Do you have what it takes to make it in the event industry?
If you answered “yes” based solely on your event planning skills, you might be surprised to know that our international group of experts didn’t rank that quality as number one in terms of importance.
As event planning professionals, we all know that it takes incredible chops to be in this game. It tests your patience, your ingenuity, your stamina, your stress tolerance, and every tool in your toolbelt.
So what do you need to succeed?
We spoke with dozens of eventprofs worldwide, with years of collective experience across global markets, associations and big name brands. From CEOs and owners to event marketers, managers and chief strategists (plus everything in between). Our research indicated the top event management skills and qualities event planners really need to succeed.
Top 5 Event Planning Skills According to Your Peers
In January 2018, we conducted one of the largest event planning research endeavors ever, with 2,400 contacts and over 1,000 respondents.
We asked specific questions that pertain to event managers. We are happy to release the results (if you want to obtain a copy of the research to publish on your site, let us know).
The Top 5 Most Important Event Planning Skills
- People skills
- Time management
81% of the respondents agreed that ‘people skills’ and ‘organization’ are two essential skills every event professional needs. Around three quarters also cited time management, flexibility and passion. That’s pretty much in line with what we would expect, but let’s see what the experts had to say specifically.
LEADERSHIP AND PEOPLE SKILLS
“You have to be able to carry out your vision and sometimes crack the whip to get it done. Resolve problems and issues quickly. You must be able to stand calm at zero hour when something doesn’t go your way. Your team should look to you for everything; the last thing they need is a shaky leader that makes rash decisions because they crack under pressure.”
National Marketing Director at Branstrator Sunrooms and Basement Systems of America
“Possess strong interpersonal skills. You need to be comfortable reacting to and dealing with high-level executives, government officials, vendors, co-workers, sponsor representatives, customers, supervisors, suppliers, full-time staff, part-time staff, volunteers and more.”
Event Operations Director
“Knowledge and Business Sense: They must understand the business as well as the covert and the overt professional reasons for the event to be happening. And hence, must be in a capacity to provide the right input and direction to the client.”
AVP and National Head of Brand Communications, Bhaskar Group
“Your clients come to you because they trust you have knowledge in an area they need guidance. You do your customers and the industry a disservice if you call yourself an event professional and you don’t have the skills/experience to back it up.”
Owner, Perry Consulting
“Know each and every vendor of every little thing.”
Account Manager, Ketchum
“Maintain a big picture philosophy at all times, meaning you work on every detail while keeping in perspective the larger impact and goals.”
Event Operations Director
“You should know how to multitask, but you should be able to plan your day in a way that gives you blocks of time where you can focus solely on the project at hand. Your end product will be much more thorough. You should also be organized so you don’t waste time looking for things and reinventing forms/files etc.”
Owner, Perry Consulting
FLEXIBILITY & RESOURCEFULNESS
“I’ve known many event managers who can organize their way out of a wet paper bag with the lights off, but the qualities that make someone succeed, and not just survive, start with problem solving. Know how to be a problem solver; events are vehicles for strategic solutions and not just a list of logistics to organize.”
CSEP, CMP, Senior Vice President
“Be a Swiss Army Knife: be multi-dimensional, good at multitasking, with no issues in rolling your sleeves up at times to overcome a shortage of resources or to avert the last minute crisis.”
AVP and National Head of Brand Communications, Bhaskar Group
“A planner must double as a janitor or fireman. Often, dealing with cleaning up messes and putting out fires is part of the job. Quickly, quietly and efficiently. Get it done, then get back to the task at hand.”
Kevin R. Johnston
CMP – CEO, Advantage Event Group
PASSION & WORK ETHIC
“Be passionate. If it is just a job or a paycheck any event planner will be viewed as average. The passion to make it more productive, more exciting, more, more, more, is what drives this business. Otherwise, we’d all be eating on white tablecloths with votive candles and parquet dance floors.”
Kevin R. Johnston
CMP – CEO, Advantage Event Group
“Passion: Being an event manager can be a thankless job. The person must have internal passion and zeal to overcome simple failures, and learn fast to be able to work on the next assignment.”
AVP and National Head of Brand Communications, Bhaskar Group
Interested to know what our take on this was before the research? Here is EventMB’s top 6 skills list!
