Event planning and management requires a sophisticated set of skills. There are a lot of moving parts that you need to manage in order to pull off a successful event. Whether you are planning events on your own or as part of a team, you should cultivate a very well rounded skill set. In this article we discuss the specific skills within these categories that you will need to successfully plan your events: organization, creativity, leadership, communication, people skills, finance, marketing, customer service, technology, and sales.
- 7 Organization Skills for Event Planning
- 2 Creativity Skills for Event Planning
- 18 Leadership Skills for Event Planning
- 3 Communication Skills for Event Planning
- 8 “People Skills” for Event Planning
- 4 Finance Skills for Event Planning
- 3 Marketing Skills for Event Planning
- 3 Customer Service Skills Needed for Event Planning
- 3 Technology Skills Needed for Event Planning
- 5 Sales Skills Needed for Event Planning
- 3 Ways to Showcase Event Planning Skills on Your Resume
- Experience Gained from Event Planning
7 Organization Skills for Event Planning
These seven organization skills are needed in every stage of event planning. These event planning skills are as much about the attributes of a person’s personality or their soft skills, as it is about the professional or technical training.
So, yes, it may seem obvious but being a “planner” is an essential organizational skill for event planners. This is different from obsessive compulsiveness. Planning is a personality or character trait that you can see in someone who likes to get things organized and done in advance. Some may have these traits inherently but the art of “planning” can also be learned, developed and mastered.
Empathetic and Detail Oriented
The best event planners are empathetic to their audience and systematically consider what their attendees will experience. As they focus on the attendee’s experience the important details become clear.
Once the important details come into view, the event planner keeps a record of the projects that can help make their event successful. Those projects should be broken down into smaller and smaller tasks that represent meaningful actions that someone should complete.
Because events happen at a certain place and time, deadlines are an inherent part of events. Event planners need to be able to organize the tasks by priority so that the most important elements of an event are completed first.
The event planner should be able to decipher which tasks and projects need to happen when and in which order to reduce dependencies and points of failure.
People aren’t good at multitasking; really we just switch from one task to another quickly. Multitasking is more about managing the status and progress of multiple tasks at once. This could be managed inside the event planner’s head, on paper, or a digital tool.
Whatever tool the event organizer uses doesn’t really matter. What matters is they have learned enough about themselves and their own processes to effectively and simultaneously manage multiple tasks and projects.
The event planner should be able to decipher which tasks and projects need to happen when and in which order to reduce dependencies and points of failure.
Planning events often requires and generates a lot of documents. You’ve got orders, receipts, contracts, budgets, email, staff profiles, signage, advertising, reports, etc. All these documents need to be organized too. The earlier in the process this is organized the more efficient and useful the event documents will be in the future.
2 Creativity Skills for Event Planning
Even if you host the same type of event on a regular basis, each occurrence of that type of event will be different. So, the event planner needs to be creative and able to adapt to new problems and ways of doing things.
When the world is confronted with a global pandemic, what did you do? Did you come up with great ideas and ways to keep your event going or did you give up and cancel your event?
There is rarely only one way to host an event and the best event planners will be filled with energy to come up with new ideas, new approaches, and new suggestions to keep moving forward.
When problems arise, the best event planners will be able to offer suggestions and continue offering ideas until a solution is identified. An event planner’s first idea to solve a problem may not be the best idea. However, event planners are tenacious and persevere in overcoming obstacles to success.
18 Leadership Skills for Event Planning
Event planners are charged with executing on their client’s vision. However, clients don’t ever anticipate nor specify each detail. So, a good event planner will be one who can evaluate each detail in relation to the client’s vision and be sure that each decision supports that vision. For example, decisions, approaches, and partnerships greatly influence whether the event is on-point or not, but especially communication messages about the event to stakeholders, sponsors, vendors, attendees, media, etc. If the message is correct it can help to establish the correct expectations for all audiences. Those expectations then translate into more detailed execution plans.
