From the outside, event planning is about organising spectacular parties, getting cool custom shirts, conferences, weddings, and exhibitions – all while using someone else’s money. While event planning can be a very fun and fulfilling job, it can (at times) also be a very tough one.
Nobody wants to hear about the long unpaid extra hours, the clients from hell, and the vendor that cancelled at the very last minute. Here are seven things nobody tells you about event planning.
The Clients from Hell
You are aware of the clients who constantly change their minds, the cheap ones, and the nagging ones. After all, it comes with the territory. As a professional, you’ve learned how to be a firm manager and deal with them, but we’re not talking about those. Oh, no. We’re talking about the ones from hell.
The one who calls you five times in a single morning to ask you how his name will appear on the flyer, but doesn’t pick up the phone when you need him. The one who gets high on acid and asks you to do something and then says the complete opposite when he is sober. The one who asks you to write the copy for the invitation, but hasn’t decided on the final design yet and when you ask her to make a decision she ignores you – and she wants it all for tomorrow, of course. By the way, I’m not making this up. I’ve had all of these experiences.
There are not enough yoga poses, TED talks and Eckhart Tolle books to help you with the stress caused by dealing with this kind of – people. All you can do is get better at sniffing them out before they even solicit your services.
The Long Hours
Being an event planner is definitely not a 9 to 5 job. You will often have to work early mornings and late nights and sometimes even spend several nights away from home. There can be a lot of travelling and be moving around. Working on the weekends is also very common as many events are held then, so be prepared to spend time away from your family – it can be exhausting.
Note: You may also be interested in ‘9 of the biggest event planning fails ever.’
The Event Planner is treated like an ER surgeon
Not because you get a high salary, but because you will be expected to be available 24/7 to answer messages and smooth out any problems. Having a smartphone means you carry your own tiny office everywhere, and that’s great because you’ll be able to fix an issue anywhere, but it also means that there are no excuses for not replying. And now, thanks to wifi on aeroplanes, you can’t even turn the bloody thing off when you’re flying.
The Thing Event Planners Really do
There’s more to event planning than organising the flowers, catering, music and décor. That’s actually a small part of it. The event planner spends most of his/her time making sure contracts are signed by suppliers and clients, relevant health and safety licences are held, risk assessments have been carried out, insurance is up to date, follow-up paperwork is completed and, to top it all off, that vendors get paid.
And if you are a self-employed event planner you’ll also have to take care of your own marketing and accounts – so yeah, you can tell your friends that you do more than just arrange tables.
You’re the captain of this ship if something goes wrong staff and clients are going to expect you to sort it out. Many event planners thrive on this kind of stress; making snap decisions, changing arrangements, and solving problems, but even the most successful can find it hard, from time to time, to cope with a difficult situation. If stress is not properly managed, it can lead to burnout or to an early retirement.
More often than not clients expect more for their money than it will actually pay for. Managing the budget is an art form in itself, which involves allowing a contingency for unexpected occurrences and keeping the client happy. With experience, the event planner will know where to get the cheapest photographer, flowers, and stationery, but they can’t do magic. Clients will often expect MET gala when they can only afford karaoke night at the round-the-corner bar. This is why aside from an organiser, the event planner also needs to be a diplomat.
Note: We recommend you also read this ‘What to do (and not to) when an event goes wrong.’
The Something that Can Always go Wrong
Being the organised event planner that you are, you checked the weather forecast, saw there was a high chance of rain and planned accordingly. You didn’t just get umbrellas for everyone, you got umbrellas with the client’s logo printed on them! What you didn’t foresee was that it would rain cats and dogs for four hours straight and due to that all of the taxis would disappear.
The event has long been over and now all of your attendees are stuck at the venue because even if they have umbrellas, they can’t get outside because the tropical storm that’s falling would send them flying away like Mary Poppins. As you hear another pre-recorded message saying that there are no cars available, you come to the harsh realisation that all of the long hours of work have been wasted because the only thing they’ll talk about afterwards is how they had to wait “forever” to get a ride home.
This is a true story, and I am sharing it to let you know that it doesn’t matter how much you plan ahead, something can always go wrong.
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