Have you ever wondered how to become an event planner? Well, you’re in the right place. 

In this blog, we’ll walk you through exactly what you need to know about working in the rapidly growing event planning industry. From the perks of the job to tricks of the trade, let’s explore everything an aspiring event planner needs to become a certified professional. 

What is an event planner?

Group of people gathered at a table pointing at a desktop event planning calendar

Here’s the basic job description: A professional event planner is someone who organizes all aspects of meetings, conventions, and other types of special events. Event planners work directly with clients to transform their concepts into reality and host successful events. This involves budgeting, generating ideas, booking guest speakers, and engaging with vendors and sponsors. 

Other key responsibilities include:

  • Communicating with clients to understand their vision.
  • Planning event logistics including cost, time, location, and format.
  • Inspecting venues to ensure they align with expectations.
  • Procuring event technology and other necessary equipment.
  • Evaluating real-time performance and ensuring attendee satisfaction.

Working in the event industry requires plenty of time,  dedication, and hard work to master the craft. 

What’s the difference between an event planner and an event coordinator?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but these roles traditionally aren’t the same. According to Indeed, event planners tend to have broader responsibilities, overseeing the entirety of the event planning process from beginning to end.

By contrast, an event coordinator — also known as an event manager — is more involved in logistically executing the client’s vision. In other words, their job is to ensure the event plan is brought to fruition as opposed to designing it. 

That said, many of their skills and responsibilities overlap. And, with the events industry growing at a tremendous pace, many event professionals are blending the two roles. Although they’ve historically been separate, the complexity of modern event planning necessitates professionals who can perform both jobs equally.

Why become an event planner?

There are many reasons to get into the event planning business. First, it’s a fun and exciting career. No two events are alike, and the event planning process is never boring.

Second, it’s rewarding. As an events planner, your job is to wow audiences with unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. You get to build events from the ground up and watch your hard work pay off in real time. 

Last but not least, the event industry is booming. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects event planning employment to grow 18% by 2031 — far faster than the national average across all industries. In fact, there will be at least 16,000 new job openings every year over the coming decade. 

10 steps to becoming an event planner

Desktop calendar, cup of coffee, plant, clock and agenda notebook with pen open on top of desk

Getting your foot in the door takes patience. However, there’s plenty you can do to become a successful event planner. 

Here are 10 essential steps to launching your career:

1. Research the event planning industry

Conduct research to understand what’s happening in the industry and where demand is trending. 

Research the most popular types of events both in your area and around the world, so you know what to offer in the future. Of course, the following events never go out of style:

  • Birthday parties
  • Weddings
  • Conferences
  • Sales meetings
  • Trade shows

However, the event industry is much bigger than that, especially in 2023. Get a feel for what’s really trending. Look into different event formats: in-person, hybrid, and virtual.

Spoiler alert: In-person events are back. However, hybrid and virtual event formats are still wildly popular. In fact, more than two-thirds of events in 2022 were either hybrid or had the option to attend remotely, according to Skift.

2. Pick a specialization

Young female event planner wears lanyard and badge and stands outside at event venue

What type of event planner do you want to be? Do you want to work in multiple facets of the event planning industry or just in one particular niche? 

Either way, every aspiring event planner should be familiar with their options. Generally, event planners are broken up into three categories:

  1. Corporate event planners: Corporate event planning involves organizing internal events and meetings between businesses. These include corporate retreats, team-building events, and sales kickoffs.
  2. Convention planners: A convention planner organizes a broader scope of B2B and B2C events like conferences, trade shows, galas, award ceremonies, etc.
  3. Social event planners: This category includes any social gathering such as funerals, bridal showers, birthday parties, and family reunions. If you’re an aspiring wedding planner, this niche is right up your alley.

3. Learn the tricks of the trade

Is a college education required to become an event planner? Generally, the answer is no. However, the BLS says most event professionals do earn a bachelor’s in event planning (or something similar, such as public relations, hospitality management, or business administration).

Alternatively, you can earn an event planning certification. There are many certificates to choose from, but the following three are the most widely accepted:

  1. Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP): A CSEP certification is globally recognized as an indication you’ve invested time and effort in gaining a well-rounded understanding of organizing a special event.
  2. Certified Meeting Professional (CMP): Issued by the Events Industry Council, a CMP certification is awarded to event professionals who specialize in exhibitions, conventions, and meeting planning.
  3. Certificate in Meeting Management (CMM): The CMM certification is considered the most respected level of professional development in the industry. Issued by Meeting Professionals International, this certificate is awarded only to management-level meeting and event planners with over a decade of event management experience.

