How To Be A Meeting Planner: The Top 15 Truths
Being a meeting planner (I will use meeting planner and event planner interchangeably in this post) is all about flying around the world, hanging out with celebrities and planning their awesome parties, right?
Very very wrong.
It can be a glamorous life but being a meeting planner is difficult.
Of course at the end of the day we love it. But what’s the real deal?
We’re here to tell you the secret truths of being a meeting planner.
It’s hard not to be a control freak when attention to details matters so much
Here’s a story for you:
On the day of a big event, name badges came without cords. No big deal, right? The attendees could just hold the badges, right?
Wrong! Very very wrong!
The story ends with the staff being sent out to every hardware store in a 10 mile radius to get all the cords in town.
That’s how much attention to detail you need to have.
And it gets worse:
We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Event planners have a difficult time giving up control. We want things our way or the highway. Dealing with clients is another issue we’ll get to later.
And here’s the thing: it is a very important skill to be able to manage an entire event and as many people as possible.
So it’s sometimes hard not to micromanage.
As a meeting planner, we have our employees, staff, vendors, venues, and clients we need to manage. That’s a lot of parties involved.
There’s simply no way to avoid feeling responsible for even the smallest detail.
But in the end, we know the clients care and that’s what matters.
The clients can be less than stellar
Remember I mentioned before that part of being an event planner is being a control freak?
Well who else is very commonly a control freak as well?
The client! And that is not good news for us as event planners.
Well as Alex Frias of Track Marketing Group said, “As an owner of an event marketing company, I can tell you a great event planner has the ability to think big creatively and simultaneously has OCD when it comes down to the tactical event details.”
So we like to be creativity but we also have a sort of OCD.
That means we have a difficult time when clients do not like our vision or completely trash it.
But it gets worse:
We have to listen to the client.
At the end of the day, the client is king/queen as its their event.
Now you might think, “Ok that’s fine but at least the clients you work with are cool.”
Let me tell you something:
Celebrity clients can be pleasant but sometimes, they are well, not so nice to put it mildly. And this applies event for non-celebrity clients.
Some clients need everything done a certain way or they want to change everything last minute.
So there’s only one way to live in this high pressure lifestyle:
You have to go with the flow and just take the stress as it comes. It’s just part of the job.
Work hard, play h-- sometimes?
Many people think that the work we have as event planners is more like fun.
And while many parts of the job can be fun, there many times is no time to relax.
There sometimes isn’t even time to eat. When you’re in full event planning mode, you’re sometimes in working 24/7 mode.
But once again, that’s part of the job.
There is a great feeling you can get when things are going right, you see everyone having a good time, and you know that this could not have happened without you.
That’s kind of like play, right?
Part of being a meeting planner is having very strange working hours
Was your idea of an event planner a 9-5 job?
Sometimes as event planners we have 18 hour days, having to wake up at 4 AM to begin set up the next day.
Once again, it’s part of the territory.
But here’s the thing:
Event planners have families and lives outside of event planning.
So if you’re working that hard, when do you have time for anything else?
I’ve known people who had a very difficult time separating from work.
But even the best planners amongst us set aside some time and really make the final pushes toward the start date of the event.
Yes, being a meeting planner is a real job
Many people wonder whether being a meeting planner is a real job. Some people think anyone can do it.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
As mentioned previously, event planners need to have a particular kind of blend of creativity and extreme attention to detail. And they must be social and able to manage a very large team of staff and third parties.
So that’s obviously not for everyone.
Additionally, many event planners do go to school and have completed event management degrees.
A number of planners also get certifications as a Certified Meeting Professional.
Something can always go wrong
Here’s a story in full:
“Being the organised event planner that you are, you checked the weather forecast, saw there was a high chance of rain and planned accordingly. You didn’t just get umbrellas for everyone, you got umbrellas with the client’s logo printed on them! What you didn’t foresee was that it would rain cats and dogs for four hours straight and due to that all of the taxis would disappear.
“The event has long been over and now all of your attendees are stuck at the venue because even if they have umbrellas, they can’t get outside because the tropical storm that’s falling would send them flying away like Mary Poppins. As you hear another pre-recorded message saying that there are no cars available, you come to the harsh realisation that all of the long hours of work have been wasted because the only thing they’ll talk about afterwards is how they had to wait “forever” to get a ride home.”
This is a story that could not have been made up and things like this happen all the time.
Sometimes you’ll have plans A, B, and C ready to go. And still they all fail and something goes wrong.
And it gets worse:
You’ll be blamed for anything that goes wrong no matter how much control you had.
I think so.
So it just goes to show that no matter what, you get the glory and you get the blame.
Event planners must be organized but be okay with disorganization
As you can imagine, event planners need to be very organized. They are managing many events at once, budgets, design, marketing, and so on.
But there’s a paradox here:
With so many moving parts, many times things can go wrong.
So what does that mean?
You have to be organized but you must accept disorganization.
