Wondering how to become an Event Manager? If event planning is the career choice you always dreamed of, then it’s time for you to make it happen. Whether you’re looking for a change of direction, or just starting out after school or uni, this guide will help you learn how to become an Event Manager and exactly what the role entails.
What is an Event Manager?
An Event Manager, or Event Planner, is someone who organises events for a living. Often you’ll work on a series of events each year, which may be in the same portfolio, or may be completely different.
Different types of event planning roles
There are generally three type of Event Manager roles:
- In-house Event Manager
An in-house Event Manager role may involve organising internal conferences and customer-facing events for one specific company. It may also involve organising the company presence and booth at exhibitions throughout the year.
- Agency-side Event Manager
An Event Manager who works for an agency will often work for lots of different clients, on many different events throughout the year. These could include festivals, roadshows, conferences or pop ups. The role of an agency Event Manager is often fast-paced and not for the faint-hearted as it is orientated around pleasing the client (usually a brand) so that they can appeal to their customer (the end user).
- Event company Event Manager
This type of Event Manager will work for an event organiser. Well-known event organisers in the UK are Centaur and Media 10 who organise exhibitions such as Grand Designs Live and Marketing Week. Sometimes an exhibition Event Manager will be in charge of just one exhibition that they’ll work on all year round (such is the scale!), or they may work on a portfolio of exhibitions under the same sector.
How to become an Event Manager
Once you’ve determined that event management is the right career for you and you’ve built a portfolio of event experience, here’s how to start a career in event management.
1. Choose your preferred event planning role
As we mentioned above, there are three different types of event planning roles; in-house, agency and event company. Determining which type you think will best suit your skills will help you to refine the types of jobs you want to apply for.
2. Follow event companies and seek experience
One of the best ways to identify opportunities and stay up to date with event industry trends is to follow the companies and Event Managers who are leading the way. Social media channels like Twitter and Instagram are great sources of information, as are industry blogs and case study examples. Jobs are often posted on a company’s own social media channel before going on a job board, so this may give you the chance to apply early – and win the role.
3. Build your portfolio
Whether you have a degree in Event Management or not, one thing is certain: you will need experience. Take the time to build up examples of your support within an event, whether that’s volunteering at a Christmas shelter, or helping your local tennis club to set up their annual awards night.
4. Speak to industry experts
Going to exhibitions and conferences within the events industry is a great way to build connections. Often, speakers at an event will provide an opportunity to ask questions, or offer one-to-one meetings with attendees after they’ve presented. This is the perfect time to introduce yourself, ask a question or two and even leave your CV or business card onsite for future opportunities.
5. Apply for a job
Review industry job boards and individual company websites to find details of career opportunities that may suit your level of experience. Once you’ve found the right job for you, send in your application, highlighting any relevant experience and qualifications first. Generally, you can expect to hear from interested companies within a week or two.
How to start your own events company
If you’re looking to start your own events company, that will manage and produce multiple events for clients, brands or other agencies here are some of the steps to follow:
1. Create a business plan – this will help you to work out exactly who you’re going to sell your services to, what type of events you will run and who for.
2. Register your business – register your business name, secure the domain for your website and consider opening a specific business bank account.
3. Secure investment or funding – speak to investors, banks or friends and family to help provide the initial funds you need to get your events company off the ground.
4. Market your business – launching and marketing your events company is essential to securing those first few events. Whether this is through a website, your social media channels or free advertising in the local community.
5. Build a sales pipeline – network, advertise, build connections with existing clients and seek referrals to ensure you have an ongoing sales pipeline of clients.
6. Hire staff – once you are successfully running events for clients you may want to hire for other skillsets, like audio visual, content creation or social media.
Here are some of the areas and common questions to consider if you want to become an Event Manager.
Things to consider to start a career in event management
Here are some of the questions you may have if you’re considering starting a career in event management:
How to gain a qualification in event management
A professional qualification is not mandatory, but many Event Management professionals do use concrete credentials to set them apart early in their careers. There are many undergraduate degrees in Event Management which usually involve three years of study, or four years with a working placement year between the second and third year.
After you’ve completed an undergraduate degree you can also continue to study event management at postgraduate level, otherwise known as a Masters degree. These degrees usually take 12 months to complete, or can be completed on a part time basis if you wish to build experience at the same time.
There are also short courses available. Many event bodies offer a diploma or advanced diploma in Event Management or a related topic such as hospitality. The tuition fee for an event management diploma will vary between courses, but may be between £500 to £1000 with course duration varying from six months to a year.