Having taken the pulse on the top 5 skills event planners need to stay in the game, let’s shift focus on how to up your game and really take it to the next level.
What is Event Management at the Peak of Your Career?
Having looked at the essentials for success, let’s look at the difference between what being an event planner entails at the start of an event planning career, and how it evolves once you climb the ladder.
What does an event planning job look like when you get to the top?
When you get to a certain stage in your event planning career, your skillset has to expand beyond simply planning events and being a list executioner. Your job will encompass a range of higher-level duties characteristic of more leadership-oriented event planning jobs.
Ready to really differentiate yourself? Start winning more coveted contracts with our awesome resume template.
5 Event Planner Duties of the Superhuman Eventprof
We’re not in Kansas anymore, and we’re past batting our eyes and clicking our heels through small, low-profile events. There’s no wizard to rescue you.
Clients expect YOU to be the wizard. And a ninja. And Wonderwoman. And with great power comes great responsibility.
Here are 5 event planning duties you need to be prepared for if you’re ready to move beyond list execution and take your event planning career to the next level.
Leadership and Managing People
Being a team leader requires a balancing act between being likeable and being assertive. Your team is your back up. Being able to give them clear direction, support, and feedback is an essential leadership and event planning skill.
They should share your vision and your values while adding another layer of diversity and innovation to your group. Respect them: you hired them for a reason. Be open to receiving criticism, feedback and input from them as well.
Instead of simple a list execution, top-level event planners have to think strategically and participate in higher-level discussions with stakeholders. It’s incumbent upon senior planners to be able to have intelligent conversations about value, ROI, goals, metrics, budgets and solutions, so measuring and analyzing these things is an essential event management skill.
Being a Cultural Attaché
Expanding beyond local events means familiarizing yourself with international flavours, rules and regulations (GDPR, etc.), seasons, customs, budgets, and expectations. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, you already speak the lingua franca. Still, you should have a reliable translation resource, and Google Translate doesn’t count (yet).
Familiarize yourself with common design concepts, image formats, specs for different sizes of visuals, etc. While higher-tier planners often operate on teams with dedicated designers, many don’t, and even those that do will benefit from a basic concept of what design executables cost in terms of time and money. Having reasonable expectations of your designers and design suppliers is an important event planning quality, and will help you make realistic promises and keep things running smoothly.
Next level relationship management moves beyond contacting a venue or emailing a supplier once a year for your annual meeting. It’s about cultivating relationships that are valuable in and of themselves, beyond the value exchanged in specific transactions.
These relationships are what will motivate vendors and suppliers to accommodate your last-minute needs, your less than ideal event budgets, etc. Fostering a sense of loyalty and history is going to make it worth supporting you in exceptional circumstances.
So how do you do all that? Read on.
10 Skills to Develop for a More Successful Event Planning Career
While it’s always important to strive to be better at event planning, we also want to look at some often-neglected skills that top event planners need. Creating recognition and momentum for your event planning business requires its own skillset.
To ensure you give yourself the chance to develop these, learning to take time for yourself, and to take a step back to reorient yourself and prioritize professional growth.
Cultivating a Personal Brand
As a high level event planner, it will often be incumbent on you to determine the best ways and places to market your event. You will be expected to understand the power of social media in generating community-based, word-of-mouth momentum for your event.
But even more importantly, you have to learn to apply this skillset to marketing yourself – your services within the events industry. Creating a personal brand and positioning yourself as an expert can have a huge impact on reinventing your career.
Almost half (47%) of those surveyed said having better personal branding would help them with their career. 44% said that they wanted to be able to make better use of social media.
Start or contribute to an already established blog.
Blogging is a great path to influence. You want to attend a conference? Offer to blog about it. You want to meet another influencer? Offer to interview them.
Find gaps and content opportunities to develop your own brand.
What are others not talking about? Could you write about it? Build your reputation and raise your profile by sharing a unique perspective.
Engage with key influencers in your desired area.
There are a number of productive leverage thought leaders.
Engage with them on Twitter or join and contribute to LinkedIn groups.
Go to industry events where they are speaking, and prepare intelligent, thought-provoking questions. Grab the audience’s attention, and their followers become your followers.
Position yourself as an expert.