Interested in obtaining an event planning certification? Check out our guide to learn more.

4. Level up your skills

Regardless of your education level or certification status, one thing is certain: You need to hone your skills to become a successful event planner. But what are the skill requirements anyway?

Here are a few essential abilities every event professional should master:

  • Organization: Event management has a lot of moving parts. If you’re not organized, it’s only a matter of time before a key aspect of the event falls out of sync. And, if you’re not quick to rectify the mistake, it could spell disaster for your event’s success.
  • Communication: Between clients, sponsors, vendors, and attendees, there are so many stakeholders you need to stay in constant contact with during the event planning process. Not only do you need to juggle them simultaneously, but you also have to ensure everyone’s expectations are aligned. If they aren’t, someone may not be happy with the end result.
  • Networking: Creating connections is essential. The better you are at developing strategic partnerships with vendors and sponsors, the more smoothly you can organize an event. Plus, the better you network, the more effectively you grow your event planning business.
  • Creativity: Event planning isn’t about ticking items off a to-do list. It’s about thinking outside the box and hosting the best, most immersive experiences possible. If you can look at your event from a unique perspective, there’s no telling what ideas you can bring to the table.

You might be scratching your head as to how you actually practice these skills. The short answer? Work experience.

5. Gain work experience

Often, the best way to learn is by doing. In the events industry, that means acquiring as much work experience as you can. 

If you’re in college, that may mean applying for an internship at an event planning company. Outside the classroom, you can also gain practical event planning experience by volunteering. 

Look for local conferences, sporting events, and fundraisers where you can lend a hand and learn more about various aspects of event management. These opportunities look great on a resume, plus they provide a valuable hands-on learning experience. But, don’t just settle for any volunteer position — ask to be as involved as possibly can be. That way, you can get closer to the right people and see what it’s really like to plan a major event.

6. Master event technology

Another important skill every event professional should have? Technical know-how. Simply put, technology is essential to hosting a successful event in 2023. In fact, according to Skift’s 2022 event tech report, the majority of planners would invest in more technology if their budgets increased in the future. 

Why? Because event technology drives engagement. It enables inclusive, immersive experiences and can take attendees on a journey they’ve never imagined. 

Many event professionals are already leveraging innovative solutions to their advantage. From all-in-one event management platforms to custom mobile event apps, new tools help planners bridge the gap between in-person and virtual audience members, all while keeping them entertained. 

Want to learn more? Check out our guide to the top event tech trends.

7. Create a portfolio

A portfolio offers a great way to showcase your skills and accomplishments. After you have some work experience under your belt, organize it into a comprehensive collection. 

Include photos of events you’ve worked on, brochures, invitations, and other relevant materials. Explain how you personally overcame specific challenges such as budget constraints, vendor disputes, last-minute cancellations, or anything else that may have thrown you for a loop. 

Gather client testimonials, too. These are great assets to have because they demonstrate in your customers’ words how you helped turn their event vision into reality. 

8. Start networking

Young female event professional shakes hands with young male professional in conference center hallway

The event planning industry is really just one big web of planners, suppliers, vendors, clients, and attendees. That’s why networking is so important — it’s how you get your name out there, make connections, negotiate great rates, and win new business. 

Not sure where to start? Try joining some event planning associations (groups of like-minded event professionals looking to connect and further the industry). Here are a few of the most common:

9. Market your services

If you’re an independent event planner, you’ll need to start promoting your services. That’s how you find new clients and grow your business, so it’s an essential part of launching your career.

Start off by designing a website. You need a place where interested prospects can learn about who you are and what you can do for them. Make sure you include a “contact us” field so you can capture email addresses and contact information. This allows you to build a database of potential clients.

Next, think about where your ideal clients spend their time online, and market in those places. If you’re a wedding planner, Instagram is a safe bet. It’s a visual medium and a great place to showcase your work. But, if you’re a corporate event planner, LinkedIn may be a more appropriate platform. It’s more buttoned-up and professional, which is what your target audience might expect.

The best event planners keep their ears to the ground. In other words, they stay current on the latest industry trends. Why? Because that’s how they identify opportunities and use them to their advantage. 

Here are a few popular sources to get you started:

Kick-starting your event planning career

There you have it: a 10-step journey from aspiring event planner to certified professional. Hopefully, these insights will point you in the right direction.

If you ever get lost, Webex Events Academy is here to steer you back on course. From running hybrid events to measuring event success, it offers a one-stop shop for all things event management.