Your career as an event planner is intriguing to many but do you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again?
Here are top nine questions I have been asked throughout my 15 year career in the event industry. Some questions show people’s interest and intrigue, some are pure ignorance and some are potentially borderline insulting! Do any of these sound familiar?
1. So You’re a Party Planner?
Erm, no, not exactly! I predominantly organise conferences, but for some people organising events can only mean one thing – planning parties. Although I have organised plenty of parties over the years it is not primarily how I would describe my role. I do of course have the utmost respect for creative and talented party planners and colleagues that specialise in this area and have the vision and flair to transform any space into a party paradise – much more so than I do! But likewise, as a party planner wouldn’t feel it was a fair representation if someone presumed they were a professional conference organiser, I would prefer not to be described as a party planner.
And – furthermore – why should we be pigeonholed anyway? Although there are tremendous benefits to specialising in one niche of the event industry the reality for many of us is that we are good all-rounders and run a range of events. This may be because we are looking for variety in our work, through necessity to make a living or simply to honour our loyal clients’ wishes for the events they need us to create.
2. So What Does an Event Planner Actually Do?
Where do I start?! To us it seems so obvious the amount of planning and detail that goes into every single event but others are simply baffled by our role and evidently think that events magically happen by themselves. This should of course be a huge compliment to the industry that we make it look so flawless and easy executing our events but it often comes across almost as an insult! I love taking one type of event as an example and responding back with 15 or so broad tasks an event professional will handle. Even just outlining some of the basics seems to come as a bit of a shock. I guess it highlights how some people simply are not cut out for event planning if they cannot think about the detail required behind its success!
3. There’s a Degree for That?
Yes! Is it really so unbelievable?! The argument about whether event managers are born or made rattles on and even those within the industry can have opposing views about whether an event management degree is worthwhile. Those from outside the industry can sometimes be even more incredulous. Most of the degree level event courses I am familiar with seem to have a strong business focus with modules around finance, marketing, project management, innovation, human resources, as well as specific event planning modules. All in all they offer a solid basic education, even for those that do not end up working in the event industry in the long term. I personally think there are a lot more niche or general degree courses which deserve ridicule or wonder before an event management degree is brought into question.
4. Great – Can you Organize my Child’s Birthday Party/Wedding/Charity Fundraiser Then?
Yes, possibly. Is this actually a serious request though? As I mentioned, many #eventprofs are good all-rounders and of course the principles of planning one type of event can and are transferable to another type of event. However at the same time as event planners it is important we learn to say "NO" and not spread ourselves too thinly. In a work capacity planning a child’s birthday party or someone’s wedding is not something I would consider, there are experts out there that specialise in these areas and plenty of work to go around for everyone.
See also point 1 and point 8!
5. How Many Celebs are in your Phone Book?
A few! But always a tricky one to answer! In the name of professionalism and confidentiality this is always a difficult one to answer and I always try to give a suitably vague answer. Indeed the few popstars, DJs, TV personalities, speakers, commentators and performers I have links with may be more Z list than A list in your opinion anyway but I treasure them!
6. Can you Give Me a Job?
Do you have a clue what the role of an event manager actually entails? When I meet people at networking events they always tell me that they think they’d be “really good at planning events”, it sounds like “their dream job” (or the perfect job for their son/daughter, next door neighbour, chipmunk, etc). Unfortunately though very rarely are these chance comments based on any actual evidence. Generally they haven’t read anything, done any research, shown any sign of commitment or gained any kind of experience. To them it just sounds like a good job, based on a view through rose tinted spectacles that it is an easy, glamorous and enviable career. Unfortunately the event industry is super competitive and this half-hearted approach simply isn’t enough. Whenever we have advertised a vacancy at any level we have always had well over 100 applicants, with lots of strong candidates demonstrating a career in events really is their true ambition and passion. Although I appreciate a speculative enquiry, unless you have done your homework and can show your worth it is very unlikely this conversation will continue or result in the offer of work!
7. I Need to Put On an Event Like Yesterday – Can You Help?
Of course. But why the sudden urgency? It is amazing how many times you start talking to someone only for them to remember suddenly that they need to put on an event as their number one priority in next to no time, even though they have often put absolutely no thought into it up until that point and done zilch about it. Of course event planners can and do work wonders on a regular basis with ridiculously short lead times, pulling rabbits out of hats, but everyone will get so much more from the event if we actually can plan out a realistic time frame. It will probably cost less too with more time to negotiate and shop around. So steady up and let’s talk properly….
8. Do You Work Pro Bono?
Are you seriously asking me this?! Planning events is hard work – millions of tasks and details large and small to take care of. This means every event is a time consuming business and already there are not enough hours in a day. Although I, like many other planners, have agreed to assist with certain projects on occasion that have really struck a chord and have given some time and support freely this is not a sustainable business model! We all have a living to make after all.
9. Well How Much DO You Charge Then?
Can I have a few more details perhaps?
No two events are the same and unfortunately I do not have an off the peg price to manage any event, which people seem to expect. I am of course always happy to have a brief discussion with someone to find out the information I need to know to put together an accurate quotation but expect me to ask you about the type of event you have in mind, format, numbers, location, timeframe, objectives and budget, before I can give an indicative price.
However much you love your role as an event manager being asked the same questions over and over again can get tiresome! Can you identify with these questions? What other questions do you get asked time and time again? Have you got the perfect response? I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Becki Cross is Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd, an event and conference management company established in 2004. Becki set up the business in her early twenties and is particularly passionate about conferences, entrepreneurship and social media.