Being an event planner is a dream for many, but while it may look like a glamorous job organizing high-class events, there is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Not everyone is made out for this career path; even though it’s extremely rewarding, there is a lot of hard work, right from the initial planning stages until the last guest has left the building.
So just what does it take to be a successful event planner? We spoke to Sherwin Lucas and Czats T. Lopez, two event planning experts with over 30 years of experience, to get the answers.
#01: KEEPING THINGS ORGANIZED
For Czats T. Lopez, the Director of Event Management for the Manila Marriott Hotel, “Organization is the number one skill event planners need to master.” She advises upstart event planners to find their own method for staying organized, whether that be through checklists, spreadsheets, or online task management systems.
For large events, organization can be even more difficult due to the necessity of delegating tasks to team members. To keep things running smoothly, Sherwin Lucas, Director, Events Service at Sheraton Grand Macao Hotel and The St.Regis Macao, Cotai Central, suggests creating an org chart to “help reduce chatter and confusion while making sure every task has someone responsible for completing it.”
#02: HAVE THE EYES OF AN EAGLE
When running an event, there are so many moving parts that need to be considered. There’s the music, the table settings, the floor plan, the seating plan and so on. Every finer detail has to be perfect, otherwise, the whole event potentially could fall apart and leave the client feeling disappointed. “You have to have the eyes of an eagle,” according to Czats, which is a good analogy since you need to be able to see over everything that is included in the event, no matter how big or small. You have to remember that you’re often organizing a once in a lifetime event and you only get one shot at making it perfect.
#03: DON’T BURN YOUR BRIDGES
There is never one person that sets up an event because there are a lot of moving parts. Depending on your establishment, it’s probably more than likely that different people are going to be responsible for different aspects of the event.
“You have to rely on other people to get things done,” says Sherwin Lucas. “People are more willing to help you if they trust you,” so it’s critical for event planners to be able to earn the respect of many different kinds of people. According to Czats, the more you push people to get their part of the job done, the more likely they are to not do it. Her solution is to be kind, but that “you also have to be consistent and concise on what you really want.”
#04: YOU CAN’T JUST SHOW UP
Whether you are on your fifth event or your fiftieth, the dedication that you put into planning and organizing must be consistent. You may have had a previous client refer you to a friend or colleague of theirs who will be expecting the same standard of service that your client received.
You have to be present, in the moment, and give 100% to the client, no matter how large or small the event is. You can’t just “show up” when you want to, as you must remain dedicated no matter how tough things get. Sherwin Lucas cautions prospective event planners that “passion is critical to success, but you ultimately have to rely on putting in the time and hard work every day to really succeed.”
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#05: EVENT PLANNING OUTSIDE THE BOX
The most memorable events often take us by surprise with unique catering, venue choices, or entertainment. To really wow your guests, you’ll need to learn how to tap into your inner creative side. Some of Sherwin’s most exciting events took place in venues that were decorated in unexpected ways, like turning an indoor hotel lobby into a virtual outdoor space with plants and decorations inspired by parks.
Sometimes, you’ll need all your creative abilities to solve the unique challenges of an event. Czats was tasked with hosting a delegation from India that included the prime minister. Instead of training her catering team or finding local chefs who could make Indian cuisine, Czats realized that the best solution was to simply fly in chefs from India who already knew how to prepare the kinds of food necessary for the event.
#06: ELEVATE YOUR EXPERIENCE
As you grow in your career, you’ll most likely be keen to move up to bigger clients and bigger events. To help give your career the boost it needs, you’ll need to take advantage of every training and learning opportunity that you can, just like Czats did by asking for opportunities to travel and work on events in different countries.
For Sherwin Lucas, Marriott offered several opportunities to attend training sessions and seminars that helped him learn new skills. Sometimes, the skills you can acquire from these trainings go beyond the specifics of event planning, like a change management course Sherwin Lucas attended that opened his eyes to how he could improve almost any aspect of his work projects.
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