There are hundreds of decisions to make for each event: dates, pricing, location, technology, products, staff, capacity, sanitation, etc. The list of decisions is nearly endless. A good event planner will be able to compare the available options to the vision shared by their client and make decisions based on that understanding. An event planner should be comfortable or confident enough to make nearly all the decisions for their client. If an event planner is not confident in their decision making process or that they will not make the right decisions, then they should ask their client in advance what decisions the client wants to give input about before deciding. This can limit the number of times that an event planner interrupts their client to ask the client to make a decision. Don’t be just an event coordinator.
Goals and Objectives
When an event planner understands the vision and purpose of the event they can help the client set goals for the performance of the event. In addition, the event planner can set their own goals for their performance of an event. For example, depending on the client’s vision, goals and objectives, the event may be intended to give mass exposure. Or if the client is a niche industry leader, then perhaps they want to teach and train customers at a conference. No matter the client, the event planner should work hard to meet the client’s goals and objectives; in addition the event organizer should have their own goals and objectives so that they deliver on a great experience for the client. Perhaps the client needs help contacting local media outlets, or networking with local vendors, then one of the goals for the event planner should be to help achieve that goal.
There is a getting-to-know you phase for the relationship between a client and an event planner. The early stages of this working relationship will require more collaboration than when the relationship is more mature. One of the most important pieces to collaboration is working with the right people. No one person at the client company will not want to be the go-between middle-person for each request you have. So, one of the easiest ways to maintain a pleasing relationship with the client is to learn who to contact and work with on which issues. If you need logos and marketing materials then learn who can help you there. If you need quotes or attention for media, know who should that re quest should go to also. Avoid the situation where you bombard the same person with lots of questions, especially questions they cannot answer for you. Instead, help yourself figure out who you should work with for which situation. You’ll avoid annoying people and wasting everyone’s time.
The client’s compensation should not be the only motivation for you to be great at event planning. The best event planners are the ones who love what they do. They love thinking through all the details, tracking progress of all the tasks, managing relationships, and ultimately delivering on a remarkable experience. If you find yourself with a few moments to stand in the back of the room and smile at the proceedings of the event, then that’s likely an indication that you have taken care of the details well enough that you’re not running around putting out fires and that you and everyone else is enjoying themselves. Watch for that moment to happen.
It may be cliche, but I heard it many times “you own this.” When someone hires you as their event planner they are delegating to you two things: 1) authority to act on their behalf, 2) responsibility for executing the event.
The authority that the client gives you does nothing other than give you authorization. But the second, responsibility, is a leadership skill that is inherent or cultivated.
Take responsibility for the event and expect others to be responsible too.
It’s unlikely that you can plan and execute every detail of an event alone. If you can, you are either amazing or naive.
Delegation is no good without follow up.
When you ask others to join in helping you, trust them to do the job or task but also communicate that trust them to complete the job so they know you are counting on them.
It’s been said that you should “trust but verify”. If you are working to establish trust and new relationships, it will require that you follow up. This can help you keep your job but it also re-establishes more trust. You can help people be responsible and accountable too. And as the event planner, if you don’t follow up with someone you may be held accountable for not following up when it may have helped if you had followed up.
It should go without saying, but event planning is a skill some people inherently have and others learn. However, everyone is better at event planning the more they do it. You will be better at the second time you execute an event than you were the first time. So, a good event planner is one that has the leadership quality of experience. Wisdom comes from experience.
Makes People Better
My wife and children write inspirational quotes on the chalkboard and whiteboards throughout our house. One of them references the idea of being a spring not a well. I’m talking about sources of water. A spring is generous and giving, while a well is something that someone must take water from.
When you are in a leadership position as an event organizer, or part of an event organizing team, you have the chance to make other people better. You can influence your staff, vendors, sponsors, speakers, attendees, to build them up and give them confidence and optimism. When you build people up will be liked and trusted and be able to strengthen your team.
