How to Break Into The Event Planning Industry (for real)

Every job’s got a reputation and for event planners, that’s a glamorous time filled with champagne flutes, decorations and VIP guests. And while sometimes that might be the case, people in the industry will tell you that most of the time it doesn’t look like a scene from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Many ignore the long hours of planning, excel sheets, permit seeking and competition that comes with the territory. Event planning can be a tough business, but it can also be a very rewarding one if you’re wired for it. Sometimes the rush of the moment and seeing the faces of satisfied clients and attendees, make it all worth it. If you already decided that you’ve got what it takes to be a great event planner, but don’t know where to start then this is the post for you.

We’ll go over a few basic tools that will help you take your first steps into the sizzling business of event planning.

50 tips on how to get more attendees

PART 1. Introduction to the event planning industry

The event planning industry is the commercial enterprise dedicated exclusively to the organisation and management of events. The sector covers small occasions like breakfast meetings to large sporting episodes as the Olympics. Likewise, companies in this field vary greatly, going from freelancers to teams made up of hundreds of people. As of 2014, it is worth an estimate of £39.1 billion in the UK, with conference and meetings being the biggest contributors making each £19.9 billion and £11 billion, respectively. In the UK, there are over 25,0000 business in the events industry which gives jobs to 530,000 full-time employees.

While there are as many types of events in this world as there are people, most follow within the following categories.

  • (Music) festivals
  • Sporting events
  • Exhibitions
  • Conferences
  • Meetings
  • Weddings

It is important to understand the differences between them and in which ones you would like to work. It is also worth knowing that most event management agencies specialise in a single kind of event.

What makes a great event planner?

event planning

What different agencies and clients look for in an event planner varies greatly depending on the person and the occasion, of course, but there are some qualities that tend to be intrinsic to this profession.

  • Flexibility: It doesn’t matter how many months you spent planning or how many excel sheets you’ve created, there will always be last minute changes! It is also important to remain flexible when it comes to the needs of your customers.
  • People Skills: When working in the events industry you will not only work with your client and team, you’ll meet all sorts of folk, from vendors to speakers and anything in between. If meeting new people is not your thing, then maybe you should reconsider your choices.
  • Organisational skills: Event planners need to deal with many things simultaneously. It would be ideal if asking for permits, looking for venues, and contacting sponsors could all be done in neat, separate steps, but usually a professional in the field will find themselves juggling all at the same time. Thankfully, there are tools that will make the life of an event planner a lot easier. We wrote a post about that.
  • Passion: A good requisite for pretty much any job. Passion will give you that extra push you need when things get hard and you feel like giving up.
  • Time Management skills: Oh, time management. We’ve all heard of it. Especially me, not that I’ve ever missed a deadline, mind you *whistles*. As with organisation, time management is crucial to keep track of everything. Events require tight precision to be pulled off. Any delay could cause a domino effect of epic proportions.
  • Resourcefulness: If something can go wrong, then it will go wrong – some say. Event planners need to be able to solve any problem that may arise on the last minute quickly and creatively using the tools at his/her disposal.
  • Attention to details: One of the best teachers I ever had once told me: “The difference between a professional and an amateur is the attention to detail.” She was talking about graphic design, but I feel like it can apply to anything.
  • A levelled head: What HR loves to call being able to “work under pressure”. Again, here we have a quality that could apply to almost any job, but I feel like it is particularly important to event managers as they have to deal with many variables at the same time.  

What nobody tells you about the industry

Now that you’ve learned about the good parts of the industry, it is time you learn about the not so “flashy” sides of the business.

best event planner

The Long Hours: If you’re looking a 9 to 5 job, then think again. Often times, event planning requires the person in charge to be available by phone or email 24/7. Even on the same day of the event, you may not have time to relax. Remember, you’re planning events for the enjoyment of others. Not your own.

Uncredited work: More often than not, clients get the credit for a well-planned event instead of the planner and their team.

Among the most stressful jobs: We’re not kidding when we say event planning can be a very stressful business. With all those deadlines and people to coordinate, this is not a career for the faint of heart.

