You probably never thought of it, but the ancient Olympics and Disney’s Electric Light Parade didn’t just happen. These events required skilled event planners to come off without a hitch.
Despite the fact that the event profession as we know it today is a relatively new field of study, for as long as we can remember—and even before that—people have been coming together to gather and feast. Back to the ancient Olympics in Greece: Even back then, someone had to organize the pagan festival and sacrificing of 34 oxen and the following athletic competitions among city-states, right?
I’ve been educating future event planners for nearly 20 years. Here are the basics of the business and what you need to know if you want to become an event planner.
What is an event?
The term “event” is derived from the Latin word evenire which means to come out, happen, or go forth. Events, therefore, are outcomes of the purposeful efforts and hard work of events teams and events leaders.
Interesting side note: It has been reported that the term “special event” was coined by an Imagineer at Disneyland named Robert Janis. As the story goes, Walt Disney asked Janis to come up with an event that brought guests back to the park after dark in order to increase profits. He came up with the Electric Light Parade, and the rest is history.
Most events fall into one of these four categories:
It is important to understand which one your event will be. Furthermore, in the last three decades, the profession of event planning has grown to include many sub-fields such as civic events, trade shows, expos, meetings and conferences, fairs and festivals, sporting events, and social-life cycle events such as weddings and quinceañeras.
What types of skills do event planners need?
There are many transferable skills in the area of event management, but the foundation of success for lies within the following four areas. Mastering these skills early on could ensure that you are on the right track in your career.
- Time management: In the event industry, time is money. Event scripts and critical operating calendars are tools of the trade that can keep managers on task.
- Financial planning: Event planners need to set realistic budgets with philosophies that match the desired outcome of their clients. Is it a fundraiser or a for-profit event? How can you plan your event in line with the financial constraints?
- Human resource management: Managers also need to consider who will be at the event. Determining the right people to work an event is a human resource skill that each event manager must consider, especially when using volunteers. Proper recruitment, training, and reward of volunteers is the key when running large scale events.
- Technology: This piece of the puzzle is ever-changing. Increasingly, event managers rely on access management software (ticketing), Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), and social media to manage their events and the buzz surrounding them.
If you are interested in exploring leadership, collaborative decision-making or problem-solving, and communication, this profession could be for you!
How do I become an event planner?
Like any career, there are skills and knowledge that is best attained by focusing your studies in that specific area. A degree in event management will give you the foundation to build a successful career as an event planner.
And don’t forget that this is a hands-on career. Joining a professional association that brings event planners together, including International Live Event Association (ILEA), Meeting Planners International (MPI), and International Association of Exhibits and Events (IAEE), is a great way for you to meet people and explore the profession. All of these organizations have student memberships for $50 or less.
Want to learn more about earning your bachelor's degree in sports, entertainment, and event management? Complete the Request Info form or call 855-JWU-1881