Try to gain experience and expertise that allows you to position yourself as an influencer in a specific sphere. Find opportunities to speak at events, write content for high-traffic blogs, and start discussions on social media within professional networks.
Rock social media.
Use social media’s unprecedented ability to broadcast the highlights of your professional career. Create profiles that act as de facto interactive portfolios of your greatest accomplishments. Beyond professional networks like LinkedIn platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter all present opportunities to market your brand.
Part of establishing a brand around your services is ensuring a certain quality is delivered with consistency, and a big part of that will be trusting your experience and saying ‘no’ to bad ideas.
But anyone can say ‘no,’ and you’ve probably become somewhat familiar with the word in a planning context already. Saying ‘no’ as a next-level planner means doing so with a certain sophistication.
Offer “no” as the client’s best option.
Using tact and diplomacy, explain that your refusal is in your client’s best interests. Show that you understand what the client is asking for and why, and that you’ve got a legitimately better, more practical alternative.
Use “no, but…”
The “no, but…” version entails responding with solutions that match your event vision with the client’s asks. “No, we won’t be going with your initial idea (because it’s not in your best interest), BUT this is what I can do to achieve your goals.” Proposing a selection of solutions that will show that you value their input.
Don’t be afraid to take a hard pass.
Bad ideas aren’t the only thing that can hurt your reputation. At a certain point, you should feel comfortable saying “no” to events with affiliations that might compromise future opportunities. Want inclusive, LGBT-friendly clients? Maybe steer clear of NRA events. Their values aren’t necessarily opposed, but each group may resent your affiliation with the other. Value perception is essential to branding.
Say “no” to inefficiency.
Productive event professionals understand the concept of ‘opportunity cost’. Tons of meetings are useful only if there is an agenda and an objective, so you have to learn when to politely decline.
Events Job Market Analysis
Look at the asks for the positions you want, determine how competitive you are for them, and identify the steps for improving your knowledge and qualifications accordingly.
Get a sense of what’s out there.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, get a sense of what horizontal career moves are viable. Vertical is not the only way to go; it’s not even necessarily the best way. Sometimes it will even make sense to take a step back to break into a new area.
Take a critical look at yourself.
If you’re thinking of making a switch or vying for a position, weigh the skills and experience you bring to the table against those of your peers / competition.
It may not seem like you have anything to gain from working for free at this stage of the game, but consider that even the most successful lawyers work pro bono occasionally. Volunteering can be a way to experiment with a new niche. Reach out and see if you can job shadow or assist on an upcoming event. This will give you great perspective before you take the leap into a new focus area. It’s also a great way to make connections in a relatively lower-pressure position.
Learn to express your value.
Peak skills don’t always translate to peak interview performance, and the onus falls on you to bridge that gap. Learning how to communicate your assets in interviews and contract negotiations demands a whole different set of sales and marketing skills. Use hard numbers wherever possible to show the ROI of choosing you.
Another crucial way to improve your bottom line and demonstrate your value is by embracing eventtech.
46% of our survey respondents said they could benefit from better technical knowledge.
Every year, more and more tech companies pop up with the promise of making your life easier and allowing you to throw better events. It behoves you to learn about that for a number of reasons:
Novel, technically smooth experiences.
Attendee experience is paramount. Having a pulse on emergent eventtech will allow you to have intelligent conversations about what is possible and within what budget.
More efficient workflows.
Eventtech makes your own life easier through process automation.
More scalability for your business.
Being more efficient means you can accept more (and more complex) work using technology that allows you to scale your services.
Master planners stay on top of what’s on offer from a feature and back-end perspective. They understand how the emergent technology can enhance the attendee experience, and how it can impact their own workload.
Learn to become excited when something new comes out.
A lot of us are intimidated by new technology and the seemingly endless list of skills and terms we need to learn to use it. Don’t give in to your fear. The next generation of top event planners is going to love technology, and so should you. After all, most of it exists to make your life easier. Remember that you’re the customer: tech companies want a product design that works for you.
Treat your eventtech vendors as partners.
Part of getting over the eventtech hump is a matter of developing relationships with the vendors. An open dialogue allows them to figure out what you want and the best way to deliver it. Don’t be shy with your questions, don’t be afraid to ask for instructions multiple times, and don’t let them intimidate you with technical jargon. Any eventtech company worth its salt can distill its value to you in your own language.