There will always be a comment: It doesn’t matter if the fireworks were perfectly coordinated with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or if the Queen literally jumped off an airplane with a parachute to kick off the party, there will always be someone who’s not satisfied. It might be the lighting, the music, or things that you had absolutely no control over like the weather, but someone will always find something to complain about.

If you want to read more about the subject, you can check out this piece we wrote a couple of months ago on the same subject.

PART 2. Research

As with any other new project you want to take on, it is necessary to do some research so you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. You wouldn’t want to come across as an amateur when you’re making those precious contacts, now would you?

26 Words You Need to Know not to Look Like a Noob

  1. A&B: Accommodation and breakfast
  2. Advance Order: An order for a product that is made before a product is available to buy
  3. Advance Registration: Booking before an event takes places
  4. A/V: Audiovisual
  5. BEO: Banquet Event Order
  6. Beamer: LCD projector
  7. Bid Document: Documents required to be submitted in response to an invitation to bid
  8. Break-Out Sessions (or breakout meeting) Short session where a small group of attendees discusses specific subjects regarding a larger event
  9. Cabaret Style Seating: Attendees sit on one side of the table facing forwards
  10. Call Brand: Any brand of liquor that a customer must ask for by name in a restaurant or bar
  11. CMP: Certified Meeting Professional
  12. Fairtrade certified: A product that’s been certified to meet certain environmental, labour, and developmental standards
  13. I&D: Installation and Dismantle
  14. ITB: Invitation to bid
  15. Keynote: A speech that sets out the central theme of a conference
  16. LCD: Liquid crystal display
  17. Lectern: A reading desk, with a slanted top
  18. MIA: Meeting Industry Association
  19. Overset: Number of place settings above a guarantee
  20. Per Diems: Paid by the day
  21. Press Kit: (or media kit) is a pre-packaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organisation distributed to members of the media for promotional use
  22. Pro Forma Invoice: A document that states a commitment on part of the seller to deliver the products or services as notified to the buyer for a specific price
  23. Q&A Question and answer
  24. SMERF:  Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal
  25. VIP: Very important person (could be a CEO or a celebrity)
  26. WIFI: Wireless internet

These are just a few of the terms that would be useful to learn if you’re planning on getting into the event planning industry. There are lots more, don’t worry. You’ll learn them. For more helpful terms, you can check out this article.

The Market

Here we’ll give you a few pointers on how to start learning about the inside outs of the industry.

event planning market

  • Follow Influencers: Who are the influencers in the event planning industry? Julius Solaris and his team are surely at the top of their game. Their blog is full of useful information for future event managers. William Thompson from Gallus Events and Liz King from Liz King Events are also some of the people you should follow. Stalk them on social networks, and try to engage with them (just don’t be creepy). Who knows? Maybe they’ll reply with useful knowledge. People usually like to talk about their jobs, so go ahead, you’ve got nothing to lose.
  • Read blogs: Again, Julius Solaris’ Blog is a great source. Eventbrite and BizBash are also filled with useful and comprehensible information. Blogs are a great starting point to find out what’s going on currently in the industry. If you think it’s hard to keep track of them, then get a tool like Feedly or Bloglovin which will make your blog reading experience much easier.  
  • Ebooks: Just because you don’t need a University diploma to work in the event management industry, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study. Browse online for some free ebooks to get you started, but if you’re serious about this career then you eventually may want to invest. If books aren’t your thing, then you could also search in Slides for “event planning” presentations. You’ll find valuable information in an easy to digest format.
  • Target the right companies: Got any particular agency in mind you’d like to work for? Even if you don’t, it might be a good idea to keep them on your radar just to see what they’re doing. If you don’t know where to start, here’s a post we wrote a while ago about the best event planning agencies in the UK for 2015.
  • Google Alerts: Don’t know how to keep track of all of those companies and influencers? Don’t fret, uncle Google is here to fix it. The search engine is not only good for creating cute doodles on special days, it also offers a powerful monitoring tool called Google Alerts that does exactly what you think it does. All you have to do is enter the name of the topic you’re interested in and from then on every time someone mentions it online, Google will send you an email.

Part 3. Assess Yourself

This part of the process is crucial. Before you jump into the big pond, make sure you’ve got your floaties on. Knowing yourself, your strengths and weaknesses will give you a better picture of where you can perform best in this industry and help land a job.    

