I have been very fortunate to have been an event planner for the past 18 years. Even saying 18 years makes me wonder where all that time has gone! Before becoming an event planner, I had many other jobs and experiences that I now know helped get me ready for this business. Here are some examples. I went to broadcasting school, so I was great at researching and working in groups. I worked as a server, so I have an affinity for what it takes to manage food and beverage orders. That includes game face for great customer service and dealing with kitchen staff, multiple orders and cleaning up after others. Finally, I had a short stint in the film and television world where I learned how to coordinate different departments to work towards a final product.
All of this to say that I found this career after trying other things and its surprising how all of it contributes to what I do on a day to day basis I often get asked by people who are interested in breaking into events about how to do so. So here are my A-B-C’s:
A. Always be willing to ask questions! The business of producing events is built on a willingness to collaborate. No one event is done by just one person. I am fortunate to have event partners that make collaborating a joy. We work together to ensure that all the questions have been asked so that our clients are getting their objectives met. When starting out, don’t be afraid to call up other planners or suppliers to get your questions answered. To this day, I am still learning and I credit my willingness to ask questions that helps me get the job done.
B. Be willing to volunteer and try new things. The number one thing I tell all people looking at getting into the business of events is to VOLUNTEER. Building a portfolio when you are new can be difficult. Volunteering for a charity, nonprofit or any large event that depends on volunteers is a great way to gain experience and build up your resume. When I was teaching in the event management program at MRU (Mount Royal University), I would suggest to my students that there are so many different disciplines in the events industry. Generally, people think weddings when they hear events BUT events happen everywhere all the time. Meeting, conferences, tradeshows, corporate and social events all require similar skill sets and yet, many areas are overlooked by new people entering the field because we think first of what we are exposed to.
C. Create a network you can call upon. With each event you are working on, network. A pivotal learning strategy is to meet the key people, including volunteers, from all disciplines within the event. Another strategy is to consider taking event management courses at your local college. You may be surprised how many networking contacts can be made in a learning environment. Additionally, consider joining your local chapter of a events planners like ILEA (International Live Events Association), MPI (Meeting Planners international), and if you conduct a google search there are so many more!
As a recap, each event you work on will go toward building your experience and eventually your resume will attract people that will want to hire you. I’m a big believer in giving back. As you are making your way up the ladder, include volunteers on the events you do. Educate yourself and always be willing to share with new people. As an aside, pre- pandemic we built an event planning guide on our website that is a great resource when your starting out. Check it out at www.jenniferjamesevents.com