How to become an event planner
Take your love for helping friends and family plan events and become your own boss. Use this handy guide to learn more about pursuing an event planning career.
At parties, some people are wallflowers. Others are social butterflies. And some people double-dip. No one likes those people. But you’re different. You don’t just go to the party.
You throw the party.
With your organizational abilities, creativity, and communication skills, you have a special knack for planning events. And while planning surprise parties for friends is fun, perhaps this passion can turn into a profession.
Here’s how you can become a successful event planner.
How to become an event planner
Event planning is all about wearing multiple hats. Event professionals need to:
- Manage client goals and expectations
- Plan the event’s scope like time, cost, and location
- Inspect venues based on client requirements and standards
- Solicit bids from venues, catering companies, and other service providers
- Coordinate transportation, housing, and food service
- Design and monitor event activities to meet clients’ mission and vision
- Arrange and curate event entertainment, layout, performances, and workshops
- Manage event budget, review bills, and approve payments
- Communicate with all parties including client staff, event staff, and attendees1
Beyond these basic “hats,” event managers are capable of taking on more (which they often do). In short, event planners are in charge of coordinating and managing every aspect of planning an event.
This is (clearly) no easy task, and the path to getting there isn’t easy either. However, if you have the talent, passion, and drive, you certainly have everything that it takes to turn event planning into your career!
Below are the following steps to becoming a professional event planner:
- Start by gaining hands-on experience
- Get an event planning certification for added client-facing confidence
- Insure your small business (or side hustle)
- Specialize in specific types of events
But before we begin, there’s one commonly asked question.
Do you need a degree in event planning?
In short, the answer is no. Frankly, there aren’t many colleges or universities that offer degree programs for event planning. You might find professionals in the industry with a background in:
- Public relations
Though it’s rare to find an event coordinator who studied their profession in college. Similarly, you might not find coursework specifically on event planning, but relevant coursework does exist, including:
- Hospitality management
- Meeting management
- Computer programming for business
- Social media management
- Event promotion
- Event design
Whether or not you need a bachelor’s degree at all is up for debate. Some say that the hands-on experience you get from working in the field is enough to become recognized as a professional events coordinator. So, to that end, it’s time to get your hands dirty.
Step 1: Start by gaining hands-on experience
Whether you go to college, jump in right after high school, or switch careers later in life, experience is everything.
While school can be important, no class, webinar, or internet search can match the value of mistakes and hard-earned lessons. The best leaders have conquered challenges and failed before climbing to the top.
Even if the value of gaining experience is clear; finding a place to start isn’t always easy. Here are some tips to get you started on the right foot:
- Start small: begin by organizing meetings and forums for smaller businesses
- Enter a field in a related occupation like an administrative assistant, catering coordinator, or venue manager
- Join a professional organization to gain valuable networking opportunities, education, mentorship, and job search assistance
- Familiarize yourself with relevant computer programs to amp up your skill set, increase efficiency, and make you an even more desirable hire
Step 2: Become certified for added client-facing confidence
Like earning a college degree, this next step is voluntary but recommended. Official planning certifications are increasingly beneficial in the evermore saturated field of event planning.
There are two main types of certifications that event planners typically go for. Each comes with its own criteria and qualifications. They are:
Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) – Available for meeting, exhibition, and convention planners, this is a designation exam that you can take once you prove eligibility. To be eligible, you need to have three years of professional experience, recent employment in the field and earn continuing education credits.
Certified Government Meeting Professional (CGMP) – This designation requires a 3-day course and certification exam. You are eligible once you’re a qualified member of the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) and have 1 year of experience in the hospitality industry.
Earning one of these certificates will give you the confidence and qualifications you need to take the event planning world by storm.
Step 3: Specialize in an area
Once you have achieved the primary qualifications for all event planners and insured your business, you can then ask yourself a deeper philosophical question: what type of planner am I? While many event planners dip their toes in different ponds, you may find that specializing in one field will serve you better by sharpening your skills, focusing your client base, and improving the cohesion of your portfolio.
While the range of specializations in event planning is wide, here are a few of the most common ones:
Corporate planners – These planners organize internal events as well as meetings between businesses. These events are typically in person or online but often call for a specific site location (like a corporate facility or snazzy venue).
Event planners – These planners cover a broader scope of events, often dipping into other event types on this list. They can coordinate both public and private events like galas, large social gatherings, reunions, award ceremonies, and product launches.
Convention planners – These planners design and manage conventions and conferences for large or small organizations. They may also organize trade shows.
Other planner types include:
- Government meeting planners
- Meeting planners
- Nonprofit planners
- Association planners
- Healthcare meeting planners
- Wedding planners
- Convention service managers
Step 4: Insure your business (or side hustle)
Becoming a party planner is no simple matter. You have to earn certifications and build your portfolio like a true artist. And along the way, no matter how careful you are, mistakes can and will happen. That’s why you need to get insured.
Not sure what policies you need?
General liability insurance covers liability claims for third-party property damage and bodily injury.
Professional liability insurance protects you against any professional errors that result in financial loss for the client.
And if you’re just starting off with your small business—especially while you’re still building a client list—Thimble’s Event Planner Insurance is the perfect option to get both types of coverage.
Plus, this flexible insurance model is on when you’re working, and off when you’re not, meaning you can pay for your insurance by the hour, day, or month. And if you ever need to cancel, you can, penalty-free, up to an hour before your coverage was set to begin.
Get the point? You only ever have to pay for insurance when you’re on an event. That’s what makes it so affordable.
Time to start planning!
With the help of this guide and a dash of confidence, you have the perfect recipe for success in the event planning world. It’s as easy as 1-2-3-4:
- Gain hands-on experience
- Become planner certified
- Insure your business
- Specialize in an area
From there, plan to work hard, plan to smile, and of course, plan to plan. Now get going!
Our editorial content is intended for informational purposes only and is not written by a licensed insurance agent. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary by class of business and state.