Becoming an Event Planner


Whether it’s been your life-long goal to become an event planner or whether the boss told you to plan this year’s convention becoming a successful event planner just doesn’t happen.

There are tons of resources, and schools, and organizations out there to help you. Over the course of the year we’ll be talking about them. If you think that event planning is for you, here are a few steps to take.

1) Get a degree in hospitality. Many schools are offering undergraduate programs. There are online programs, and continuing education programs. We’ll be taking a look at some of those programs as time goes on.

2) Find a mentor. Maybe you’re already employed by an association or organization and there’s a skilled meeting/event planner at the helm. Ask them if you can help and learn from them. The pratical experience and advice they can provide may help you avoid some pitfalls.

3) Practice your skills. Plan smaller events for your friends or volunteer for a neighborhood association. Sure, it’s not a 5,000 attendee conference or a concert for thousands, but you can learn and polish the basic skills. Don’t forget to take pictures for your portfolio.

4) Get feedback from your attendees. When appropriate offer surveys or a chance to send you comments.

5) Get certification. We’ll be talking more about these, but some of the most notable certifications include the Certified Special Event Professional (CSEP) offered by ILEA, and the Certified Meeting Professional offered by the Convention Industry Council (CIC).

Those are just a few simple steps to get you started on your way to becoming an event planner. Of course you need to do your own research and find your own path. But over the next few weeks and months we’ll keep adding some tips and recommendations.

Are you already an accomplished planner? Tell us your story in the comments.

events2While out of print, our book How to Break into the Event Planning Business is available for free in PDF format. Drop us a note in the comments for your copy.

Five Cost Cutting Tips for Your Next Event


Working on a budget for your next meeting? Who isn’t, right?

Here are some tips to keep the budget from getting out of hand.

1) Instead of a sit-down plated dinner, consider instead a reception with heavy hors d’oeuvres, maybe a
pasta bar, or a mashed potato bar. Have an ending and starting time so that your attendees can make plans
afterward to go out and continue their evening on their own or so that they can head back to their room to

2) Take a look at what A/V you actually need for your meeting. Do you really need so many Power Points?

3) Consider trimming back on decor. Depending on your venue, you might be able to install your own. Take a
look at the room or venue that you’re using, can you enhance the features rather than hide them with
decorations? Maybe you don’t need to consider such an elaborate theme for your event.

4) Save on speaker fees by using the experts within your own organization. Sure the big names may be a draw,
but if a fellow employee can provide an entertaining and informative presentation, give them a shot. If you
do hire an outside speaker, offer them the opportunity to stay around for a book signing (and selling).

5) Can you adjust your dates? Sometimes a venue might be booked on your preferred dates, but if you can be
a bit flexible, they may just be willing to give you a deal to fill a void in their calendar.

What ways have you cut back on meeting budgets? Share your ideas in the comments.

Give Me A Break



I go to a lot of meetings. A lot.

And before I moved to Richmond nearly 20 years ago, I planned meetings. I was the Director of Conferences and Meetings for a DC based association where I scheduled meetings from 20 member board meetings to five-day conferences for over 2,000 people.

I know what I’m talking about when I talk meetings.

And I know that, unlike many “leaders” that the average person can pay attention for about 20 minutes (roughly the time of an average sitcom) before becoming restless.

At about 90 minutes the observant leader will note that attendees aren’t paying attention. They’re fiddling with papers, checking their email, nodding off. But they’re not paying attention to the important things you have to say.

Reality is the average butt and the average bladder were not designed to endure a three hour meeting without a break.

Had the Skipper and Gilligan stopped to let everybody pee the Minnow may not have been lost.

It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many graduate degrees you may have, how many years of experience you have. If you don’t recognize that people need to get up and stretch, get a glass of water, use the restroom, get some air, then you’re really not an effective leader at all.

It doesn’t matter how important your discussion is or how much material you have to cover.

People. Need. Breaks.

What you’re missing by refusing to call a break is a more effective meeting. Ever hear about people going to bed to sleep on an idea?

Take a break. Walk away and come back. You’ll get more work done and likely produce a better product.

Cross posted at The Write Side of My Brain.

Cell Phone Etiquette In Meetings


It’s a simple request. You’re in a meeting or church or at a funeral or in the movie theater. Turn your cell phone off or at least have the decency to put it on silent.

If your phone rings audibly in a meeting, you are not mature enough to either own a cell phone or be in that meeting.

Everyone has emergencies and reasons they need to remain available. Ever phone also has the option to vibrate on silent.

Here are some basics of cell phone etiquette in meetings.

1. Turn the phone off or put it on silent and vibrate only. I recently sat through a meeting where the meeting host’s cell phone rang multiple times throughout the day. It was not on silent.

2. If you absolutely have to take a call take it outside the room.

3. Don’t listen to voice mails when seated in the meeting. If you absolutely have to hear the message, get up and leave the room.

4. Don’t read your email or texts during a meeting.

5. Likewise, don’t respond to email or texts during a meeting.

It’s a little sad, really, that we have to think about these things. There was a time when this would have been second nature. But techology has made us all important and made everything urgent.

Still, that’s no excuse for not being polite.