A meeting planner can be the most organized person on the planet but if they cannot handle things not going as planned, they will burn out.
It happens all the time.
So a key trait many event planners develop is living with that paradox and embracing issues as they come.
You have to accept that you will have to rely and wait on others
Now why would this be the most maddening part?
It appears we have another paradox about being a meeting planner.
You have to be kind of a control freak but you have to accept that you will have to wait for others to make decisions.
And who is making those decisions for which you must wait?
Usually clients but sometimes you need to know what vendors have available or what rooms are available from the venue.
Whatever the case, one of the traits event planners must develop is being able to accept when things are out of their control.
You simply cannot make every decision even though you’d like to.
One of the most important qualities you need to develop as a meeting planner is being able to research well
But that sounds like sitting behind a desk, right? Don’t event planners travel and talk to people all day?
Being good at research is an immensely important quality for an event planner.
You have to know how to research the most cost effective materials, the best venues, which venues have what amenities, all to the very last detail.
Think of it this way:
This is all part of being detail oriented.
Part of knowing the details to the “T” is knowing what your options every step of the way are.
As with many other skills, your research skills will get better over time and you will develop a sense for where to go to your research.
You need to develop an eye for which venue to book
On a more granular level, knowing where you should locate an event is a great skill.
You want to look for a combination of some of the following traits for the venue you pick:
- Good location
- Good amenities
- Kind staff
- Flexible for last minute requests
If you need to book something last minute, think about looking at Instynt. We’ll discuss tech later but this is a useful tool if you need to book something immediately.
As you go further in your career, it is important to maintain relationships with the staff at different venues. This will help you get discounts and know the calendar of each of the venues so you will know about availability.
You will have to become a master of social media
In general, Facebook is the most popular social media platform before an event begins. Twitter is the most popular once the event starts.
And this makes sense.
Facebook is a great promotional tool. You can engage with it very easily, post textual, graphic, or video content.
During an event, it is important to learn how to make a hashtag go viral for the purposes of the event.
This will connect everyone who is there.
Obviously, none of this existed a decade or more ago but it has become extremely important in marketing events.
So what’s the lesson event planners had to learn:
You must adapt. New technology requires attention if you can use it to market effectively.
You will have to get used to tech tools to help you
With all the things you have to organize and with all the people you must communicate with, how valuable do you think tech tools are?
In particular, you are looking project management tools, chat tools, and pure event management tools. Here we discussed some of the best on the market.
In particular, you should check out EventForte’s event management tool. It allows you to manage your agenda, guest list, and diagram an event. One cool feature is that you can render a space and furniture layout in 3D, giving you a spatial awareness you otherwise would not get unless you visited the venue.
Get prepared to deal with menu issues
One of the other more specific problems event planners need to deal with all the time is the problem with menus.
You may think it’s easy. It’s usually just a choice between different types of meats and a vegetarian/vegan option.
Well what do you if people prematurely eat the meals of unarrived guests?
First of all, yes that really happens.
Also people frequently change their minds.
Let’s put it this way:
You better have a good relationship with your caterer. And this is one area where you need to make sure you have more than enough because something probably will go wrong.
Dealing with a client’s relatives
This may be more specific to weddings, but many times the problem is not the client. It’s the client’s parents and other family members.
Just think of every permutation of conflict and now you see the problem with being the person in the middle.
Sometimes you’ll have two families with competing views of what the wedding should look like.
On top of that, weddings are already emotional, high stress situations.
Now let’s put it this way:
Most event planners did not go to school to be a psychiatrist. But that’s kind of what they end of being in these situations.
And because you are the event planner, you need to learn how to be a leader, both emotionally and physically in such a situation.
It’s a tough skill but especially if you want to be a wedding planner, it’s a necessary skill to develop.
Be prepared for an uneven schedule
If you are just starting out, event planning will be very strange on your time.
For some events, the planning takes months and you are on call 24/7 during the event itself.
Other months may be relatively dry with little to do.
You need to do two things during the downtime:
- Spend time with friends and family; and
- Market yourself like crazy
When you first start out, you probably won’t have too many clients. This is your time to market yourself and developing your business. See here about starting your own event planning business.
But as you get busier and busier, it’s important to still give yourself time to yourself and making sure you are not burning out.
It’s important to stay passionate as a meeting planner
While being a meeting planner is not for everyone, don’t let all the negative stuff scare you.
If you do it correctly, it can be a very rewarding career. If you don’t take care of yourself and let your time run wild, you could burn out. But the perks are great and if you learn how to handle the stress, it can be very fun.
You get to travel to cool places, meet a lot of people, and be in charge of life changing events.
What more could you want?
While event planning is not all the glitz and glamor it is portrayed to be, it can be a very rewarding career.
But you need to go into the job with the correct mindset about what the day to day life is like.
The truths may be harsh but you need to know what to expect going in.
And then you can have fun and look forward to going to work every day!
What truths do you find most important about the event planning industry? Let us know in the comments below.