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Everything You Need to Know About How to Become an Event Planner

Event planners — whether social, nonprofit, or corporate — always look like they’re having a good time! After all, they’re in the center of the action and always know what’s going on. But, of course, you know that it can’t possibly be all fun and games, yet you find it fascinating regardless. Are you up for the challenge? Here are some tips to help get you started on your journey towards how to become an event planner.

1. Surround yourself with other event planners

To start, join your local chamber, then look into national organizations, such as National Association of Catering and Events (NACE), International Live Events Association (ILEA), and Meeting Professionals International (MPI). Monthly meetings and active social media updates offer inspiration and guidance to both novice and experienced professionals. If there isn’t a local chapter, look into starting one, even if just on a casual basis. What better way to become an event planner than by planning a series of opportunities for professionals to get together?

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2. Build your network of professionals

Your network is ultimately the single most effective way not only to create a name for yourself but also to get leads for both jobs and continuing education. Get to know everyone and anyone even peripherally involved in the event industry in your area, including hoteliers, caterers, DJs, and printing companies. Acquaint yourself with Peerspace, a one-stop shop for unique and creative event spaces nationwide. The best way to become an event planner is to surround yourself with people who will support you and possibly become your mentor.

3. Select a focus

Though your hands are involved in every aspect of event planning, it would be advantageous if you refrained from trying to be everything to everyone. Professional event planning requires that you have your finger on the pulse of the big picture. That doesn’t mean that you have to — or should be — the master of every detail. Part of how to become an event planner involves being organized and aware of your limits.

Too many social event planners, for example, fall into the trap of being a planner/florist or planner/caterer. If you want to be a florist or a caterer, do that; if you want to be a rental consultant or lighting expert, head down that road. Don’t try to do everything. It’s hard to figure out how to charge for your time when you spread yourself too thin. You’ll make the wrong kinds of mistakes and quickly burn out.

4. Learn to sell your skills

Determine the difference between being assertive and aggressive. Project confidence and enthusiasm without being overbearing. Learn to read people and diagnose what they want or need. Also, avoid embellishing! If you’ve never planned a bat mitzvah or set up a Skype presentation for a conference, refrain from making lofty promises. Instead, assure them that you have access to the finest resources to make it happen. Then reach out to that network you’ve carefully curated. A passable event planner becomes a great event planner by knowing how to talk to people.

5. Research certifications and further education

Use your network to decide what you need. Meeting planners benefit from certain certifications, whereas social event planners do better with more experience under their belts. Gain experience by taking an entry-level position in the industry. Otherwise, you run the risk of people not taking you seriously. The single best way to learn is on someone else’s dime.

Also, look for seminars and workshops for small business: accounting, marketing, time management. Everyone could use a refresher, and if you’re considering eventually going out on your own, it’s important to know how to run a business. Businesses don’t usually fail because they aren’t good at their craft; instead, they flounder because the owners are often lacking the organizational skills to balance their checkbooks and pay taxes.

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6. Attend a conference and absorb everything

Get out of town and see a new city. Immerse yourself in the provided education and take it seriously. Learn from people who have both made mistakes and had tremendous success on the way. Take each other’s ideas and stay in touch. Attend any and all seminars or workshops, even if you don’t think they pertain to you. Dine out with strangers in your industry, ask questions, buy the books that the speakers are selling, and get on everyone’s mailing list. Embrace the experience, then you’ll have a great time learning.

7. Advertise appropriately

The basics include printing business cards. Create a website that is clean and mobile-friendly. Link to it on Facebook and Instagram pages. And remember to display your contact info! So many businesses simply have a form on their sites without an email address. While the thought behind that makes sense — i.e., to avoid spam — it’s also incredibly frustrating for other professionals who want to refer business to you.

8. Decide what your time is worth

This pertains to an hourly/per job rate and setting personal boundaries. In regard to pricing: what does your market look like? What price point will it bear? Talk to other pros, then do a quick internet search to find out the rate other planners from bigger companies and nonprofits charge for nationwide conferences. Then, scale appropriately. Even if just for your own benefit, outline what that rate buys for your clients.

As it applies to your personal time, it’s true that we live in a “hustle” economy. Still, those people who look like they’re working all the time also schedule time to go to the gym, as well as take a weekend off to spend with their families. For perspective, track every minute that you answer the phone, check email, or otherwise work on something for your client. If you aren’t careful, that hourly rate dwindles rather quickly. In short, don’t be afraid to charge people. Don’t give anything away.

9. Be mindful and patient

This is one of the most essential aspects of how to become an event planner. Becoming a successful event planner takes time. No matter what your background or level of enthusiasm, it’s going to take a while for you to gain the professional respect of your colleagues. Event and meeting planners come and go. Set yourself apart by proceeding steadily, being gracious in the face of challenges, and accepting of feedback. Good luck!

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