Automate, automate, and automate again.
Most eventtech companies have cropped up around the desire to automate one process or another, so odds are that you’ve already made this goal a priority if you’re using eventtech at all. But the buck doesn’t have to stop with tech companies catering to events. Applications like Zapier exist specifically to offer you new and helpful automations and integrations between your favorite everyday tools. At EventMB, we’re particularly fond of Google Sheets formulas to manage all kinds of tasks, and we just came up with those ourselves after a bit of research.
Expand attendee experiences and access.
Engagement is the biggest buzzword in the industry, and technology is at the heart of it. From social media engagement to onsite games, eventtech is leading every new engagement trend and bolstering every business objective. Training, team-building, sponsor and exhibitor engagement – all benefit from supporting technology.
Familiarize yourself with eventtech terms.
Things like “responsive” and “API” might sound a little jargony to you now, but before long, most successful planners will understand what they mean and why they are important. Being able to talk the talk is an essential event management skill. Knowing the terms will enable you to have intelligent discussions about what you actually need to serve your event goals, and what expectations are reasonable.
Use technology wisely.
Keep yourself sane by making the most of tools and technology that can make your job easier. Steer well clear of technology that takes up too much of your valuable time for little reward or clear purpose. Understand the process behind the technology, too, so you can understand better why it is important and the value it is adding.
Data is a girl’s best friend. Square-cut or pear-shaped, these stats don’t lose their return rate.
There’s a wide range of data and analytics-gathering tools out there. Learning to wield them is an essential event planning skill. From event apps and facial recognition technology that help you gather qualitative data to registration and ratings software that give you hard numbers, data lets you quantify your goals and create objective standards for success that you can show your stakeholders.
Data also lets you measure growth year over year, and identify problem areas when your annual attendance drops. As such, data will become the cornerstone of any event debriefs you have with your team.
With a myriad of metrics to contend with (budget, registration data, engagement analytics, etc.), look for tools that present everything in clear insights and takeaways you can use to inform smarter decisions.
Want to hear about some more advanced strategies for using data to sell tickets?
Hob-nobbing and Higher-level Networking
While it can sometimes be intimidating to make your career-shifting goals known within your network, you will be much more likely to hear about new opportunities that may suit you.
Here are some tips for making the most out of your networking opportunities:
Higher-level networking is less about expanding your network as much as possible, and more about making connections with a sense of purpose.
Consider a given connection’s broader social sphere and potential utility. Relevant factors: shared interests, shared or complementary professional backgrounds, proximity to coveted positions or companies, and geographic location.
Once you’ve identified a quality potential contact, nurture that connection through consistent contact and engagement. Don’t be a stalker, but don’t be shy about following them on social media and commenting on their posts.
Look for opportunities for collaboration. Taking on a challenge together is a great way to build camaraderie and place yourself top-of-mind if any opportunities come up.
Leverage your connections.
Ask for introductions from contacts you have with potential hiring managers for companies you’d like to work for.. Try starting a conversation by asking what they like about working there, and take it from there.
The Art of Negotiation
As you were getting your event planning feet wet, you probably had the opportunity to test your negotiating mettle against vendors and suppliers.
Winning a bundle deal on catering services or a multi-event discount from your event app vendor is an important notch on your belt, but lots of planners feel like they’re not in a position to apply those same skills when they’re asking for more money.
Levelling up as an event planner will often mean taking on more responsibility, managing a larger budget, and enduring a lot more sleepless nights. You deserve to be compensated for that, and learning to negotiate for your value is crucial to your event planning career.
Remember that you’re competing with other planners, and that the market sets your value. Consider what the event actually requires. If it’s a small, low-profile, or low-budget event, you might foster a smoother long-term relationship by turning it down instead of trying to negotiate a higher rate of pay.
Don’t undercut your competitors on price.
If you’re trying to take the next step in your career and you’re confident in your experience, don’t undervalue it. Doing so only detracts from your collective negotiating power.
Consider the time investment.
Especially if you’re a freelance planner or a solopreneur, you have a bottom line. Don’t do any work where you’ll have to severely compromise your bottom line unless it presents a long-term payoff like repeat business.
Talk in terms of ROI.
