Everything You Need to Know About Being a Successful Event Manager

Are you interested in a career as an event manager? Do you want to know what it takes to excel in this field? Well, you've come to the right place! In this article, we will...

Are you interested in a career as an event manager? Do you want to know what it takes to excel in this field? Well, you've come to the right place! In this article, we will explore the ins and outs of event management, the essential skills needed for success, and the secrets shared by top event managers. So, let's dive in!

What is Event Management?

Event management is a project management industry that focuses on all aspects of events, from selecting the venue to monitoring guest satisfaction. Whether it's a small networking meetup with a few dozen attendees or a large-scale conference with thousands of participants over several days, event management is all about connecting people.

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The Difference Between an Event Manager and an Event Planner

For the most part, these job titles are used interchangeably. The minor differences between these roles mainly revolve around how companies and event professionals define these positions. Some may define an event manager as someone who works on large-scale events or focuses on day-of-event tasks rather than pre-event planning.

However, when you search for both terms on LinkedIn or other job websites, you'll find many similar positions in the results, as well as positions for "event designers." Additionally, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes all these positions under a single occupational category called "Meeting, Convention, and Event Planners."

The Stages of Event Management

Event management involves five basic stages, each with various tasks. Event managers often juggle different stages for multiple events simultaneously.

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Stage 1: Research, Goal Setting, and Feasibility Assessment

The first stage involves defining the event's goals and assessing its feasibility. This includes determining the event's overall objective, such as fundraising for a new library or celebrating a company's 20th anniversary.

During this stage, it's crucial to ask specific questions to the client or internal team, such as:

  • For business events: Why is this event being organized? Will you be introducing a product or several products? Will there be an educational component?
  • For non-profit organizations: What is the specific fundraising goal? Is the event exclusively for long-term supporters? Does the event coincide with a new exhibition?
  • For award ceremonies: Should there be a F&B component during the ceremony or afterward? Should it be a standing or seated event?
  • For networking events: Do you want to improve the sense of community within the organization? Do you want attendees to join a new professional Facebook group?
  • For social events: Is it a formal or casual event? What type of music will ensure all guests have a great time?

The first stage should also include a feasibility assessment for the event, meaning budgeting for the event and determining if it aligns with the event's goals. For example, a non-profit organization may realize they don't have enough reserve funds for a large-scale fundraising event. In this case, they could postpone the fundraising event for a year and instead organize a cheaper food festival with a fundraising component.

Stage 2: Theme Selection and Event Design

Next, event planners design the event to achieve specific goals. This is where the initial concept of your event starts to take shape.

Key considerations during this stage include:

  • How will the event be structured?
  • Who will perform/speak/teach?
  • When and where will the event take place?
  • How will seating, staging, buffet tables, food, and beverages be arranged?
  • What will be the stage, backstage, and other event elements' style (modern, traditional, romantic, steampunk, country)?

This is a creative process that may involve designing color schemes, sound, and lighting for parties and performance-focused events. For professional events, the focus will be on scheduling and conference activities, signage and branded gifts, and decisions about potential speakers. Event managers and their teams often work together on digital event service tools like Social Tables to visualize the planning process and identify any early issues.

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Stage 3: A Keen Focus on Details for a Successful Event

Once event managers and their teams have a clear vision for the event, they shift their focus to the fine details. This stage involves most of the event management process and may include:

  • Sending RFPs to venues and vendors.
  • Securing venues, vendors, speakers, and performers (and preparing backup choices).
  • Finalizing contracts with venues, vendors, speakers, and performers.
  • Building event websites and custom event apps.
  • Designing post-event surveys.
  • Sending invitations to guests.
  • Creating event hashtags and launching pre-event social media campaigns.
  • Monitoring RSVPs and attendee registration numbers.
  • Communicating with guests.
  • Marketing and promoting the event.
  • Discussing event schedules with speakers and performers.
  • Updating and coordinating with clients.
  • Training staff and volunteers for event participation.
  • Designing and finalizing critical event documents such as event schedules and BOEs (Bills of Events).
  • Checking event wi-fi and mobile services, especially with multiple technical devices.
  • Organizing transportation and parking services.
  • Designing event registration processes and creating directional signage.
  • Assembling goodie bags and branded merchandise.

Stage 4: Event Execution

This is the main event for any event manager! It's where all the previous stages come together on the day(s) of the event and create an event that is highly valued and exciting for guests.

