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There is no denying that event planning is an awesome job. In addition to being the mastermind behind some really awesome experiences, Event Planners get to try their hands at many different tasks during their workday.
Good planners are dedicated and focused with great negotiation skills, and a flair for creativity. However, those of us who love our jobs, are not content to remain "good" planners. We want to be great.
It doesn’t matter in what capacity you work with events- maybe you are a novice planner with your first “real job” in the industry or maybe you’re a vet who is transitioning from working at an agency into freelance work, or maybe you simply want to be the best events manager you can. Irrespective of where you are on your career path, there is no denying that innovation and growth are what make this job and the career path itself so rewarding.
There are a few things (7 to be exact) that separate the good planners from the great ones. So without further ado, here’s what you can do to get to the next level in your event planning career.
1. Embrace the Learning Curve
The number one, most important thing you can do to elevate your career will only take you 30 seconds to accomplish. The only thing you need to become a better planner is a willingness to learn. Don't take this lightly. It doesn't matter what job you’ve got, an open heart and an open mind are, without a doubt, the keys to unlocking the next level of your career. Event planning especially relies heavily on technology, and thus is constantly changing. Planners who are determined to do everything their way, as opposed to being open to learning the BEST way, are doing themselves and their attendees a dis-service.
There are always new things to learn in this industry and not every skill that can be useful to you as an eventprof is one that you would automatically think of. Which brings me to my next point:
2. Diversify Your Knowledge Base
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Event Planners wear a lot of hats. We are required to be experts at many things, and to have a working knowledge of just about everything else. Because of this, there is no knowledge you can possess, or skill you can master that won’t be an asset to you as an Event Planner. My father has a saying that applies here: "The more you know, is the more you know". What that means is, there is no such thing as useless information. Your love of comic books, or your in depth knowledge of coral reefs can help you plan events that look nothing like anyone else’s. The more you know, the more information there is to inspire you. And the more varied your interests, the more likely that you will be inspired to create something unique and memorable.
Similarly, there is no skill that can't be utilized at some event or other. Are you a photographer? Love floral arrangements? Are you really good at schmoozing? Building websites? Being crafty?
Giving in to the things you like to do, and really honing in on skills that don't at first glance, seem to have anything to do with planning is a great way to push your career to the next level!
3. Plan for Safety
I had a candid conversation with Brady Miller, CSEP last month. We talked about some of the mishaps that have happened over the course of his career. That conversation further illuminated to me that the best planners always have a real grasp on risk management. In fact, according to Miller, "An Event Planner that doesn’t consider risk management the most stressful part of the job isn't doing their job correctly." I have to agree. Risk management and event safety are parts of the event planning experience that attendees never get to see, but affects them all directly.
The very best planners take the time to make sure their events are as safe as they can possibly be. This is not to say that you don’t plan safe events, but is there really such a thing as too much safety? If you want to become a better Event Manager, one of the things you can do to elevate the event experience for your attendees, is to be more diligent about keeping them safe. Be sure you are up to date on the various safety regulations for your venue. Take care to think about inclement weather and the age and ability level of your attendees. Take your security to the next level by ensuring you are working efficiently with local agencies, while making guests feel comfortable rather than nervous. Keep safety in mind as you decorate, cater, and organize your event. It only takes one accident (or one lawsuit) to taint an experience for everyone involved. Know the rules and keep your attendees safe and happy.
4. Truly Embrace the Team
I participated in a twitter chat a few weeks back that discussed the best way to motivate and work on a team. There were several ideas thrown around, but the one thing that everyone in the conversation agreed with was the fact that being on the right team is like magic for your project. Making sure that you have the right team around you - a good group of dedicated, creative, and passionate people does the same thing for you that having an Event Planner does for your clients. Your team is your back up. They should share your vision and your values while adding another layer of diversity and innovation to your group.
If you want to get to the next level of event planning, be sure that you have the right people around you. Invest in them and yourself. Keep your team educated and engaged in the research aspect of our industry. Go to events with them. If you aren’t at a place in your career where you have any say in who your teammates are, be sure and evaluate how much you are contributing to the team dynamic that exists around you. Are you being helpful and going the extra mile? Do you seek out learning opportunities? Do you accept the critiques and offers for help from your teammates? Are you managing up and keeping the communication lines open? Events have a lot of moving parts, and the best Event Managers understand that they are a part of a team, and nurturing that team is crucial to their success.
5. Start or Contribute to a Blog
I admit to being biased about this one. According to my business cards, I am a storyteller first and an Event Planner second. I don't want to be the guy who adds yet another item to your already heaped plate, but let me tell you that blogging is a great way to become a better Event Planner. Starting your own, or contributing to an already established blog (like the one you're reading) can produce several lucrative rewards for your career. Each blog post you write will require some research. It's impossible to research the industry well enough to write about it, without absorbing information about the latest trends.
In addition to keeping you informed, blogging is the number one best thing that will ever happen to your network. I am not even kidding. You want to attend a conference? Offer to blog about it. You want to meet an influential person in the industry? Offer to interview them (nobody says no to this. Believe me, I've asked). Freelance planners especially can benefit from becoming bloggers. Blogging positions you as a thought leader in the industry, helps to expand your network, keeps you abreast of the latest industry trends, and can help to position your brand more effectively. The return on the time investment is so worth it.
I give this advice to aspiring and novice planners quite often, but it stands to benefit the veterans too. Volunteering at someone else's event is a great way to get ideas for your own. Pay attention to how you feel as a volunteer, and let those feelings influence how you train and treat your own event staff. Watch out for what works and what doesn't.
Volunteering is another great way to expand your network, and even more importantly, your Rolodex! Volunteering is a way to see first hand which vendors and venues you like. What could make you a better Event Planner than strengthening your network and your relationships with vendors? Besides all the opportunities for learning, volunteering also makes you feel good. In a job as hectic as ours, there is something to be said for helping make the magic happen for someone else.
7. Get Selfish
I saved this one for last because I knew your eyebrows would shoot up as soon as I mentioned it. Event planning is a very giving job. You give your time, your expertise, your contacts, and sometimes your own money in an attempt to give the client and the attendees an unforgettable experience. This is a good thing, but it can be taxing. If you want to become a better Event Manager, take some time and be a little selfish. Focus on you and your own mental and physical health. Exercise, drink more water, laugh more often and get more sleep.
It's impossible not to overwork yourself in this industry, but be sure to take some time for yourself that has nothing to do with CRM and email. The happier and more healthy you are, the better you will be at your job. Don't give up on all your passions (see tip number for 2 for a reminder as to why not) and feel free to cultivate a few new ones. Be kind to yourself. After all, life is an event. Be sure that as an attendee you get as much out of it as you can. Your clients will only thank you.
Becoming a better #eventprof is not as hard as it seems at first glance. The key is do what is best for yourself and your team, keep your event safe, and to keep your mind open to learning new things. You can learn those new things by volunteering your time or starting a blog. It doesn't matter what method you use, but as long as you are committed to being the very best Event Planner you can be, there is no holding you back from being one of the greats!