Over the last 10 to 15 years, the events industry has seen huge growth. According to the International Special Events Society, global spending on events is US$500 billion (£300 billion) annually. Event management is a broad industry, with many companies choosing to specialise in one area. Paul Pearce Couch examines how to set up an events management company.
What do event planners do?
Events are held for a variety of reasons in many forms. Some of the main types of event include:
- Corporate events (conferences, meetings, team building days, seminars, workshops, networking)
- Educational events (training seminars, workshops, conferences)
- Private events (weddings, birthday parties, other celebrations)
- Public events (festivals, gigs, carnivals, fairs, protests, rallies)
Although the list is by no means exhaustive, you can probably see why so many event managers choose to specialise in one area.
When an event manager is asked to organise an event, they may be required to cover one or all of the following areas:
- Research – especially for events to which tickets are sold. Will people want to attend the event? Who are the competitors? Is anything else occurring on the same date in a nearby location?
- Event design – how will the event look? Will there be a theme? For some events this may include lighting and sound – these may be best left to a professional
- Sourcing a location – how many guests will you need to accommodate? Does the location fit with the event? For example, a corporate meeting may need to be held in a commercial property, while a party will need to be held at a club or bar. If a bar is required at the event, does the location have the right kind of license? Will your client require a specialist bar, e.g. cocktails, for which you would need to find the right kind of bartenders?
- Catering – for most events any menu will be pre-agreed. You will need to ensure that enough food is provided and that it is made to a good standard, within all health and safety laws. For some events waiting staff may also be required
- Entertainment or speakers – the majority of celebratory events will require some form of entertainment, usually a band or DJ. Always check your client’s requirements – they may have something very specific in mind. In other cases, some venues may have in-house DJs – although it may be worth attending an event they are performing at before deciding to book them. For educational events and conferences, you may have to arrange speakers – although in some cases the client may already know exactly who they want there
- Decoration – again, this is most commonly required at celebratory events. Again, confirm everything with the client, and ensure you’re very organised – you wouldn’t want to end up putting ‘Happy Birthday’ banners up at someone’s wedding
- Transport and accommodation – in the UK, this is most likely to be required at corporate events. Some companies will pay for their staff to attend training events in other towns and cities and sometimes these have a very early start. Often, hotel conference suites are used for such events so if this is the case see if the hotel hosting the event would organise a group accommodation discount. Alternatively, try the same with a nearby hotel – ensure that employees are able to get to the event from their hotel, though
- Invitations and guest list – although you will probably only have to send out invitations to private events such as weddings and birthday parties, it is likely that the majority of events will have a guest list so you can ensure that the correct people are attending
- Supervising – you, or a member of your team, will probably have to attend the majority of events you organise to ensure that they run smoothly. You will also need to co-ordinate the running of the event, e.g. ensuring that everything runs to schedule – although for some events, such as conferences, the venue may have a team that will ensure everything runs according to plan.
There are now many courses available in event management. A growing number of universities offer it as a three- or four-year degree. If you’d prefer to do something a bit shorter, there are options such as the Event Management Short Course Certificate from the European School of Economics, EDI in Event Planning from ICSlearn.co.uk or the Certificate in Event Management from ACS Distance Education. These are by no means the only options available to you, though, and a quick internet search will show you just how many courses are now available.
The first thing to remember as an event manager is that you’ll need a good collection of contacts, so networking will be a necessary skill. Because event management covers such a broad range of areas, you may find that there are some things that need doing occasionally but not often enough to justify hiring staff to do them. Having a wide range of contacts will mean that you can cover these areas as and when needed.
Again due to the fact that you’ll need to cover different areas, you’ll need good organisational skills. If you tend to be disorganised you’ll need to work on this – bear in mind that ultimately, you are responsible for the outcome of the event and if things are badly run you could seriously damage your reputation.
Some accounting skills may be required as you will have to manage event budgets – these could range from very small budgets for private events to huge corporate budgets. Regardless of the amount of money in your control, always try to find the best deal possible for your client.
Marketing skills are also likely to be important, especially as you start your business. If you don’t market yourself, how will people know that you are there to hire?