As you start researching your options for event planning careers, one of the first concepts that you should understand is that not all events are created equal. When you decide you want to become an event planner, it's important to start thinking about what this means to you.
When you envision yourself as a planner, what do you see? Do you see weddings? Birthday parties? Fundraising events? Black tie galas? Community festivals? Large staged events? Corporate meetings? Sporting events?
As I discuss in the free Into to Event Planning video course, once you decide to go into event planning, you need to narrow down your focus to a specific "niche" or two. A niche is an area of specialty in which you will focus your career. In the same way that doctors have an area of specialty, and teachers choose a subject and age range to teach, you too need to narrow down your interests in the event planning industry.
If you think about it, it makes sense. Someone who needs a wedding planner wouldn't hire someone who also plans sporting events and beer festivals. A client who is looking for someone to plan their black tie gala for 2,000 people isn't going to hire someone who specializes in planning children's birthday parties.
And yet, an overwhelming majority of people who have decided they want to become event planners have never given this much thought. When I say, "Ok, great! What kind of events do you want to plan?" they respond with a blank stare.
For some reason, when most people envision becoming an event planner, they don't really venture much further than thinking of weddings and small parties. And yet, these are the very two niches I strongly suggest staying away from. I discuss why in the free intro course; but mainly, it's because it's tough to make a living as a party planner, and wedding planning is far too competitive.
The world of special events and corporate events, however, offers endless opportunity for event planning careers, and the pay is better. As I always say, who would you rather sign your paycheck; Mrs. Jones down the street to plan her five-year-old's birthday party, or Microsoft for planning a huge special event?
The main reason to choose a niche is this: because each branch of event planning has its own lingo, its own quirks, and its own nuances in planning. You need to choose a specialty so that you can really get comfortable with how to plan a specific type of event. You can't be an expert in all things; so, like with any other industry, a specialty allows you to thrive.
Additionally, knowing which type of event planning careers you're interested in helps narrow down your job search. A person who's interested in fundraising special events will look for work in different places than someone who's interested in planning international corporate meetings. If you've been feeling overwhelmed at where to even begin, perhaps it's because you haven't narrowed down your area of specialty yet (or, as a beginner, at least an area of interest).
So let's take a look at the companies in which you might find work based upon your interests or niche.
I think that often people believe that in order to become an event planner, you immediately have to start your own event planning company. Not only is that not true, but I strongly discourage you from falling for this trap. It's a huge mistake to try to open a business in something you've never done before, especially in such a competitive industry. For more on this topic, please read this page on starting an event planning business.
I think that misconception exists because people don't understand where the planners - and the jobs - are hiding! I think that most people think that you either find a job at an event planning company, or open your own business, or give up. My goal is to show you how wrong that is, and to open your eyes to the vast opportunities out there for event planning careers.
Here are the most common places that hire event planners, depending on your niche or area of interest.
Large companies (such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola, IBM, etc) have enough meetings and events throughout the year to maintain a full-time event planner or, sometimes, an entire planning department. When a planner works for a company in this capacity, he or she "works in-house." This is different than a smaller company who does not have enough events throughout the year to employ a planner full-time, and therefore "outsources" their planning to a planning company or an independent contractor.
More commonly, a company doesn't have enough events throughout the year to justify having a full-time planner, so a person within the company (such as an administrative assistant, or a marketing person) is handed the responsibility of planning an event. If she is inexperienced in planning events or doesn't have the time to plan an event in addition to her normal workload, she will outsource to an event planning company or contractor.
If you are interested in planning large corporate meetings & events might look in-house at various large companies for event planning careers. Also, oftentimes a non-profit organization will hire full-time in-house event planners; so if you're interested in planning fundraising special events, keep this in mind.
Event & Meeting Planning Companies
Meeting and event planning companies are businesses whose sole service is to plan events and meetings for their clients. In other words, XYZ Pharmaceutical Company decides to have a large meeting for its employees nationwide. If they don't have an in-house planner or planning department, they outsource to ABC Event Planners, a company that specializes in planning. This company is made up of any number of event planners, and usually one or two planners (or a team, depending on the size of the event) are assigned to handle their client's event.
The majority of corporate meetings, events, and trade shows are managed by meeting & event planning companies. Likewise, if you are interested in sporting events, there are usually companies that specialize in this; they are usually referred to as "sports event marketing" companies, since marketing is a major component of sporting events.
Independent Contractors/ Planners
If you have a free spirit, are incredibly self-disciplined, and don't need a steady paycheck, then you might consider working as an independent contractor. As an independent, you hire out to just about anyone who needs an event planner for an event but can't afford to keep you on full-time. Additionally, it is very common for full-time event planners to hire out a contractor to help them when they have more going on than they can handle. In this way, you're acting as bit of an assistant to an event planner. I found the majority of my work this way.
However, this is not a good way for a beginner to start; as you work completely solo and can't really "learn" the business by being an island. This is a fantastic move after you have a few years of experience and are confident working on your own.
This is most common with events such as fundraising events (non-profits can't afford to hire full-time event planners year-round, so they hire contractors for specific events only), as well as festivals or other community events. It is also common to help corporate in-house planners when they get too busy to manage everything alone.
On-Site Managers / On-Site Coordinators
A fantastic way to learn the business is to work as an on-site coordinator/on-site manager. A planner who is in charge of larger events (usually corporate meetings) can't be everywhere at once on-site at her event. If you can imagine the complexities of running a multi-day meeting for 3,000 people, then you can see the need for a planner to bring on additional help. On-site coordinators show up at the meeting and help out with whatever the planner needs.
Its an exciting lifestyle and an incredible way to learn the business; but it's not for everyone. I talk in much greater detail about on-site management in my four part video series (more info below).
As you can see, there are numerous (and very different) opportunities for event planning careers.
However, as you start to narrow down your areas of interest and start to look for work, it's imperative to understand one thing:
Employers do not have the time or resources to teach you how to plan events. Therefore, especially in these competitive times, you must learn all about event planing on your own; even for entry-level positions. You simply must bring something to the table; a basic understanding of the complex process of planning an event, along with the lingo upon which the industry is based.
So, despite which niche you decide to choose as an area of specialty , you simply must take the time to learn how to plan events before you even begin to start looking for jobs.
If you're ready to take the leap and start your event planning careers, click here to read more about the Planning Events Course. This course will teach you everything you need to know about how to plan events; from the initial concept through to the final billing. Unlike the other courses out there, I do not focus on parties or weddings; bur rather the elements needed to plan special events and corporate events.
You will learn about event planning contracts, selecting venues, site inspections, selecting entertainment, working with food & beverage, the basics of decor, how to set up your event space, and much more. There's no time like the present to start your dream; the only thing you have to lose is wasted time waiting for your dream to happen without taking action!