Demonstrate your value by relating it to your efficiency and the ease of mind that brings. Without saying anything negative about your competitors, just stress the long-run savings of going with someone who’s seen it all and has a proven track record.
For a deep analysis of your market value and strategies for boosting your negotiating leverage, take a look at this report.
Leadership and Delegation
As an event planner, it’s safe to assume you’re a bit of a control freak. One of the most important event planning qualities is the ability to relinquish some of that control. I know, reading that probably made you reel in your seat. But it’s true.
So how do you do that?
Determine what can be offloaded.
You check a million boxes a day. While a lot of that can be automated with technology, a lot more can be delegated. Identify what really needs your input and what just needs your instruction.
Find competent people you trust to follow your instructions.
You want to hire talented proteges that remind you of yourself, people who reliably execute taskst without the need for constant supervision.
Optimize by outsourcing.
Companies such as Upwork, Fiverr and Taskrabbit give you access to a marketplace of talent that you can hire for as little as $5. Use them for one-off tasks, such as data entry, a promotional event video, or data-heavy research.
Proactive Skills Development
You might be good at what you do; you might have experience. But the Oracle of Delphi named Socrates the wisest Grecian because he knew how little he knew.
Take a Socratic approach to learning: know that you don’t know everything, and seek guidance from people in higher positions.
Recognize that your way might not be the best way.
Planners who are determined to do everything their way, as opposed to learning the BEST way, are doing themselves and their attendees a disservice.
Embrace the learning curve.
Learning can be daunting, but the sooner you start, the easier it will be, especially with eventtech. These companies provide instructions, often in easily digestible video formats.
Let it be a social experience.
Seek inspiration from your peers, and join activities where participants share their knowledge. The most practical, actionable advice will come from your peers and colleagues.
Explore different verticals.
Pursue knowledge both in and outside the events industry. Use cross-genre fusions to create a memorable experience and find a lucrative niche.
Learning from people who’ve achieved what you want is a great way to get direct, practical advice that works while you enrich your network with more qualified connections. Be sure to let your prospective mentor know what you hope to get out of the relationship.
There are a number of certifications that allow you to demonstrate your level of proficiency, such as Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and Certified Special Events Planner (CSEP). There are also niche-specific courses and certifications for industries like wedding planning, travel consulting and catering.
The Career-propelling Benefits of Keeping Your CMP Certification Current
Certification is a great way to access structured learning through accredited courses and credits. Many providers of those educational materials have spent hours curating the content for delivering practical, actionable advice that will keep your event planning skills up to snuff.
But there are a number of non-educational benefits to certification that revolve around getting ahead:
It looks good.
When people are scanning your applications, professional profiles, and email signatures, those designations lend a certain authority and competitive edge.
Maintaining them is good for networking.
Many of those educational opportunities take place at events where you can meet others and bond over learning together.
They tick boxes.
Certification is required for many positions.
Entrepreneurship (or Solopreneurship)
If you can’t find the right job, consider starting your own business. If you have the necessary experience and the drive to meet a demand, you might be well-served by creating your own opportunities. Commitment and passion can often pay huge dividends.
Start freelancing on the side of your main gig.
Mitigate the risk of going solo by gradually moving into freelancing.
Running a business is like running an event.
Think about the steps you need to take to plan an event. Layout a business plan that looks like a project management sheet.
Isolate the element that is pulling you down.
What is making you unhappy in your current gig? If going solo can wipe that away, take the plunge.
Identify a niche.
A great way to get a steady base of clients is to focus on specialization and become the go-to person for a specific type of event.
Plotting Your Event Planning Career Path
Odds are, there’s no workback schedule for your event planning career. For event planners, it’s especially hard, but you need to take time to reflect and define your event planning career path (as much as you might already feel over-extended with your event planning projects).
Take a Hard Look at Yourself and Your Situation
Assess where you are in the market, the average years of experience for someone in your position, and what looks like a realistic set of next steps.
Is there upward mobility in your organization or industry?
Do you manage everything, or are you on a team with differentiated roles?
Don’t underestimate yourself. Are you really unqualified? Are you really unable to speak in public?
Job Market Analysis
Take a look at what’s out there.
Would you be interested in and competitive for different types of event planning?
Are you limited to your current location? What is the competitive landscape in other cities?