Some independent accrediting bodies provide short courses through which you can achieve a certificate in Event Management or a related topic. For example, the International Open Academy offers a certificate in Event Design and Styling which takes four days to complete and costs £70. These types of short courses are good for studying niche skills which may apply to a specific role within an event management career, such as styling, hosting or wedding planning.
How to start a career in event management with no qualification
If you haven’t studied event management that doesn’t mean you can’t start a career in the field. Many event companies are looking for skill sets rather than qualifications, and value varied experience highly. Degrees in Business and Marketing are also good qualifications as these are areas that tie in very closely to the event management process. Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is an event-specific qualification that some companies may look for. MPI have a great guide here on how to become a Certified Meeting Professional.
Many event agencies and brands will consider accepting an intern or event planning assistant who demonstrates applicable skill sets, or who has experience but not necessarily a qualification.
If you don’t have an event management qualification, consider how your previous experience or qualifications could be an asset to you in an event management role. You may also find that some companies will support your further learning to allow you to obtain a CMP qualification or other credentials while you work for them.
If you don’t have a qualifications in event management it’s important to provide other evidence on your suitability to the role. This could be in the form of a PDF or online portfolio that shows examples of events you’ve been involved in; testimonials from clients; or a video that shows you in action demonstrating your skills.
There are also many roles, such as bar and waitressing work, project management roles and even administrative skills which are very transferable to a career in event management.
How to become an event planner with no experience
Most event companies will look for at least some experience in event planning prior to offering a role. If you don’t have any experience at all, think about opportunities where you could quickly build 2-3 examples of your event planning skills. This could be volunteering for a charity, local business or organisation to help with company events, fundraisers or awards nights.
Many venues will often offer experience in hosting, reception work and serving tables if approached by someone who is friendly, presentable and keen. If there are no opportunities in your local community, think about organising your own event from scratch. This could be a charity event, a local community fun run or even a networking event, where local business owners or members of the community can meet and make new friends.
Wherever you manage to find experience, document the process and highlight how it demonstrates skill sets which are applicable to the career you’re aiming for. As well as ensuring you can speak confidently about the project during an interview or in a written cover letter, you could ask the organiser or owner to provide a testimonial, create a video of the experience or take photos.
What skill sets does an Event Manager need?
Skill sets that will help with a career in event management include administration and IT experience. An interviewee who can demonstrate good Excel skills and knowledge of different event management software will stand out as someone who can hit the ground running – a big plus in such a fast-paced industry. An understanding of finances is also vital as much of the role involves managing, communicating and reconciling budgets.
A good event planner also has excellent organisational skills like a really good PA.
Lastly, they also need to be client facing; not too timid or scared to sit down with a client at dinner, and able to show their personality.
What tools should you be familiar with?
Effective communication is at the heart of all well-managed projects and events; and a good event manager knows how to communicate with directors in the boardroom, as well as the delivery truck drivers on site. Apps like Dropbox, Slack and Eventair can help you manage group projects effectively. Many event management tools will also have free trials you can use to familiarise yourself with the workings prior to an interview or new project.
How can you gain event management experience?
Event management experience will definitely help you stand out when looking for that first event role. Try to get as much as possible, whether it’s working at weddings, in a local venue, organising school events or even shadowing an onsite event team. Many exhibitions are free to attend and will also give you a feel for the event environment. Book to visit some in your spare time and make notes on what the experience was like, how the visitors flowed around the event and what aspects made it successful. You could even offer yourself to a local charity or small business and organise an event for them for free in exchange for a written testimonial from them. These will be great discussion points at interview and will show how much of an interest you have in the industry.
How much does an Event Planner earn?
The salary of an Event Manager will differ depending on whether you are in-house, agency-side and which company you work for. According to research by Payscale, below are the average salaries for different levels of Event Managers.
Most Event Managers begin as Event Coordinators or Assistants and work their way up through the ranks.
|Event Coordinator||£19,897 per year|
|Event Manager||£25,893 per year|
|Senior Event Manager||£34,555 per year|
|Director of Events||£45,447 per year|
How to convince everyone that Events Manager is a real job (!)
The events industry has come a long way in the last few decades and is now about so much more than simply throwing a party. You know that, but your friends, family and tutors may not.
If any one of your elders tells you, “That’s not a real job!” you can tell them confidently that it is – with the facts and figures to back it up. The UK events sector is worth £42.3 billion and sustains more than 530,000 full-time equivalent jobs.
