Event planners (also known as meeting and/or convention planners) coordinate all aspects of professional meetings and events. They often choose meeting locations, arrange transportation, and coordinate other details. Many work more than 40 hours per week, especially during major events.
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Event planners typically:
Whether it is a wedding, educational conference, or business convention, meetings and events bring people together for a common purpose. Meeting, convention, and event planners work to ensure that this purpose is achieved seamlessly. They coordinate every detail of events, from beginning to end. Before a meeting, for example, planners will meet with clients to estimate attendance and determine the meeting’s purpose. During the meeting, they handle meeting logistics such as registering guests and setting up audio/visual equipment for speakers. After the meeting, they survey attendees to find out what topics interested them the most.
Event planners also search for potential meeting sites, such as hotels and convention centers. They consider the lodging and services that the facility can provide, how easy it will be for people to get there, and the attractions that the surrounding area has to offer. More recently, planners also consider whether an online meeting can achieve the same objectives as a face-to-face meeting.
Once a location is selected, planners arrange meeting space and support services. For example, they negotiate contracts with suppliers to provide meals for attendees and coordinate plans with on-site staff. They organize speakers, entertainment, and activities. They also oversee the finances of meetings and conventions. On the day of the event, planners may register attendees, coordinate transportation, and make sure meeting rooms are set up properly.
Many employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree and related work experience in hotels or planning. The proportion of planners with a bachelor's degree is increasing because work responsibilities are becoming more complex and because there are more university degree programs. If an applicant’s degree is not related to hospitality management, employers are likely to require at least one to two years of related work experience.
Event planners come from a variety of academic disciplines. Some related undergraduate majors include marketing, public relations, communications, business, and hospitality management. Planners who have studied hospitality management may start out with greater responsibilities than those from other academic disciplines. Students may also gain experience through an internship or by planning meetings for a university club. In addition, some universities offer continuing education courses in meeting and event planning.
Some event planners enter the profession by gaining experience in a related occupation, such as a catering coordinator. For example, catering coordinators may begin planning smaller events, including weddings. As they gain experience and establish their reputation, they may start their own wedding planning business.
Once hired, event planners learn many skills through experience. Entry-level planners generally begin by performing small tasks under the supervision of senior meeting professionals. Those who start at small organizations have the opportunity to learn more quickly because they must take on a larger variety of tasks.
As they establish themselves, they are given greater responsibility. This may mean taking on a wider range of duties or moving to another planning specialty to gain more experience. For example, a talented planner may be promoted from conference coordinator, with responsibility for meeting logistics, to program coordinator, with responsibility for speakers and event programming. The next step up may be to meeting manager, with responsibility for supervising all parts of the meeting. Entry-level planners tend to focus on meeting logistics, such as registering guests and setting up audio/visual equipment, while experienced planners manage interpersonal tasks, such as client relations and contract negotiations. With significant experience, event planners can become independent consultants or executive directors of associations.
Event planners spend most of their time in offices. During meetings and events, they usually work on-site at hotels or convention centers. They travel regularly to attend events they organize and to visit prospective meeting sites, sometimes in exotic locations around the world. Planners regularly collaborate with clients, hospitality workers, and meeting attendees.
The work of meeting, convention, and event planners can be fast-paced and demanding. Planners oversee many aspects of the event at the same time, face numerous deadlines, and orchestrate the activities of several different groups of people.
Most meeting, convention, and event planners work full time. In addition, many are required to work long, irregular hours in the time leading up to a major event. During meetings or conventions, planners may work very long days, starting early in the morning and working late into the evening. Sometimes, they must work on weekends.
The median annual wage of meeting, convention, and event planners was $45,260 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $27,090, and the top 10% earned more than $76,840.