Depending on the event's scale, setup can begin on the morning of the event or several days prior. Event execution includes:

  • Venue and supplier setup and preparation.
  • Setting up tables, chairs, centerpieces, buffet tables, stages, and podiums.
  • Final checks, sound tests, and technology checks.
  • Guest arrival and event check-in.
  • Guest services and communication.
  • F&B service.
  • Troubleshooting and handling unexpected incidents.
  • Checking if speakers and performers are ready and aware of their cues.
  • Presentations and speeches.
  • Live social media coverage and attendee surveys.
  • Distributing goodie bags.

Stage 5: Post-Event Communication and Team Evaluation

Outstanding event managers don't consider an event over until they understand the feedback from guests, volunteers, clients, and team members. This starts at the event itself, with the event manager observing guest reactions, chatting with attendees, and checking in with customer service about any issues.

Next, they send a post-event survey within 12 to 48 hours. The event manager designs the post-event survey to collect as much feedback as possible, using concise, simple, and friendly questions.

With feedback in hand, the event manager meets with the client to discuss their satisfaction with the event and the survey results. Finally, they discuss the good and the bad with their internal team and develop an action plan to prevent similar issues in future events.

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The Essential Skills of an Event Manager

Above all, event managers need exceptional social skills. This job requires constant interaction with clients, event planning teams, suppliers, venues, and attendees. Every day, event managers work closely with familiar team members and meet new people. Other essential skills for event managers include:

  • Organization skills like Marie Kondo
  • The ability to multitask
  • Willingness to work evenings and weekends
  • Sharp communication and active listening
  • A wellspring of creative ideas
  • Enjoying a fast-paced work environment
  • The ability to stay focused amid chaos
  • Flexibility when dealing with inevitable difficulties
  • Confidence in decision-making
  • Willingness to learn and expand skills
  • Passion for a dynamic industry

If you want to dig deeper into the six essential skills for event planning professionals, read about them here.

3 Secrets to Succeed as an Event Manager

In addition to the above skills, experienced event managers have shared some surprising tips. Here are a few more characteristics they believe can lead to success in event management:

1. Stay Calm in the Storm

Unfortunate things will happen; that's a certainty. Don't be surprised when something doesn't arrive or is delivered to the wrong location, when a sign has a spelling mistake, something breaks, or someone is late. Stay calm and use your problem-solving skills to address and resolve the situation. Great event organizers can handle major issues with a smile and keep everyone calm without adding further stress. When in doubt, take a cue from Vanilla Ice: "If there's a problem, yo, I'll solve it." - Victoria Blasich, Head of Marketing for Freemind Seattle, a marketing exhibition company. Excerpt from "Habits of a Successful Event Manager," a guest post for the Northwest Event Show website.

2. Develop Your Business Skills

Events are a service and need to be approached as a business. Events aren't just about attracting an audience of the right size; they're also about the numbers. It's becoming increasingly necessary to know how to operate in a business industry. Event professionals need to have a sense of business, ensuring critical decisions are made within the appropriate business context. This means considering key decisions based on what is beneficial for the event, not just the event itself. At some point in the event planning process, you will have to make tough decisions about the direction of your event. These decisions need to be made with a business mindset, ensuring they align with the event's financial summary, not just the event itself. These are tough decisions and not always welcomed by the team. - Chris Powell, Event Expert. Excerpt from "The 7 Key Skills of a Successful Event Manager" on The Event Expert blog.

3. Interact and Learn from Others

Social media breaks down barriers and is an excellent way to stay informed and connect with people who can challenge your thinking and approach. Engage in conversations on Twitter, join and contribute to LinkedIn groups, watch thought leaders on YouTube for new perspectives and inspirations. Attend industry events and listen to top speakers in the event industry worldwide. Feel inspired by a fast-paced and exciting industry you are part of. - Becki Cross, Managing Director and Event Strategy at Event Northern Ltd. Excerpt from "10 Ways to Be a Better Event Manager" on the Event Manager blog.

Lastly, a recurring piece of advice from most event managers: Take good care of yourself. Event and event planning management is a stressful profession. If you pursue a career in event management, applying stress-reduction strategies to avoid burnout is crucial.

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Now You Know All About Being an Event Manager!

Explore how Social Tables' event management software can enhance your professional skill set. Or learn about the necessary steps to start an event planning business.

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