There are over 25,000 businesses in the sector including event organisers, venues, destination marketing organisations (DMOs), destination management companies (DMCs), exhibition contractors and event production companies. On top of that is a plethora of suppliers: transport operators, telecommunications and IT companies, interpreters and translators, caterers, event insurance specialists, and many others.
Figures aside, event planning can be seriously rewarding with lots of room for progression and an ‘every day is different’ mindset which keeps even the most energetic planners on their toes.
So don’t let anyone rain on your parade. Choosing a career in events is a decision you’re unlikely to regret.
Read more event career advice here.
How to be a successful Event Manager
Once you’ve broken into your dream events career, how can you ensure you stay top of your game and become recognised as a successful Event Manager? We asked event management lecturers from around the country for their top tips.
Olivia Ramsbottom, Senior Lecturer – Business and Management, University of Derby Buxton
Communicate clearly with clients
Understand what the customer wants from the event, and make sure you’ve discussed your understanding of the event with the customer. It’s amazing how people can interpret the same instructions differently, so make sure you’ve discussed the brief fully with the customer to avoid misunderstandings
Learn from each event
When planning for an event, use your plan from previous events and improve each time. This implies including reflection time after an event so that you can make notes of what worked and what didn’t and make sure you have those notes for future events.
Think like an attendee
Walk the event through as if you were a customer. Where does the customer arrive, where do they go? Where are the toilets, the refreshments, the key contact points throughout the event? How easy is it for your customer to get to your event and navigate around it? This process should allow you to do a number of things, from making sure you haven’t forgotten to consider accessibility, to improving the customer experience throughout their contact with your event.
Nobody respects a flapper!
Dr. Caroline Jackson, Senior Principal Academic, Bournemouth University
Understand your job involves multiple roles
A successful event manager would demonstrate that they could be all of the following:
- Director – can bring expertise together to achieve success
- Creative – imaginative and innovative
- Project manager – planning, operationalising, controlling, eye for detail
- Critical thinker – ability to synthesise, evaluate and make clear decisions
- Communicator and networker – motivator, empathiser and in-tune with clients and customers
If you cannot fulfil all of these functions it’s necessary to build a team that has these abilities.
Look to the future and strategise
You need to be constantly aware of the bigger picture; to understand the relevance and impact of events. Become a futurologist – use your observations and knowledge to make predictions about future trends, opportunities and risks.
Be an early adopter
The best event managers are the technological innovators; the ones pushing the boundaries and doing things differently. Be prepared to try new things, keep a finger on the pulse of tech innovation and try to see future possibilities.
Be globally aware
Running your events sensitively and sustainably is important. Be conscious of different cultures and rituals, and the negative impact that events may create if not organised with sufficient consideration.
David Strafford, Events Management Lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University and Director, Hopper
Plan every detail
All event managers need to demonstrate excellent planning and organisational skills, whether you’re organising a wedding, a festival or a conference. Make sure you pay close attention to detail as well as the bigger picture; and do try and think of everything that could go wrong… with plenty of contingency plans!
Network, network, network
The events industry is built on networks, and the more connections you can make the better. Be friendly, never burn bridges and use social media like LinkedIn and Twitter to connect to fellow industry professionals. You never know who your future business partner might be!
Michelle Fanus, Lecturer – Special Events and Conference Management, University of West London and Founder, Dynamyk Events
Nail the brief
Get crystal clear about what the client wants. If they don’t know, demonstrate what is possible by showing examples of other events. Shape your first event brief around the 4Ws: What? Where? Why? Who?
- What outcomes are they looking for? Always start with the end in mind.
- Where would they like to host the event?
- Why now?
- Who would they like to see attend?
This will enable you to deliver events that clients want.
Build your dream team
Work with fantastic, first class suppliers that deliver consistently. It will make you the best. Ask colleagues or associates who they recommend. For example, what fantastic, creative florists have they worked with? Which venues have they used that offer top-notch customer service? Suppliers are a game changer so you need the best on the market.
Don’t be bossy; be assertive. Embrace your team and make sure everyone knows who you are. From liaising with VIPs pre-event to managing hotel staff on site, take a directive approach with everything. Be proactive and make decisions.
My top tip is to breathe, relax and enjoy yourself. Have fun, and your clients will too. Happy clients come back because they enjoy working with you!
Not having a background in events doesn’t exclude you from the industry. Figure out where and how your existing skills could be applied, gain some practical experience, approach companies you admire and make your dream of becoming an event planner a reality.