Knows When to Say No
Clients, attendees, vendors, sponsors, etc. will all push the envelope and ask for more than is feasible or possible. Resources are limited, so when you say “yes” to something then you’re saying no to other things.For example, if a client has several demands you will have to be good at professionally declining some of their requests. An event planner has to be wise enough to know when to accommodate a request and when to say “no”.
Temperance is different from patience. Patience is the ability to endure something over a longer period of time. While temperance is the short-term or split-second mood response. Event planners should lead as examples in self-control, so that when attendees are unreasonable, or staff make bad decisions, attendees don’t follow instructions, or vendors fail to meet your expectations then you can remain calm, cool, and collected. Maintaining your composure will give everyone around you more confidence that the situation will turn out alright.
While it may feel kind to let people walk all over you, it’s unlikely to be good for your client. In the end, what might actually be more kind is to maintain the course and execute the event according to plan. In the heat of the moment, you might be tempted to avoid confrontation, or avoid asking for a better price, or ask for an update from a staff member or client about an important task. Realize that you’ve been hired to do the right thing and that often requires you to be confident and assertive in your relationships.
There is a difference between being assertive and likeable. I’ll admit that I’m often too blunt and that usually comes off as challenging and rude. As a great event planner, you’re looking for the perfect balance of being assertive and confident and being likeable. After all, you want to win another job so you will want your clients to like you. You can be assertive but professional and polite.
Most people think that being meek is a weakness. But what’s harder: to ignore someone or to listen to all their complaints and suggestions? The meek person who is willing to listen will benefit from any constructive feedback that is offered, and will become more wise as a result. While those who are unwilling to receive constructive feedback are unlikely to get better at what they do.
In the same vein of making people better, an event planner needs to be willing to offer feedback to everyone involved so that they can do their job better in the future. If an event planner withholds information that can help someone do their job better, or continue to succeed, it does that person and themselves a disservice. The feedback you should provide is not just about things that need to be improved, rather the things that are done well so that people can keep doing those things well.
Accountability is a little different from responsibility. Accountability is providing more detail about the details, pros and cons of their role, actions and responsibilities. You do need to expect people to be responsible, but accountability requires that someone justify their actions to deliver value. This is a great sales tactic to your clients. At the beginning and end of the sales process, illustrate to your clients how accountable you were to them and how you delivered value to them. Accountability will help to justify your services to your client, help you understand whether your services were valuable, and what prices you could charge too.
3 Communication Skills for Event Planning
Speak to Everyone on All Levels
Know your audience. If you’re speaking to young clients or attendees, use words and phrases that are easily understood by children and youth. If you are working with professionals, you can use the words and vocabulary that they are familiar with using too.
Using the correct terminology matters to different audiences. However, the tone of your message matters too. Approach each group with respect and empathy, but don’t talk down to people. Try to communicate in recommendations, or questions, instead of using directives.
In a digital age, writing is becoming more and more important than ever. Everyone thought their language (english) classes were confusing and useless. However, the older you get and the more experience you have you will realize that writing skills are more important than ever.
One tip I have is to encourage you to be more descriptive. Instead of using generalization terms such as “this”, “that”, “they” or “the”, specifically refer to the groups and audiences you are referring to. For example, when speaking about attendees don’t refer to your attendees as “them”, instead use a descriptive name specifically. Using descriptive phrases will help to communicate more clearly and leave less room for ambiguity and confusion.
Speaking (interpersonal, public speaking)
Speaking to people and groups is inevitable as an event planner. Good event planners will like speaking to people. Event planners should develop their speaking skills. Sometimes the most significant improvement to speaking can come from slowing down, outlining your talking points and delivering your message intentionally and not casually.
8 “People Skills” for Event Planning
Good customer service is hard to come by and invaluable. Any client you work with will appreciate when you prioritize meeting their needs. You are hired to help them, not the other way around, so don’t get confused who hired who and who is paying the bills. I’ve been in a situation where the vendor communicated (perhaps unintentionally) treated us (the client) as we were a burden. This made the relationship with the vendor uncomfortable and unprofessional. Ultimately, we severed the relationship with the vendor and chose another provider.
Recruit Staff and Volunteers
Good help is hard to come by; one of the hardest jobs you may have to do is find the right help. Most event planners operate in small businesses or with limited teams. So, event planners need to be familiar with how to recruit the right people (staff, volunteers, etc.) for their client. Recruiting can take a significant amount of time and resources. However, if you can systematize or develop a process for finding help in a reliable way, you will be a much happier and successful planner.
Training Staff, Volunteers, and Vendors
Each client and each event is unique. Each team member, vendor, sponsor, speaker, etc. are also unique. As you establish new relationships, each one must be nurtured. Nurturing professional relationships requires training, explanation, communicating expectations and deadlines, following through and following up. You may have to exercise temperance and patience too as people make mistakes (usually from misunderstandings). But don’t underestimate how much training relationships need. Also don’t underestimate how much training can help.
We’ve already mentioned that event planners do not work alone or in isolation. Part of your success as an event planner will depend on the relationships you have with venues, sponsors, speakers, vendors, etc. The more quickly you can connect with those who can help solve problems for you and your clients the more valuable you will be as an event planner.
You were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. You should listen twice as much as you speak. First seek to understand and then to be understood. Listening to your clients, staff, vendors, sponsors, attendees, will help you to establish a good relationship with these groups. You will also be better able to understand what is being said and requested so you are more likely to respond to their concerns appropriately.
Generally, asking for a consideration is not unreasonable. And if you don’t ask for something you won’t get it. We negotiate dozens of times each day. You negotiate with your spouse, partner, children, family, etc., but you often don’t realize you’re negotiating. There are people who specialize in the field of negotiations and it’s worth your time to become familiar with the methods, tactics and strategies of negotiating.
As you begin your event planning career, there are things you know you don’t know, and then there are things you don’t know that you don’t know. The earlier you are in your career you will find that you have to be more flexible with the direction and outcome of your planning. As you gain more experience you’ll know more and be more wise. You’ll also have the liberty to be a little less flexible because of your experience. But being less flexible doesn’t mean explaining less, or communicating less, rather it is more likely that your initial direction and decisions will persist when things seem to have changed.
Event planning can be challenging. You’re faced with managing a lot of details and working with a variety of people simultaneously. Emotions are difficult to manage, so motivating people to continue to work hard and believe in a vision may be the hardest part of event planning. The first person to motivate is yourself. Evaluate what influences the amount of energy you have and how it impacts your motivation. If you are not properly motivated you will be way less likely to be able to get much work done and you won’t have the energy to work with people in a way that establishes good working relationships. So, the first person to motivate is yourself so that you can have the energy to help motivate others.
4 Finance Skills for Event Planning
We mentioned negotiations before, but this point can stand to be repeated. The art of negotiations is at work in all areas of our life. But when the budget is concerned, negotiating with your client and vendors, it’s your opportunity to ask for a consideration (discount). If you don’t ask for a discount you won’t get it so be sure to at least ask. Ask for discounts in a way that is respectful and won’t harm the relationship. You could ask: “Is there a way to lower the price?”, or “What can we do to get a discount?”. You can discuss prepayment, financing, volume pricing, etc. All negotiations are great opportunities to add value to your client.
Budgeting can be seen as restrictive or liberating. It’s impossible to execute an event with no resources. Creating and following a budget can help you maintain control while also giving you the freedom to invest. The budgeting process can be tricky to navigate. But you should be able to get a good sense of what’s important to the client by establishing a budget. Be sure to allocate resources to categories within the budget so that you are free to make decisions on behalf of the client and spend the budget. Remember, you will be called to account for your expenditures and justify the effectiveness of spending resources. So function within the guidelines of the budget.