Follow industry influencers to gain insight into their strategies and networks.
This is a research-intensive step in the process, but it is essential to making a well-reasoned decision.
Mind the Gap
The best way to launch yourself from a plateau is to build a bridge to the next level. Find out what you’re missing based on what’s competitive for the jobs you’re interested in.
Is your event certification current?
Is your experience relevant to your planned career move?
Can you leverage your existing network, or will you need to do a bit of social legwork first?
How does your event planning resume compare to others?
Fill the Gap
Orient yourself towards developing those finer skills. Consider things like mentorship and CMP certification/courses to enrich your network, get practical advice on what you should do, and bolster your event planning credentials.
Offer to volunteer for different kinds of events and within different types of organizations..
Market yourself and develop a personal brand to increase your name recognition within the industry.
Plan milestones for yourself, but keep an eye on changing requirements.
Communicate Your Value
Creating resumes and filling out job applications is definitely the most onerous part of making advancing your event planning career. There is also a difference between being good at a job, and being good at the interview for that job.
Include hard and soft skills. Being organized and data-oriented is great, but you also need to speak about your leadership skills and grace under fire.
Concentrate on demonstrated ROI. As you know, budgets are the ultimate limiting factor in the events industry. Frame your accomplishments in a results-oriented way that shows a favourable relationship between what you cost and what you saved.
Talk about what you’ve learned.Differentiate yourself from less experienced planners by framing your own personal growth in terms of accumulated learning opportunities.
IS YOUR RESUME UP TO SNUFF?
Let’s start with something easy: the layout. The right resume layout immediately indicates an organized and detail-oriented event planner. We have just the thing: an event planner resume template that will help you showcase your event management skills and advance your event planning career.
12 Essential Qualities of a Successful Event Planner
As an experienced event planner, you’re familiar with high demands and thankless stakeholders. When you’re gunning for those more coveted positions, everything becomes amplified. The competition is steeper. Bigger budgets mean more pressure. The risk analysis becomes more complex, and the contingency plans more elaborate.
There is a lot to consider; it’s not a career move you should take lightly.
Here are some qualities every successful planner possesses. Hone them to prepare for the next stage in your career:
A Propensity for Selfcare
It’s impossible not to overwork yourself in this industry, but be sure to take some time for yourself. The happier and healthier you are, the better you will be at your job.
Not everything can always be in your control. The important thing is how you react and respond when things don’t go exactly to plan.
Take your own path, be true to yourself, and make your own decisions–that’s how you get recognized as an influencer and beat the competition
Stay grounded among the celebrity sightings and event perks by reminding yourself of the hard work you have done to get to where you are today.
Master planners have learned to cope with decisions that seem overwhelming. Trust your own experience and gut feelings to see you through.
The biggest no-no in personal branding is being disingenuous.
Positivity (Tempered with Realism)
A positive outlook can help to ward off depression and anxiety, and it will help to avoid burnout, even when your workload seems impossible.
A Mature Attitude Towards Failure
Use mistakes and failures as a learning opportunity, and seek support from those who can help you make the most of them.
Everyone makes mistakes, but a real eventprof takes ownership and finds solutions to them.
Have you ever felt inadequate and doubted your abilities? Imposter syndrome is commonly reported, even by high achievers. Realise that other people’s successes do not mean you have failed. To be an unstoppable eventprof, you need to have faith in yourself.
Goal-orientation and Momentum
If you achieve one of your goals, acknowledge it, celebrate and move on. Keep up the pressure by setting new goals and timescales.
The Desire to Learn and Grow
The event industry is constantly evolving, and being the best involves constant learning and keeping abreast of trends and new technology. Share and engage within your network; different experiences, perspectives and views will help you make more informed decisions in the future.
People skills and organization shared the top spot in terms of the top event planning skills and qualities. Time management and flexibility were also deemed extremely important qualities for successful event managers. Of course, passion for event planning is important too.
Nonetheless, we found all of the listed skills very revealing, and we wanted to share them with you. In this people-driven industry, success means showing initiative and gelling well within a company culture, and you can always supplement this by proactively taking courses and gaining more event management skills.
So there you have it. Complete advice on the key skills for event management and what it takes to get your resume noticed and land your dream job as an event coordinator.