There's nothing quite like the life of a party planner. There are some key ingredients to being a great party planner, and although, like all recipes, you can add your personality and mark to it the basics stay the same. Here I share the top 10 tips to becoming a party planner, because the life is good and I would like you too to be able to share in this incredible career.
Where most people pay to party, I get paid to party.
So it is no surprise that if I had a penny for every time I was asked, "How do I become a premier party planner?" I would be a very wealthy man. However, I have never truly answered. My reasons were simple, I did not want to create competition for myself. Lately though I realise that sharing my top tips and helping others is more important than how many people are in the same game as me. So, today marks the start of a new chapter, I have decided to answer this question for once and for all and share right here, right now with all the readers of EventMB.
I hope these tips help you live your dreams of being one of the greatest and show you how best to get started. From zero to #Eventprof Hero.. here we go.
Tip 1: You need to work in events to work in events, huh?!
Get as much experience as you can, in any and all event forms, from floristry, catering, awards, celebrations and everything in-between. If this means you need to volunteer your time at no fee, do so as this is the best investment you will ever make. If fortune favours you, work for a credible and experienced event planner or agencies. In the beginning I took a position at a venue conglomerate, half way through my career I took work at a caterer and then a global agency and recently at a well known hospitality chain. In short, how much you know and can action with confidence will get you more clients #FACT. This is a strict case of More is More. The more you know in every facet of events, the more you can do, manage and charge for your services.
Tip 2: Time to #LevelUp
This is the step where you stop being the horse and start being the rider. You ask for a promotion, a step up, take lead on an event. You need to go from Jack (or Jill) of all trades to a master of one. Choose a niche and focus on getting as much experience in that niche as possible. Later you can go back to a boutique of offerings to your clients but for now it’s all about mastery. Master an arena, a service, a type of event, then master what clients you want to work with, what vendors do they use, what venues, what magazines do they read and what party planners do they already work with? Time to become Dexter (the tv show of a serial killer, not the lab guy) and learn everything about your new niche. What are the best products? What are the best services to offer? Who is your target market, or avatar? Will you offer transparent pricing, free venue finding or full service event management?
Tip 3: Your Network is your Net Worth
In party planning it is both what you know (see above) AND who you know. Some important acronyms I live by and swear by:
ABN = Always Be Networking.
You are a Party Planning squirrel and every contact number, name and email address is a nut that you will need later.
AFU = Always Follow Up.
It is easy to collect cards and drop them in your drawer or add them to your phone contacts but it’s best to follow up as soon as possible.
Party Planner Tech Trick: Download Roger - a great app that helps with contact info and follow up.
When you send the follow up make sure all your services are included in your email signature, however try and remember the Japanese and always give something before asking. Be of use and then others will find a use for you, has been my experience. I also then link in with them on LinkedIn and again mention where we met, what I do, and offer to be of some use in the future. My secret is: I mean it. I am not soliciting here, I am honestly hoping to help.
Also get a good group of suppliers,vendors and staff who trust you as they will often recommend party planners to their clients. Most big name clients want to work with a group who get on, so this makes the decision making a lot easier.
Tip 4: Sharing is Caring/Show it or Lose it
Every photographer has a portfolio, every model a zed card. They say a picture can say a thousand words. So why not create places to showcase your work, start a newsletter, accounts on Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Share your success and allow others to do the same. Remember:
ABS = Always Be Storytelling
Try and make a story with your images. Stories have been around since the start of time so use their power.
Tip 5: Fail to Plan or Plan to Fail
You do not need a business plan. It’s not the MUST HAVE everyone says it is. What you do need is a route to the client, and how much that is gonna cost you also known as Cost of Client Acquisition. How will you get your first client? How will you charge, get payment, pay others etc? Like all business you need to make sure what comes in is greater than what goes out. What are your expenses, operating costs, etc. (money going out)? Then look at different ways to get paid (money coming in) and different ways to charge for your event, such as: flat fee, percentage of expenses, charge for time spent AKA hourly rate, percentage of budget plus expenses occurred, companionable rate?
I always look at the most successful business model in history.The bicycle spoke model: One product or service with multiple spin offs to get paid from that one event.
Tip 6: To Get Funding or Not Get Funding
I say NO! Getting funding is a full time job and you want to be a party planner not a capital seeking missile. So let your clients and customers invest in you and grow organically. I built my event business on £2,500/$5,000 and an agreement with one venue to give me 20% of final net spend of all events I brought in. That said, cash is the lifeblood of all startups, so don't start a party planning business without 90 days of running money.
Here are some other points to consider with funding:
- You give up control: He/She who holds the purse strings holds the power. That works in the beginning but ask yourself "Did you start your own event business to work for someone else?"
- It’s (normally) a bad idea: When you are just beginning, you have no leverage. That is a terrible state of affairs to enter any agreement or relationship in.
- Cash me out mentality trumps building a great party planning business: Investors want their money back - and quickly (on average between 3-5 years). Long-term sustainability goes out the window when those involved only want to cash out as soon as they can.
- You don't need it: Do you really need an office, when a shared office or working from home could do? Do you really need a PR firm or are there other ways to get noticed? Do you really need a bookkeeper or could you use Quicken and do it yourself? I operated on a gmail account for seven years and only recently created a website. Over 1,634 events organised, in 12 countries with blue chip to blue collar clients. Ask yourself, "Do I really need it?"
Tip 7: Tell Everyone
Create a Facebook page, website, Twitter account, Snapchat, LinkedIn account, Periscope etc to make sure everyone knows what you are doing. Tell as many people as possible that you are now a party planner and ready to make their next party the best one ever. Ask any insurance salesman what he/she does in first 3 months and they will all say, "sell to family and friends!" so do as they do and create the reputation you wish to have.
Tip 8: Don't Get High on your Own Supply!
All startups are drug dealers, we dish out the drug of memory and experience. We want everyone to try what we are selling, one hit and they will keep coming back for more, we believe! But we need to ask ourselves a few very important questions at least once a month:
- Why are we doing this? Who is this for? Who does it truly benefit? What motivates you to continue? What makes you better than any other party planner? Knowing the answers will make you confident that you are right for your audience and will help you better understand the work itself
- Is there an easier way? Whenever you are working on something ask yourself, "Is there an easier way?" Most problems are pretty simple we just believe that they are hard. Most are not
- Reaching out is the start of success: When you put off today what you can do tomorrow you just delay your success. Commit to making decisions. Make the call, make that email, create that quote now - while you've got the drive and momentum to do so.
Tip 9: Sorry is Truly the Hardest Word
Something will go wrong. Someone will fail, get it wrong, not turn up etc. People will notice and people will talk. So it’s better off if it’s you talking, avoiding the rumours and false information. When something goes wrong, and it will, take responsibility. I wish I had done more of that when I was younger.
The past is called HISTORY because it truly is your story. Own it. To help with that:
- The message should always come from the owner/manager
- Tell everyone, use every form of communication.
- Do not try and hide it.
- No comment is no option
- Be human and apologise like humans do, then and only then, explain in detail what went wrong.
- Care about the event, the people and the message - and prove it.
Tip 10: Perspiration + Inspiration; both dry
Ideas are forever but having the will to follow that idea is not. If you want to do something, just do it! Do it while you are so inspired to do it, you can run for days without sleep just on that high. Inspiration is the petrol that fuels dreams but do not wait for it, pursue it and hold on to it for as long as you can!
Lastly remember asap is a dirty word, as are meetings over 30 minutes unless it comes with an event or payment, be the drug addict, practice decision judo and do not get high on your own supply.
Thank you for reading my top 10 tips on how to be a party planner, I hope that it has inspired you to try and be one. There are few careers that offer as much, that give back so much in so many ways as being a party planner. Remember that productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
I look forward to seeing you under the lights, wet with perspiration and filled with inspiration.