Some might argue that professional development is a waste of energy right now, but there has never been more reason to adapt. Events are changing and so are the demands on event professionals. Here are nine ways to win work as soon as it becomes available.
With live events still severely limited, most event planners are either underemployed or out of work entirely. A recent EventMB survey showed about 20% of event professionals have been put out of work through lay-offs and mandatory furloughs. In an industry struggling to hang onto its existing workforce, how can event professionals safeguard the future of their careers?
The crisis has hit planners and organizations both large and small. For those seasoned professionals accustomed to being in C-suite positions or even running their own businesses, it may have been years since they last had to look for a job. Whether you’re applying for your first job or you haven’t been subjected to the standard job market for over 10 years, it’s wise to develop a set of strategies for the next step in your career.
This article covers nine key areas where event professionals should be focusing their energies to stay ahead of the job market.
Dedicated Professional Networking Sites
Some good things come to those who wait, but those are rarely professional opportunities. Event planners will need to extend their networks if they want to remain aware of opportunities and position themselves as top candidates. A broader network can also create opportunities for collaboration through the discovery of other event professionals with complementary skill sets.
According to a 2018 survey by Performance-Based Hiring Learning Systems, 86 percent of respondents found their jobs through networking — and that was in a market where employment opportunities were much less scarce than they are now.
With in-person events limited, there has never been more of a need for online alternatives. Online networking platforms have come a long way in recent years, and job hunters are no longer limited to generic networking sites.
For event planners, there is the new community-specific platform The Vendry, which allows new members to sign up for free. When creating a profile, members can build brand awareness by listing their top event planning skills, showcasing career highlights, and marking themselves as available for full-time or freelance opportunities. There is also the option to add an event portfolio.
Source: The Vendry
Further, any networking platform worth joining should include some opportunity to engage in professionally-themed events. No one knows better than event planners how central events are to successful networking. The Vendry, for example, organizes regular virtual networking events for its members.
To maximize the networking opportunity of generic social media platforms like Twitter, consider following top influencers in the event industry; by actively engaging with and sharing their content, event planners can contribute to the wider conversation while also reaching a larger audience.
Event Communities and Networking Resources
There are few better ways for planners to enhance their professional reputation than by sharing their expertise and engaging in the exchange of ideas around industry topics. With this in mind, event professionals should consider participating in digital forums or joining other communities within the event industry.
The Live Events Coalition (LEC), for example, is a volunteer-led movement that organizes activations and rallies to generate more awareness about the challenges currently facing the event industry. By joining the LEC, event professionals not only help to buoy the industry’s lobbying efforts, but also have the opportunity to establish and deepen connections within the event community.
While events and online discussions are an organic way to develop new connections, a more direct approach can also pay dividends. If an event planner has a specific project in mind, or is looking to expand into a new specialty, direct messages to potential business partners may be the best approach. Beyond the standard professional networking sites that many are used to browsing, there are also industry-specific resources like The Vendry’s directory of agencies, vendors, venues, and virtual event tech services.
Source: The Vendry
Trade associations provide another tried-and-true option for establishing stronger connections within the industry. For those who are not already a member of a major trade association in the event industry, now may be the time to join. Some of the most high-profile include:
- keyboard_arrow_right The American Planning Association (APA)
- keyboard_arrow_right Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
- keyboard_arrow_right The Events Industry Council (EIC)
- keyboard_arrow_right The Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)
Job Boards to Monitor
Most job hunters automatically default to the generic sites that have the most postings, but there is something to be said for narrowing your focus to a niche platform that specializes in event jobs.
As prime hubs for the event community, trade associations are a great place to start. Many offer some kind of job search function:
- keyboard_arrow_right The APA job board is part of a Career Center that hosts a mentor program and provides useful resources like the APA Planners Salary Survey.
- keyboard_arrow_right The EIC job board also features services in career coaching, resume writing, and reference checking.
- keyboard_arrow_right The MPI job board includes the option to sign up for a newsletter with job-related updates.
- keyboard_arrow_right PCMA job board allows users to search for event jobs within a specific geographic radius.
Networking sites are another great place to hunt for jobs. The Vendry will be launching its own job board before the end of the calendar year.