Alone or in a team? Would you rather have your own business or be part of a big agency? Even if your ultimate goal is to own your very own events management company, it might be better to start working for someone else so you can learn the how-to’s of the business without too much risk.

Different team roles

A number of jobs and their roles will vary greatly depending on many factors like the size of the agency and the type of events, but here are some of the most common. It might do well to look for more information on each one of them and see where you’d feel more comfortable (Source):

  • Event Coordinator
  • Event Planner
  • Client Service Event Manager
  • Event Manager
  • Event Assistant
  • Choreographer
  • Artistic Director
  • Ticket Sales Manager
  • Catering Manager
  • Lighting Operator
  • Sound Operator
  • Director
  • Administrator
  • Production Manager
  • Stage Manager
  • Set Designer
  • Master Carpenter
  • Scenic Painter
  • Props Master
  • Lighting Designer
  • Chief Electrician  
  • Sound Designer
  • Costume Designer
  • Wardrobe Supervisor
  • Dressers/maintenance
  • Front of House / Box Office Manager
  • Marketing / Publicity Manager

Part 4. Get out there

So far we’ve been pretty reactive, so it’s time to get proactive in your enterprise of breaking into the event planning industry.

event team

  1. Volunteer: Here’s the thing if you don’t have any experience organising events, then the chances of getting hired are going to be slim. The best way to gather experience in this industry is to volunteer. Event organisers are always in need an extra pair of helping hands, so if you volunteer, chances are someone will open the door. Volunteering will not only give you experience but will also give you a chance to meet people who already work inside the sector. You can never have too many contacts.
  2. Network Online:  You know what this means. That Linkedin profile, the one that’s been gathering dust over the past couple of years? Yeah, that one. It’s time to pimp it up! Get yourself a nice, professional photo and update the information. Join groups about event planning and interact with the members of those groups. Engage and give opinions on material that’s being shared. Try to be active at least once a week. Don’t let it die. Another great place to start networking is Meetup. Even though it’s not geared towards professionals, this platform allows you to get together with like-minded event enthusiasts.
  3. Network Offline: Networking from the comfort of our own home is easier, but sometimes it’s just better to do it face-to-face. Networking events are in vogue right now, so chances are there’s one of your interest that’s going to happen near your area. If you’re new to networking, this Forbesarticle might be of some help.  
  4. Get in touch: Once you’ve made those precious contacts, it is important to keep them warm! Relationships are like plants, we have to water them from time to time to keep them alive. That goes for business and personal ones. Once you’ve exchanged contact information with someone, write them an email. Don’t wait for too much to do it (one or two days should be fine). People are very busy (and not to mention self-involved) if you wait too long, you might run the risk of being forgotten.
  5. Prepare your CV and Cover Letter: Now that you’re meeting all of the interesting people in the biz, it’s time to get your CV ready because you’ll start sending it out soon. You should have a better idea of what the sector is looking for, so cater your CV to it. Write down all of the experiences, strengths and tools you might have at your disposal that will give the extra edge. Also if you want to bring your CV to the next design level, vizualise.me is a great free tool that will make it look like it’s been put together by a professional graphic designer. The cover letter is equally important if not more so since it’s usually read before the CV. My suggestion would be to create a template that you can later modify depending on the demands of the agency you’re applying to.

Here you can find a quite complete list of job search sites specialised in the event planning that we put together recently.

Part 5. Conclusions

Getting into a new industry can be scary, but if you feel truly passionate about it then you shouldn’t let fear stop you. Remember to do your research, assess yourself, network, volunteer, gather experience and get your CV ready. I am aware that it sounds awfully simplistic when described this way, but remember this is meant to get you started. We wish you the best of luck!

Do you work in the event planning industry? We would love to hear from you! Got any tips for any hopefuls wanting to start in the business? Then leave us a comment below or reach us via any of our social media networks.

In the meantime, keep reading the Printsome Blog for more awesome content.

50 tips on how to get more attendees


Printsome is an online T-shirt printing agency in the UK based in London that delivers all across the UK, from printing T-shirts in Brighton to York and anywhere in between. So, if you’re after a T-shirt or custom clothing, get in touch for a quote and indulge yourself in some awesome customer service.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *