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Are Event Planners Born or Made?

By Becki Cross
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The old ‘nature vs nurture’ argument rattles on, but what does this mean in terms of event planners? Are #Eventprofs born or are they made?

EMB_image_are event palnners born or made_

Born

In the Blood

My father has always been an organizer; enjoying organizing his company annual dinners and fundraising and community events for the Rotary Club in his spare time. Over the last 11 years he has also jumped at any opportunity to help out at the live events and conferences we run (unpaid!) and most recently he has helped us set up my sisters marquee wedding, with all its beautiful homemade touches. He has never had any formal training, just bags of enthusiasm and a willingness to get stuck in and help.

It was after my sister’s wedding when he announced that he believes that “organizing events is in the blood.” My sister and I laughed… but then started to ponder whether he was actually right?

You’re a Natural

When working with volunteers and new staff you can quickly get a feel for those who ‘have it’ and those who don’t. For some it seems second nature to anticipate the needs of attendees, to be of a friendly and approachable disposition and to be the last to leave an event if there is still work to be done. Others seem to have missed out on important people skills, are fixated on their aching feet above all else and seem to only work in go-slow-mode.

When I am attending, rather than working, at other peoples events people naturally seem to be drawn to me for direction and guidance. Is this a result of my personality and natural skills? Or my event training and experience shining through? Or something else entirely?

In the Stars

Don’t you think that it is uncanny that people born at specific months of the year all share specific traits? How can that be explained?

According to astrologers the most organised signs of the zodiac are those with an ‘earth element’ – Virgo, Capricorn and Taurus. If this is true it would be very interesting to find out whether there are a higher percentage of event planners with these star signs in the industry, and therefore supporting the ‘nature’ argument.

Rose Tinted Spectacles

I know plenty of event planners who have left the profession over the years. Is that because they weren’t born for it after all and they realise it actually isn’t as easy and effortless as a good event planner makes it look?

Or is the problem that people think they can make a professional career out of it after they have organised a few celebrations for friends and family, when actually it really takes a lot more than that to make a professional living from these services?

Made

Education, Education, Education

In a competitive industry qualifications and training in event management can help to make you stand out from the crowd, or at least from a mountain of CVs. It shows clear focus and a willingness to learn and sometimes without it you can struggle even to reach the first rung of the career ladder.

The great event management degree debate still rears its ugly head from time to time with people questioning the value of a university degree and others vehemently defending them. It is certainly a big commitment of time, energy and money. Is that the best use of those resources or would gaining real life event experience for that same amount of time be more beneficial? Or are there other training options which may be more suitable for you?

However fantastic and worthwhile your event training and education may be I don’t think anyone would argue that a recent graduate is a finished product BUT you are of course that step closer to your dream career.

Interestingly I have noted in the past from my own time at university studying event management, and also talking to lecturers, that event management students collectively often seem to share certain characteristics, such as being loud, confident and outgoing. Does this then prove that nature rules over nurture? Or do these shared features have no measure or meaning in terms of the best event planners?

It’s All About Experience

Only from experience do I know the right questions to ask and the important things I need to know, prepare and plan for. From experience I can share my wisdom for why something should be done one way rather than another way and communicate this persuasively to an adamant client. From experience you gain an intuition for when something is going slightly off course and you need to take immediate action to get it back on track.

Of course the greatest learning isn’t in the times when everything goes well but in the times when things don’t go to plan. The self-belief that you can deal with any eventuality only comes from lashings of experience and putting this theory to the test.
After 15 years in the events industry I am still learning. The pace of education is much slower but with every event I still strive to improve or make some constructive change. I am definitely a better event manager now than I was five years ago. And in five years I will be better still.

However naturally talented you are as an event manager it is experience which really makes you excel and differentiates you.

Team Work

This post has focused on the individual and whether a great event planner is born and made. The truth however is that most events rely on more than one single person to ensure the outcome is successful. Teamwork is essential and most projects are the result of a massive group effort and the triumph of multiple parties, all adding something different to the mix.