Even event planners who have no immediate plans to start a new position can benefit from performing the occasional search on a job board. As a snapshot of the most marketable assets in the current employment market, the qualifications and credentials listed on job postings can provide insight into potential avenues for professional development.
Continuing Education Credits and Certifications in Virtual and Hybrid Event Planning
Right now, the number one vertical to improve your skills is in event tech, and specifically virtual event tech. In the short term, virtual events are the only safe solution. In the long term, virtual engagement is going to be part of every step toward recovery.
According to a June survey conducted by the CEIR, virtual substitutes were being offered by 81 percent of trade show organizers who had been forced to cancel their in-person events for 2020. The trend toward virtual and hybrid events cannot be ignored, and learning to deliver these formats effectively is fast becoming an essential skill for event professionals. When EventMB conducted a survey of event planners, however, close to 60 percent of respondents rated themselves as less than comfortable with event tech. Clearly, the need for further training has never been greater.
CE credits for tech-related courses: For those looking to earn CE credits while developing practical skills with virtual technologies, there are some virtual training options available for a flat fee, and others free of charge for a limited time. Here is a list of our top picks:
- keyboard_arrow_right As an accredited CMP Preferred Provider, EventMB is able to award CE credits that recognize the educational value of its webinars, reports, and other reading materials. Event planners can register for the EIC-approved program on EventMB’s website.
- keyboard_arrow_right The Event Leadership Institute is offering a Virtual Event & Meeting Management Certificate (20 CMP hours/credits) . The non-member price is $695 USD, and the member price is $556 USD.
- keyboard_arrow_right PCMA provides a Digital Event Strategist Certification (14 clock hours/credits). The program can be complete either through live instructor-led classes or through a self-paced course with pre-recorded lessons. For both options, the price is $595 USD for the course and an additional $500 USD for the formal application and exam.
- keyboard_arrow_right Cvent Academy is offering free access to its Virtual and Hybrid Events Training (4 - 5 CMP hours/credits) until December 31, 2020. Both the virtual and hybrid training programs are divided into two parts:
1. General advice
2. Training in the Cvent platform
- keyboard_arrow_right In the UK, The Media House has a Planning & Executing Successful Virtual Events Now training program. The price is £395 ($525 USD) for all commercial companies, and £295 ($392 USD) for not-for-profit organisations. Participants receive certification upon successful completion.
For those who don’t have the time or the funds to register for a structured certification program, there are also plenty of other educational resources available online.
Virtual Events, Webinars, and Other Ways to Stay Informed
If the pandemic has shown anything about the event industry, it’s that event planners are ready to work together collectively to share best practices and revive their field. Many industry-related publishers, associations, and SaaS companies have been hosting events around the topic of virtual and hybrid event planning, among other survival strategies.
If you missed these events the first time, most are now available on-demand, often viewable at no charge. The list below includes some of the more influential online events and webinars:
- keyboard_arrow_right EventMB
- keyboard_arrow_right EIC
- keyboard_arrow_right ON24
- keyboard_arrow_right Swapcard
Another way to stay up-to-date on the latest event trends is by following Twitter tags like #virtualevents, #hybridevents, #pivottovirtual, #eventtech, and #eventtrends. It’s also a good idea to follow industry news. The Vendry, for example, has a dedicated news feed for event-related updates.
Source: The Vendry
Marketing and Personal Brand Development
Market saturation has long been a challenge, and virtual events mean the barrier to entry has never been lower. Event professionals will need to know how to communicate value and differentiate themselves from the competition. Not only that, but planners will need to know how to instill a sense of confidence and reliability in the safety of their events once they turn hybrid.
Now is the time for planners to invest in their brand, reach out, and get involved in the wider event community.
As mentioned earlier, contributing to blogs and webinar discussions can help to raise your personal brand awareness. Event professionals should try sharing any learning experiences they’ve had during the pandemic with the wider event community.
For those who might feel behind on the latest marketing strategies, there is the option to pursue further training. MPI offers an Event Marketing Strategist Certificate Program worth 4 clock hours at a price of $399 USD for non-members and $299 USD for members. For options under $50 USD, there are several highly-rated options on Udemy, including Successful Events: Event Planning, Marketing & Management and The Complete Digital Marketing Course - 12 Courses in 1. For a free option, planners might consider Eventbrite’s Event Marketing Course and Certification.