Part of the accountability, responsibility, and sales process includes reporting on the activities of planning and executing the event. You will be called to report and show receipts, show attendance, etc. Try to avoid looking at this situation as a day of reckoning, instead, look at the reporting as an opportunity to showcase your client’s success and your success in helping them. Don’t forget to close the sales process with reporting and validating your value as an event planner.
Return on Investment
The definition for a return on investment is different for most clients. Some clients want to see a financial calculation of the amount of resources they invested and the net income as a return. While other clients will want to see what resources they invested and hopefully be able to measure how well they achieved or supported their mission. So, be creative and think of the ROI ratio as a function of investment and return, and return is relative to the value of the client. If your client values dollars, then do ROI ratios in dollars. If the client values volunteers then do the ROI ratios in terms of volunteers or volunteer hours, etc.
3 Marketing Skills for Event Planning
Online marketing channels
In a digital age, most event marketing begins online. This can come more naturally for younger event planners. So, if you’re a little older and online marketing for events is not your forte, then reach out for help from someone who may be more experienced or comfortable with marketing events online. You’ll need to be familiar with search engine optimization, search engine marketing, social media, email marketing, etc. If this is all new to you, pick one area and work on it for each event. Gradually you will become familiar with marketing events online.
Offline marketing channels
Events are inherently social and usually local. Younger generations don’t often think about offline marketing anymore. The older generation was raised on flyers, television, radio, etc. So, if a younger generation is helping you with marketing your events offline, don’t be surprised if there is some frustration. Teach the younger generation that real relationships matter and are effective for promoting an event.
As you develop ways to promote events offline to a local market, be sure to document these processes so they can be replicated by your staff later on.
Your clients will also have a preference or expectation for the type of event marketing you do. If the client is younger, they will likely understand and expect online marketing. If the client is part of the baby boomers generation, they will expect and understand forms of offline event marketing better.
Do not underestimate the power that public relationships can have for marketing events. It can be very valuable to you as an event planner to be able to offer and facilitate free exposure via television, radio, and newspapers in local markets.
Relationships with traditional media are forged over time with repeat interactions. You can start cultivating relationships with local media by reaching out to them to introduce yourself and your services. That can set the groundwork for working more closely with the traditional media outlets in the future as the need arises.
3 Customer Service Skills Needed for Event Planning
How many times have you had to deal with a raging attendee or client. You will serve yourself and your client well if you can manage a stressful situation with temperance. Sometimes the emotional situation calls for a cool hand, while other times the emotional situation calls for a firm hand. As an event planner, you have to be emotionally intelligent enough to know what method to start with and transition to as the situation evolves.
As an event planner, you may find yourself caught in between multiple parties and asked or expected to resolve a situation. If you’re lucky enough to not be directly responsible for the conflict, do your best to add value to your client by helping to resolve the matter. An outside third-party can be instrumental in allowing cooler emotions to prevail toward resolving the concern.
When a client hires you, you have a fiduciary responsibility to protect and pursue their interests. Ensure that their interests do not conflict with your own interests or with another client. When acting on behalf of the client, do your best to get them the best outcome possible. Don’t be afraid to take this position, it’s what you are hired and agree to do. Your client will trust you more as you demonstrate that you are on their side and will work for their best interests.
3 Technology Skills Needed for Event Planning
Unless you’re hosting your event off the grid and going camping, technology will be an integral part of your event. You will likely promote your event online, sell tickets and accept registrations online, communicate and engage with audiences online, and provide customer service electronically. Try to be familiar with new technologies and trends and how new approaches could be applied to your client’s events.
Keep notes as you work with your client about what processes are inefficient, difficult, repetitive or outdated. Where possible, finish the event you have and then circle back to your client with these situations as talking points of ways to try and improve the event. Don’t necessarily have answers to all the situations because your client will have insights of how to improve processes too. But at least keep a running record of what is frustrating so it can be discussed as possible areas of improvement.
