an “event planner” is an over-arching title. Maybe you plan weddings and have a huge focus on decor. Maybe you plan conferences and focus on logistics and contracts. Maybe you are into corporate events, and have a keen interest in brand identity. Each planner is going to have a skill set that is diverse, and probably what led them into that particular field. Since I focus on corporate events, I am going to look through my view. This is a personal opinion and what has guided me down my path.
First off I firmly believe that there are skills that are just a part of your DNA that make or break any planner. Do you actually work well under pressure? Are you able to multi-task? Are you organized to a fault? Because these are key to not checking yourself in for stress leave after every event. It is pretty hard to teach some of those personality traits.
There are many courses tailored to event planning – Certified Meeting Planner, Event Planning Certificate, Wedding Planner Certifications – as well as some courses that have event planning as a part of the larger picture. I personally had a combination of both formal education and work experience before launching my company, and that was what really sealed it for me. I have a formal education that is a diploma in Hotel & Restaurant Management, a certificate in Event Marketing, plus various coursework and conferences. I also spent years working in all facets of the industry, from waiting tables, to booking meetings, to setting up trade shows. I worked in restaurants, catering companies, hotels, for large consumer show producers, and also in varied corporate sales and marketing roles where I oversaw all the events and marketing. This combination of education and experience has really helped me to develop what I wanted my business model and focus to be, and identify what I would excel at.
Getting ones feet wet in the industry is something I highly encourage. Whether it is working part-time, full-time or even volunteering at events, it is a great way to learn if it really is right for you. The great thing about the event industry is that there is always people looking for short term help, so trying it on for size is pretty easy. You will learn quickly that lifting, pulling, dragging, painting (yes painting!), sweating and changing outfits superman style in bathroom stalls is all in a days work. And get used to sore feet, they are absolutely a job hazard. The rewards are stellar though, when you get to wipe the dirt and sweat off your face, and watch the magic unfold as the event begins. Whatever the event is, there is always that moment of calm when you can actually view your hard work in action. Not many jobs allow you to see something take shape and breathe in successes live. But mind you, it is only a moment, so do snap some pictures. As every planner knows, what goes up, must come down, and the tear down is so fast, gone in a glimmer, that sometimes you don’t even believe an event was ever set up.
Does this all sound appealing? Then maybe you are on the right track!