Parties, weddings, meetings, conventions, and conferences—these types of occasions, whether they’re big or small, are typically pulled together by event planners. But what is an event planner exactly? Well, they’re not perpetual party-goers. Instead, event planners are in the trenches, making sure all the nitty-gritty details for an event come together seamlessly on the day.
Or as Kawania Wooten (of Howerton+Wooten Events in Maryland) puts it, an event planner is not unlike an “orchestra conductor.” When it comes to crunch time, a planner ensures “that all of the event vendors have the information and details they need to carry out their responsibilities.”
Here’s what you need to know about being an event planner
While the exact duties of an event planner will vary depending on experience and specialty, there are a few basics consistent with the role. Here’s what you need to know.
The duties of an event planner will obviously be particular to the type of occasion you’re working on. But the ultimate goal of an event planner is to coordinate and lead events for clients, from start to finish.
Ahead of the event, this could mean: Liaising and contracting with venues; booking vendors for catering, equipment, flowers, etc.; overseeing all logistics, including travel and scheduling; and on some occasions managing and confirming attendance. Of course, you’ll nearly always have to work within a specified budget.
On the day of an event, your job is to ensure everything runs smoothly, right up until the last guest leaves and the lights go out. You’ll typically be hands-on, ensuring equipment is set up, handling every last-minute crisis that pops up and putting the finishing touches on everything.
Georgina Kritsilidis, an event planner in Melbourne, Australia, warns that working in events “isn’t a career for the fainthearted. As much as you think you’ll be able to plan for every scenario possible, there is always something that’ll come up.”
Wooten has a similar view, saying you need “to have a great sense of humor, be confident, and remain calm if a crisis happens or things don’t go as planned… because a crisis will happen.”
Both Kritsilidis and Wooten make note of the grueling hours, especially on event day. You’ll be on your feet most of the day, and that can be tiring.
But on the plus side, Wooten notes, you’ll be using both sides of your brain. When it comes to planning, you’ll have to be quite analytical, especially when it comes to numbers, data, measurements, and budgets. But you’ll also be tapping into the creative side of your brain, especially when it comes to designs, challenges, and trend-setting.
If you’re up for a fast-paced, challenging, and changeable environment—and you don’t mind long hours and travel—event planning might just be the right job for you.
Most companies will require you to have an associate degree, at the very least, although a bachelor’s degree is preferred. The ideal undergraduate majors for this role include business, communications, marketing, event management, and hospitality management.
Employers will naturally look favorably upon those who have experience in event management, especially those who have a portfolio at the ready. Work experience and internships in related fields—including marketing, public relations, communications, and business—would also be of benefit, especially if you’re just starting out.
PayScale reports that an event planner can expect to earn an average salary of $45K per year. It’s worth noting that the majority of the 1,374 individuals whose data was collected by PayScale were women. It’s also worth noting that the total compensation may include between 10K and 24K in bonuses and/or commissions.