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How to Become an Event Planner

By DeVry University

November 2, 2022

7 min read

If you’ve ever attended a wedding, charity fundraiser, business conference or other large event and came away asking, “How did this all come together?” you can likely thank the event planner. If you enjoy planning and hosting parties, are good at handling details and find personal satisfaction in helping others enjoy themselves, you might be interested in learning how to become an event planner and pursuing a career in this field.

What Is Event Planning?

Behind every successful, memory-making event is a professional, or a team of them, who sweat all the details as they endeavor to create an unforgettable guest experience. Part creative genius, part logistics manager and fluid multitasker, an effective event planner stays cool under pressure while using their passion, training and skills to pull it off without a hitch. 

All the essential components of a well-organized event –– the venue, the invitations, the vendors, the menu and the décor –– must be orchestrated for the desired outcome: Satisfied clients and guests who’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable or professionally fulfilling experience.

The world of event planning is as broad and varied as the different types of events that exist. Some events involve a small number of guests, are held at a single venue and have relatively few moving parts to manage. Others, however, may involve hundreds of attendees at multiple venues, with speakers, sponsors, audio-visual requirements, exhibitors and entertainers to be scheduled and coordinated.

What Does an Event Planner Do?

The specific responsibilities and duties of an event planner will vary according to the size and type of event, whether the event planner is self-employed or working for a specific venue or company and several other variables.

Some event planners specialize in a particular type of event, such as weddings or corporate events. Some of a planner’s responsibilities may include:

  • Meeting with clients

  • Communicating with vendors and venues

  • Creating event budgets

  • Performing pre-event checks

  • On-site coordination between venue, staff and vendors

Requirements to Pursue an Event Planning Career 

How do these talented and creative professionals bring it all together to create such enjoyable, memorable experiences? They may begin learning how to plan an event with on-the-job experience in the hospitality or retail industries –– perhaps with a catering company or at a large resort, hotel, banquet hall or other venue. They may also receive specialized education and training in hospitality, event management or event design.

What Education and Training are Required to Become an Event Planner?

According to Indeed, while a formal education is not a strict requirement, increased competition in this field has encouraged more aspiring event planners to earn a degree, and many corporations require their event planners to hold bachelor’s degrees before being hired for this role. Earning your bachelor’s degree in meeting and event management or a related discipline such as hospitality, marketing or public relations might be a good first step toward pursuing a career in this field.

 

A degree program related to this field can teach you a variety of skills, including event sales and sponsorship, human resources management, relationship management, agreement negotiation, accounting and computer skills that are specific to this industry.

 

Through our online Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Hospitality Management at DeVry, for example, you’ll have the opportunity to explore day-to-day operational responsibilities and gain insight into how to effectively manage hospitality service providers. 

What Certifications Can Help You Pursue an Event Planning Career?

Among the certifications available in this industry are the Certified Meeting Planner (CMP) and the Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) certificates. The CMP, can be earned by completing certificate courses administered by Meeting Professionals International and the Events Industry Council. Professional experience and successful completion of an exam are required to earn this certification. 

 

The Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) certification, offered by the International Live Events Association, recognizes event professionals who’ve successfully demonstrated the ability, knowledge and skills to fulfill all elements of a special event. Requirements for obtaining this certification are similar to the CMP. Candidates must have event planning experience and pass the CSEP exam.

How to Find Work Experience

While you’re learning how to plan an event, gaining practical experience can help you gain a competitive advantage over other job candidates once your education is complete. There are many things you can do to broaden your horizons and sharpen your “people skills” to help you prepare for a career as an event planner. These might include working as a host, server or bartender in a restaurant or catering business. 

Some degree programs in the field may even offer internships that allow you to gain hands-on experience and make industry contacts while you’re learning. 

Another way to gain practical event planning experience prior to completing your education is by volunteering. Music festivals, charity fundraisers and sporting events are all examples of events that rely heavily on volunteers. Volunteering at one of these events could lead to gaining experience in many different areas of event management.

How to Choose a Specialization

Event planners often choose to tailor their skills to a certain type of event, such as weddings, charity fundraisers or corporate retreats, especially if they aspire to start their own business. This kind of specialization typically comes after several years of industry experience, whereby the event planner gains practical, on-the-job knowledge and cultivates important contacts in their chosen industry.

Create an Event Planning Portfolio

Once you’ve completed your education and gained some practical experience in how to plan an event through an internship, part-time work or volunteering, it’s time to build your resume and portfolio. 

Your resume should highlight your education and industry experience and list the skills and qualities you possess that make you a good candidate for employment in the industry. Your goal here is to align your qualifications with the needs of a potential employer. 

Your portfolio is a unique expression of your skills that can help show employers how you measure up against other job candidates. In this way, it’s similar to the portfolio an artist or photographer would use to showcase their work. 

Your online portfolio should include:

  • Photographs of your work

  • Customer testimonials

  • Examples of invitations or other marketing materials used

  • Press clippings from media coverage of the events you’ve helped to organize 

After it’s built, you’ll need to maintain it, adding new items to keep it fresh and current. You’ll also need to promote it through social media, email and other outreach methods.

Start Marketing Yourself

Marketing yourself as an event planner, or marketing your new event planning business, involves a variety of tactics to get you, your accomplishments and skills noticed by potential employers or clients. This is where the basics of marketing, many of which are included in an industry-related degree program, can be put to practical use.

Utilize Social Media 

Social media is a great tool for self-promotion and can be a great reputation-builder. Social media generates interest and exposure through photos, videos and other content posted by you or others who’ve attended events you’ve worked on. Be sure to promote your online portfolio by linking it to your social media accounts.

Build a Professional Website

Creating a website or blog is another effective promotional tactic to help you to reinforce your value proposition and be found by search engines. This is where you’ll post your qualifications, photos, videos, client testimonials, the results you’ve achieved and other content that will help distinguish you from other event planners.

Attend Networking Events

Finally, networking events are a great self-promotion tool. In-person networking is a great way to literally rub elbows with potential clients, employers or other contacts that may lead to event planning career opportunities.

Skills that May Benefit Event Planners

According to Indeed, event planning firms and other businesses hiring event planners look for candidates who are:

  • Organized

  • Open to collaboration

  • Able to adapt

  • Creative

  • Able to multitask

  • Good at budgeting

  • Excellent communicators and networkers

  • Skilled at negotiating

Corporate and professional events or conferences require event planners to be particularly buttoned down and detail-oriented, as this type of event planning involves booking hotel rooms and coordinating and contracting with speakers, sponsors and exhibitors.
Event planners know that as the date for a large event approaches, they will likely be required to work longer hours, including evenings and weekends. Those specializing in weddings will have to be flexible as well, since many times, details can change during the planning process.
This job might be a great choice for people who are composed and calm under pressure. In this profession, soft skills, like many of the ones listed above, play an important role.

Conclusion

When pursuing a career as an event planner, it is important to remember that a combination of hands-on experience and formal education can be useful and can help you learn to distinguish yourself from other job candidates. Experience earned through employment, internships or volunteering, combined with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, may help provide the tools necessary to pursue a career in this industry.

Prepare for Your Career in Event Planning with an Online Degree from DeVry

At DeVry, our online Bachelor’s Degree with a Specialization in Hospitality Management teaches you about the tools needed to pursue a career in meeting and event management, as well as how to manage event-planning departments in schools, businesses and other organizations. Classes start every 8 weeks.

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