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Getting into the Event Planning Business
Getting into the event planning business requires a combination of education, experience and excellent networking. This is one business where the importance of networking cannot be overemphasized. In fact, many consider networking to be the most important aspect of finding a career in event planning. Knowing the right contacts can help get your feet in the door quickly.
To prepare for a career in event planning, you can start by pursuing a degree or certificate from a local university in event planning or management. The book “How to Start a Home-Based Event Planning Business” by Jill Moran includes a list of colleges and universities offering educational opportunities in this field from two-year Associate degree programs to four-year courses both in the USA and in select countries.
You can also use your background as a launching pad for a career in event planning, especially if your previous work experience involved organizing, planning and coordinating events such as weddings, conferences, or simple birthday parties. You can also come from a particular aspect of special events (e.g. catering), before deciding to handle entire events. Like some event planning professionals, you can start out working in the corporate sector planning and handling special events such as company conferences, seminars, even picnics, and then go freelance or start your own event planning business.
To increase your attractiveness to potential clients, you can also try to earn professional certifications based on your event planning and meeting specialization. These certifications are typically awarded after you meet their performance, experience, and service criteria as well as passing the exams given. Many clients, particularly those from the corporate sector, look for these designations before hiring an event planning professional because it assures them that they are dealing with a professional and someone well-experienced in the field. Some of the certifications in this field include:
- International Special Events Society: Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP) http://isesew.vtcus.com/CSEP/index.aspx
- Meeting Professionals International: Certification in Meeting Management (CMM) http://www.mpiweb.org/education/cmm/
- Convention Industry Council: Certified Meeting Professional Program (CMP) http://www.conventionindustry.org/cmp/
- Connected International Meeting Professionals Association: Certified Global Meeting Planner http://www.cimpa.org/cgmp.htm
- Association of Destination Management Executives: Destination Management Certified Professional http://www.adme.org/dmp/admc-program/default.asp
Additional training, coursework and industry exposure such as participation in conferences and industry organizations can also help boost your career profile as an event planner. It is important to get on top of the game, knowing all the latest and the best products and services to use, as well as the newest themes that could be incorporated into your events.
If you do not have a background in event planning, the best way to gain experience is through volunteering in your local organizations or non-profits. By becoming a volunteer, you can build relationships, meet potential suppliers and vendors, and see what is available in your area that is of interest to you.
Like any other business, it is important to research and do your homework even before you start. This is especially crucial in determining whether the demand exists for the niche you plan to enter in your area. Know as much as possible about the customs and etiquette of the events you are interested in. Research also enables you to make your list of contacts among potential vendors and suppliers, as well as know the latest trends and technology available. It will also be extremely beneficial if you could talk to other planners who are working on the area you wish to enter and learn as much from them (some may be willing to share information, but others will view you are a competitor and will not likely talk with you – but you can always try!).
Recommended Books on Starting an Event and Meeting Planning Business:
- Start Your Own Event Planning Business (StartUp Series)
- Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide To Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events
- The Complete Guide to Successful Event Planning with Companion CD-ROM REVISED 2nd Edition
- The Everything Guide to Being an Event Planner: Insider Advice on Turning Your Creative Energy into a Rewarding Career
- How to Start a Home-Based Event Planning Business, 3rd (Home-Based Business Series)
- The Event Marketing Handbook: Beyond Logistics & Planning
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