What does an event planner do?

If you love a good party, a career as an event planner may be for you. However, don't make the mistake of thinking an event planner's job is all fun and games. These professionals work hard to ensure a conference, party or meeting appears effortless.

In addition, their job is evolving as new technology becomes available and attendees' expectations change. While event planners use to primarily coordinate all participant experiences, the Event Industry Trends Report 2015 says they are now expected to be orchestrators who create opportunities for people to experience and interact with events in unique ways. If you've wondered what it's like to be an event planner, here are six things they do on a regular basis.

Q&A with an event planner

Matthew Marcial

Matthew Marcial in the senior director of events for the industry group Meeting Professionals International. He shares his insight on what makes for a good planner and how the industry might change in the years to come.

Q. What might surprise people about meeting and event planning careers?

A: People would probably be surprised to learn how many different paths there are within a career in meeting and event planning. Some of the different options include corporate, association, nonprofit, and third-party meeting planning. In the realm of special events you can focus your work on everything from weddings to large scale event production. A career in meeting and event planning also offers various work environments, from working at home, in a traditional office setting, or even at a hotel or resort.

Q. What education and skills do students need to be successful as a planner?

A: Students have many options when it comes to focusing their education to be successful as a planner. Degree programs from hospitality to business management would prepare a student for success. More importantly, they should take advantage of on-the-job training as well as internship opportunities. Organizations like Meeting Professionals International (MPI) also offer a number of professional development options, including a number of certificate programs and live events offering clock hours which go towards certification in the industry.

Q. How do you see the meeting and event planning profession evolving in the years to come?

A: The meeting and event planning profession is becoming more and more strategic, and planners are constantly being asked to deliver more with less budget and resources. These factors emphasize the importance of seeking professional development and networking opportunities.

1. Communicate with clients

It goes without saying that an event planner can't create the perfect event without first understanding a client's needs and expectations. At an initial meeting with a client, a planner will discuss the scope of an event and its necessary components. In addition, they may have to manage client expectations and provide guidance to keep expenses within the expected budget.

Events can be split into two categories: social and corporate. Social events may include weddings, birthday and anniversary parties and may involve meeting with a single client. Corporate events cover fundraisers, conferences and trade shows among other activities and may require an event planner to keep in communication with multiple people affiliated with the sponsoring organization.

2. Conduct on-site research

Event planners are often responsible for finding the perfect venue for an event. As a result, they may visit multiple locations and meet with venue representatives to evaluate both the facility and its amenities. They may then compile a report of the various venues and make a recommendation to their client. Once approved, the planner will make arrangements to have the location reserved and act as a liaison between the venue staff and the event host.

3. Locate appropriate vendors

Beyond the venue itself, event planners need to research vendors who will provide various services. These vendors may include the following:

  • Photographers
  • Designers and printers
  • Florists
  • Caterers
  • Transportation
  • Entertainers

It is up to the event planner to ensure each vendor is at the right place at the right time and has all the information and equipment needed to successfully fill their role in the event.

4. Oversee the event

When asked what does an event planner do, some people may answer that they run the event. Certainly, being on-hand to coordinate the day's activities can be the most high-profile of an event planner's duties.

They are responsible for everything from receiving deliveries from vendors to making sure the facility keeps the restrooms clean. In the event mishaps arise, it is up to the planner to smooth out wrinkles and quickly find a Plan B if necessary. As a result, excellent communication and critical thinking skills are essential for event planners.

5. Pay vendor bills

While not a duty for every event planner, some may be required to review vendor invoices and approve payment. The planner may be given a specific budget and allowed to spend at their discretion from that fund, or they may need to clear all spending with their client. In some cases, an event planner may need to help mediate disagreements between a vendor and an event host.

6. Gather feedback

Another thing event planners may do is gather feedback at the conclusion of an event. Participant feedback may be particularly important at conferences, government meetings and nonprofit events. Clients may count on an event planner to provide a summary of participant experiences to help them plan future events or resources.

While all event planners provide similar services, their jobs may vary depending upon their specialty. Some planners focus specifically on celebrations such as weddings while others may cater to business and government clients who outsource the coordination of high-level meetings.

For those who excel in the field, the reward is not only a fulfilling career but one that may provide plenty of job opportunities in the years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for meeting, convention and event planners is expected to grow 33 percent from 2012-2022. If you're interested in learning more about what it's like to be an event planner, a good next step may be to learn more about degree programs for event planners and other hospitality professionals.

1. Matthew Marcial, Senior Director of Events, interviewed June 2015, Meeting Professionals International
2. How to Start an Event Planning Service, Entrepreneur, http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/37892
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/meeting-convention-and-event-planners.htm
4. Event Industry Trends Report 2015, https://app.doxiq.com/d/77FdK/Event-Industry-Trends-Report-2015