Event planning & management is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. There are always too many people and things demanding your attention at the same time. Too many hats to wear. Too many moving pieces to stitch together. Sometimes even too many fires to put out. All leading to cognitive overload and stress. Somehow great event planners can make it all look like a cakewalk. Of course, experience and number of years in the game matter. But so does making time, even if it’s 10 minutes every day, for your professional development. If you want to grow your career in this field, here’s a list of 15 event planning & management skills you must master as well as tips on how to develop and improve each of these skills.
Leaders bring people together, motivate them, and empower them to deliver their best. Event planners need to do the same. Whether it is your team, your vendors, or volunteers, you need to lead them all towards the common goal of achieving event success. No one leadership style that suits all. But there are a few leadership skills especially important for event planners. These include:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
Good communication skills are one of the most important event planning & management skills you can hone. They can help you bring clarity, accountability, and alignment among all event stakeholders. Proactive communication is every successful event planner’s ninja skill. It ensures you know of any possible delays well in advance and helps you identify any early red flags in the planning process. Mastering the whole gamut of communication skills is a lifelong pursuit. But here are four important aspects of communication you must focus on:
Negotiation is a valuable life skill. It is also one of the core event planning skills all great event planners possess. Whether it’s a discussion on budgets or timelines, with your clients or vendors, negotiation skills help you better at your job. Knowing how to negotiate well can help you gain confidence, get a fair deal, and improve your strategic planning. Four things that can make you a better negotiator:
Resources to improve people skills
Event planners work on several projects simultaneously, each with its own set of deadlines. This means you have multiple deliverables to keep track of. So, the more you rely on event planning checklists, templates, and event management platforms, the less information you will need to commit to memory. Poor organization leads to low productivity, more procrastination, and hence a lot more stress. By developing your organizational skills, you ensure you create a healthy and productive work environment for yourself and your entire team. For starters, work towards being better at:
Multitasking is an event planner’s best friend and worst enemy combined in one. You are brainstorming with a speaker one moment and thinking about stage design in the next. Your job demands you to meet frequent and hard deadlines. It is not that you can just push the event date by a few days after announcing it. This means event planners are always on the clock - a sure-shot recipe for anxiety and stress. Work on the following:
“If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” - Mark Twain
Event planners can relate to it quite well. With so much to do, prioritization becomes the key to win the day and the event. Learn to do it well and you’ll be so much more productive than you ever thought you could be. And the very famous Eisenhower Matrix can help you do this. Segregate your tasks into these four buckets and get cracking on a productive day.
You can get good at prioritizing when you learn the art of:
Resources to improve productivity skills
Budgeting, KPIs, time estimates, key metrics to drive, event analytics, ROI, and more - event planners need analytical chops to do their job well. Analytical skills are the bedrock of problem-solving. They are comprised of many different elements. A few important ones of those you should consider improving on are:
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” - Maya Angelou
Creativity gives event planners their edge. It is what makes events stand out. Make space and time for being creative in your daily schedule if you want to create memorable experiences at your events. It's important to push boundaries and suggest new ways of doing things to your clients. Whether it is a fun networking idea, a unique kind of session format, or even a new way of managing your speaker presentations - you have the opportunity to be creative at multiple levels. Build up your creative muscles by consciously making space in your schedule for:
Decision-making requires you to analyze a situation thoroughly, consider all possible options, and come up with a feasible solution. Event planners make tens of decisions, if not more, every day. Ensuring your decisions are viable enough to be implemented is an important part of your job. The more you work on improving your decision-making skills, the lesser you will be burdened by them. Four core factors that come into play while decision-making are:
Resources to improve problem-solving skills
Additional resource: The best event planning certifications and how to apply
Today event tech is a vital part of any event. Whether it is digital marketing, project management, invoices & payments, or the main event infrastructure in the case of virtual and hybrid events - tech is everywhere. While you don't need to be an expert on all kinds of event planning tools & technology in the market, it is beneficial to understand the key trends. For example, if you are an event planner who doesn’t know about various virtual & hybrid event tech platforms, you’ve probably been living under a rock. And to make sure that you don’t miss out on the key disruptive tech innovations in your field, you must:
Risk management and event safety are those aspects of planning an event that your attendees, speakers, sponsors, and other stakeholders don’t get to see. But it affects them all. Whether it is your event decor or your attendees’ data - you must ensure your event is safe in all aspects. You must stay up to date on your local safety and healthcare regulations too if you are organizing an in-person or hybrid event. Things that help you manage this aspect of your event well are:
No event goes without a hitch. There is always a hiccup or two event planners need to take care of. You can do this well if you prepare meticulously to rule out any crisis before it occurs. But you should also have the ability to respond quickly if a crisis does occur. You can improve your response by ensuring you iron out all the wrinkles at the pre-planning stage, and by constantly trying to poke holes in your plans. Two things that help you in creating a good plan are:
Resources to improve preparedness skills
Pro tip: When hosting a virtual or a hybrid event, always choose an event tech platform that comes with a dedicated customer success team. This will ensure you always have experts by your side in case you need help troubleshooting pre, during, and post your event.
“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.” - Marshall B. Rosenberg
An event planner is a people person. You work with hundreds of new people every year. You will be able to work more effectively with colleagues if you develop empathy for their needs. Only when you are empathetic can you get into your attendees’ or your clients’ shoes and understand what they truly want from the event. Some people tend to be naturally more empathetic than others but it is possible to build more empathy. To do so, make conscious efforts to improve your:
Even after having a foolproof plan and a contingency plan in place, you must be ready to react to any potential mishap. The ability to respond quickly and adapt to handle a sudden situation is one of the critical event management skills. When you are flexible to adapt to the new ways, it also opens up doors to many more opportunities and new ideas that make your events better. To better yourself at being adaptable, focus on developing:
While the demands of the job and the fast-paced nature of your work can keep you motivated to deliver your best, they can also cause extreme stress. Event planners have to deal with many uncertainties, hard deadlines, the looming thought of low engagement or low event ROI, and many changes on the fly. It can lead to high cognitive overload and stress. To ensure you can do your job well, you must invest in your well-being. Three things you can start doing:
Resources to improve personal skills
Consolidated skills framework for event planners
Honing these event planning & management skills is sure to set you up for success. Best event planners are always learning, iterating, and reinventing themselves. And by making your professional development a priority, you will be able to do the same.