So perhaps a great event planner is made – but not only made through education and experience – but through a collective of individuals that make up the event delivery team and allow you to shine.

In Conclusion

The lively discussion I started in the Event Planning and Event Management LinkedIn Community on this very subject further highlights this debate, with probably equal input into both sides of the argument. It certainly is a passionate subject!

In my own mind I think that those that have the right skills, personality and outlook are those that automatically gravitate towards the industry and have a flying start to their career. However you should never stop learning and improving or you risk being left behind. Training and most importantly experience is what propels any event planner from good to awesome. Having the support of a great team is however another essential to make a truly great event planner and the formula to producing many successful events.

So what is your personal opinion? Are event planners born or made? We would love to hear your input in the comments below.

about the author

Becki Cross
Becki Cross is Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd, a UK event and conference management company established in 2004. Becki set up the business in her early twenties and is particularly passionate about conferences, innovation, entrepreneurship and the legacy of events.Becki is also the Deputy Editor, Community Manager and Contributor to EventMB, her dream job alongside event planning!Follow Becki via @beckitrain.
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  • Prince Gregorio

    I believe there are specific innate characteristics that a gifted event planner has like being organised, detail-oriented, people person, creative. Sometimes they are just born. But to be a great one, you have to acquire a wide spectrum of skills and many of which are nurtured through education, experience, and peers. If you are lucky, then you have the innate talent of a natural event planner yet you have the uncanny desire to always improve your craft.

    It’s just like intelligence… some people naturally have a very high musical intelligence (the likes of a 3 year old kid on youtube playing classical piece on keys), yet what makes them great is their desire to learn a variety of musical expressions.

    Passion and talent goes hand in hand. One could have the talent yet lacks the passion. Yet others could have passion yet they do not have enough talent.

    • BeckiEventMB

      Well said!
      Great points.
      Thanks for commenting.
      Becki

  • Colin Matthes

    I don’t think it has to be mutually exclusive. Great event planners probably have certain characteristics that make them more prone to wanting to plan and be around people (i.e. they probably aren’t introverts). But that doesn’t mean that everybody who is organized and a people person wants to be an event planner. It can be learned, just as any other career choice or skill.

    • BeckiEventMB

      Thanks Colin!
      The saying that “practice (experience) makes perfect” is so true here.
      Becki

  • Alexander Pournelle

    Some of both, I daresay. The best, the very best (I have several names in mind), were born to be in the biz, but they also learned as they grew.

    I started in theater in the 6th grade (Someone had to run the lights!), became a convention department head at 17, parachuted in to save another con at 18, and never looked back. That part was certainly nature.

    But: Without the long experience knocking off the rough edges, learning flexibility, unflappability, how to best communicate with every department, and doing it all with good humor, I would never have made it any farther. That part was nurture.

    • BeckiEventMB

      Thanks Alexander. That strikes a cord with me “Born to be in the biz, but they also learned as they grew”
      And unflappability – great word!
      Becki

  • Louis De Beule

    In my opinion there might be a little truth that organizers need specific traits, and it’s definitely a bonus when you’re born with them. However, I rather believe that it’s all about experience and having the right disposition. The most important trait you need for being an excellent event manager is to do your job in a very vehemently way, you have to work hard to gain a rung on the career ladder and you should love doing it. I cannot agree more with the following quote: “For some it seems second nature to anticipate the needs of attendees, to be of a friendly and approachable disposition and to be the last to leave an event if there is still work to be done. Others seem to have missed out on
    important people skills, are fixated on their aching feet above all else and seem to only work in go-slow-mode.”

    Keeping all that in mind it is important to choose the kind of position you’re frantic about. In my experience it’s very easy to learn doing things you love to do, I’ve encountered this during my education as well as during my internship. I love events where great music is involved so it’s important my job is in this direction.

    To conclude if you love what you do you’ll be great at it. Loving a kind of profession is in your blood.

    • BeckiEventMB

      Thanks Louis.
      I agree that “it’s very easy to learn doing things you love to do.”

      If you love something you can give 100% If you can’t then it is time to get out of this industry!
      Becki