Where possible, automate the event. Learn more about automating these processes for your event management:
- Event promotion
- Ticket sales
- Confirmation emails
- Ticket scanning and record keeping
- Attendance tracking
The “where possible” part of this argument should be evaluated with a critical eye. Oftentimes, event planners (more often their clients) are stubborn and have expectations about how certain things should be done, often because that’s how they’ve been done. Hopefully the pandemic has forced people to adopt and accept new ways of doing things. But a great way to make automation more possible is to simplify. Simplify the number of tickets you offer. Simplify the number of variables involved. The more uniform you can make things and processes the more likely that you’ll be able to automate.
5 Sales Skills Needed for Event Planning
Having sales objectives and goals can help keep your team motivated and focused. Discuss with your team whether you want to increase the sales dollars, number of attendees, number of donations, total donors, attendance, etc. Those sales objectives will influence other sales tactics such as process, promotions and pricing.
Whether you are an event management company of 1 or 100, you need to create a process for selling to clients and selling to attendees. It can be worth your time to document what works or not to attract more clients and attendees. With documented sales processes you can involve more people in the sales process and increase growth for your business and your clients. You can save yourself a lot of time and stress by having a sales playbook of your own resources and action plans to get started selling.
One part of the sales process that we often see overlooked is following up with leads. You may have to work a lead several times over the course of a few years. But where possible continue to nurture that relationship with a lead.
The event itself will be the most important and valuable factor contributing to sales (or volunteers or donations, etc.) Pricing will be the second most influential factor for selling. Get familiar with all the latest pricing strategies and consider for your client what can be implemented for them. Sometimes simple is better because it makes things easy for attendees to choose. However, sometimes a more complicated pricing structure can influence buying behavior to get people to spend more. Balance the complexity with the need to automate and convert on leads. The more complicated the pricing strategy, the more work it will take you to close the deal. In contrast, a more simple pricing strategy will require less customer service and manual help to close a deal.
Promotions should not be seen so much as discounts but more as tools for motivating. Promotions should be limited and focused. Limited in the period or available and focused on the specific product or offer you want to be accepted. Incentives can motivate people to action, so remember to leave room in your pricing to allow you to do some promotions and get people to act now.
Buy-in is less about closing the deal and more about aligning vision and positions. You and your client need to be on the same page. You are being hired for a reason and your sales pitch should be able to communicate value to your clients. Your need to understand your client’s vision and they need to buy-in to your ability to execute on their vision. This buy-in also extends to your staff, vendors, media, etc. Going back to the messages that are effective for marketing events, communicate what is in it for them.
3 Ways to Showcase Event Planning Skills on Your Resume
When you are trying to impress a client, be certain to illustrate your training as an event planner. To illustrate your training you can include references to education degrees, certificates, participation at conferences or workshops, authoring publications, etc.
Continuity of Role
Most event organizers are leery of working with someone new to the industry. So, if you have been working as an event planner for some time, be sure to highlight that fact. Also remember that the things you learn from event planning are not necessarily unique to only event planners (more on that below). So, search for ways to highlight your ability and experience with the role of an event planner even if you’ve not been in that capacity specifically.
People often tell a good story in their resumes, but the best examples of success are illustrated with numbers. Include numbers as much as possible on your resume, About page, use cases, case studies, and testimonials. Ask clients to provide reviews or testimonials or write use cases that you can use to build trust and showcase your experience.
Experience Gained from Event Planning
The experience you need and gain from event planning is not unique to event planning. You can use your experience as a student, as a business owner, as a corporate executive to run a successful event business.
Likewise the experience and skills you gain as an event organizer can translate to many other employment opportunities.
No matter if you are starting or ending your career as an event planner, realize you have a diverse set of skills that are valuable in many situations.