Engagement Tactics and Tools
Understanding how to leverage virtual platforms and market your own events are prerequisites for getting people in the door, but keeping attendees engaged is going to be the difference between a happy long-term audience of repeat attendees and a constant uphill hustle caused by continual churn.
Technical know-how is fast becoming a must-have skill in the event industry, and staying on top of engagement trends is part of this equation. It’s no longer sufficient to live stream speaker sessions and other standard event activities. Wherever possible, event planners will need to incorporate interactive elements like live polling, quizzes, gamified experiences, and Q&A exchanges between attendees and speakers.
For more innovative ideas from industry leaders, watch the webinar recording from EventMB’s Engage: A Special Three-Hour Event on Virtual Engagement and read the related report, The New Rules of Attendee Engagement.
Effective virtual engagement is also partly a question of understanding what tools are available. Review EventMB’s Virtual Meetings: 99 (Best) Tools, Ideas and Tips for a comprehensive understanding of what’s available.
Security Measures to Combat Both Viral and Cyber Threats
Many of the same security concerns will persist in 2021 and beyond, but they'll be compounded by the added risk of spreading the coronavirus. There’s also the added concern of increased data security concerns with so much more activity occurring online. Virtual event tech options will need to be carefully vetted for their data protection capabilities. In turn, planners will need to develop greater competency managing security threats in both the literal environment and the cybersphere.
For those looking to brush up on pandemic-control measures, the EIC has compiled a list of links to new Covid-19 protocols for the event industry. However overwhelming it may seem at this stage, it is wise to stay abreast of the latest news on Covid-19, particularly as it applies to the event industry.
The potential for security breaches on virtual platforms made headlines earlier this year with the phenomenon of “Zoombombing,” or hacking into Zoom’s video conferencing platform. Blogs like How to Geek were quick to publish tips on how to avoid these security pitfalls. Similarly, EventMB produced an article on security threats for virtual events: How to Keep Your Virtual Event Secure From Cyber Threats.
Liability and Contracts
If the legality of live events weren’t already complicated enough, the growing sense of uncertainty has created a need for planners to understand exactly where liability lies and how to mitigate it. This applies vis a vis both attendee waivers and contracts with suppliers, vendors, and venues.
Attendee waivers are not as straightforward as they once were. In EventMB’s Future of the Event Industry Report, Event Safety Alliance VP and lawyer Steven Adelman provides some helpful tips on whether and how to draft effective Covid-19 waivers.
Additionally, Risk Management Magazine published a useful guide, Will COVID-19 Liability Releases Hold Up in Court?. It explains the importance of outlining the risks clearly. It is necessary to state that there are no guarantees of protection against Covid-19 infection despite the organizer’s best efforts. The guide also states that the pandemic’s unpredictability may undermine the waiver’s “exculpatory device” (i.e. its ability to protect the organizer from culpability or liability). Another important point covered is that rules vary by state for exculpatory devices. For example, many states prohibit exculpatory devices for minors, or guardians signing the waiver on behalf of minors.
Despite this variation between states, some organizations have drafted waivers designed for nation-wide applicability. The American Cancer Society’s COVID-19 Safety Acknowledgment – Liability Waiver and Release of Claims provides a helpful example.
In light of all the cancellations provoked by Covid-19, it might also be a good time to brush up on the force majeure clause of contractual agreements. For those looking to improve their contract negotiation skills more generally, MPI offers a Contract & Negotiation Specialist Certificate Program (6 clock hours) at a cost of $699 for non-member and $499 for members.
The pandemic has put pressure on everyone in the industry. Planners who have been laid off or furloughed may be searching for a path forward, while those still employed may be forced to compensate for a reduced budget and a smaller team. Resourcefulness and an innovative mindset will be necessary for all parties.
To stay ahead of the event job market, stay focused on these nine key avenues for networking, job sourcing, and professional development:
1. Networking Sites
2. Event Communities and Networking Resources
3. Job Boards to Monitor
4. Continuing Education Credits and Certifications in Virtual and Hybrid Event Planning
5. Webinars and Other Ways to Stay Informed
6. Marketing and Personal Brand Development
7. Engagement Tactics and Tools
8. Security Measures to Combat Both Viral and Cyber Threats
9. Information on Liability and Contract Negotiation