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Top 10 Must-Have Skills for Successful Event Planners How to be a good event planner – and how to become a great one

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Whether you are organising an event for your employer or a client, to be a successful event planner you will need to draw upon a varied collection of abilities that, collectively, can be described as event planning skills.

Successful event planning is not for the fainthearted; it requires a collection of skills that together can result in a great event.

Here, we have a run-down of some of the most important event planning skills you will need if you wish to navigate the complex challenges of organising an event.

If you want to brush up on your skills, then these are the ones to start with; if you are looking to get into the industry, then these are the event planning skills you most need on your resume.

 

1. Understand the goal: Where event planning skills begin

Before you set pen to paper with any kind of event planning, you need to clearly understand the main goals of the event.

What is the purpose? If it is a business event, is the aim to educate, drive sales, or perhaps recruit new employees?

If it is more personal – the goals are often more straightforward – for example, a wedding.

Either way, the first step in planning a great event is to understand what will make it great. What are the measurable outcomes that will result in the people footing the bill declaring that the event was a success?

If you do not understand the goal – or worse, if you lose sight of it midway through – then the event cannot be a success.

Once you understand the metrics, then you will see that this will affect every subsequent decision, from selecting the right venue to deciding who the keynote speakers should be – and everything in-between.

For personal events, the same rule applies. Sticking to the wedding example for a moment: what does the bride want? A big, lavish wedding, or something more intimate? What is the budget? What are the couple’s expectations?

Once you understand the goal – whatever the event – then, and only then, can you begin to plan an event that will be a success.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Listening is key here. Only by hearing what your employer/client is describing can you hope to understand what they want. And an important part of listening is asking questions.

A great way to make sure you are on the same page is to question anything you are not clear about, and then repeat back to them what you think they just said. If you can describe your client’s aims in your own words, and they agree with your description, then you know you are both understanding each other well.

It is vital to get this understanding correct right at the start of the event planning process.

 

Event planning tips

 

2. Creative planning skills

Once you understand the aims of the event, then you can begin planning, and when it comes to event organising skills, planning is everything!

Creative planning is a skill in itself – actually several skills. Some people naturally have great creative thinking, whilst some need a team to bounce ideas around and collaborate with.

Planning skills include more than just deciding an agenda for the event. A great event planner should be able to review and understand contracts, plan and draw a floorplan, and have working experience in acquiring outside help (such as florists, caterers, booking a band or DJ, etc). And you need to understand each of the requirements of these disparate businesses. Some bands may need to be booked six months in advance; a florist may need time to source the particular flowers and colours you want, depending on the season.

A good approach, especially if you are working primarily alone, is to draft your initial plan, but then bring in others at this early stage for input and comment. Contact each contractor as soon as possible to ask the questions you need answers to, even to find out if your plan, at this stage, is even viable, or can be achieved within budget.

If it isn’t, then now is the best time to know this, as it affords the greatest time to then adjust plans or go back to your client to discuss budgets. Many will have Champagne ideals but a Prosecco budget.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Get to know what can and can’t be done depending upon the constraints you have to work with. Almost anything is possible given unlimited time and resources, but in the real world, everything has limitations.

Develop a network of reliable professionals to help you with this, which leads us to our next point…

 

3. Industry knowledge and networking

There is simply no substitute for this – you need to understand the industry you are planning the event for and you need the networking skills to develop a great team – either internally within your organisation, or a series of external contractors that you can depend on.

When the event you put on needs X sign-ups or sales to make it a success, you need to know enough about your industry to know how many delegates you need to get to attend in order to achieve the desired outcome.

When you ask a caterer if they can provide Y covers of a certain menu at a certain date and venue, you need to know that when they say ‘yes’, they can and will deliver.

And this boils down to industry knowledge and successful networking – and there is no real shortcut to these skills.

Your level of industry knowledge will inform your ability to develop the right content for the event, which in turn will then attract the right audience and help sell the event. Getting the right content is arguably an event planning skill in itself, but we’ve included it here under industry knowledge, as they go so much hand in hand.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Industry knowledge, if you are working within that environment, is acquired over time. If you do not work in a particular industry (if you are a freelance or contractor event organiser, for example) then you need to be asking a lot of questions (back at step 1).

Networking is also a skill that is built up over time and experience – but you can ask around and go with recommendations of people that have used contractors to help shortcut this process.

Many event venues, for example, will be able to recommend caterers or sound engineers with whom they have worked previously. It’s always worth asking the venue manager for recommendations, and some may well have their own teams. A hotel, for example, will almost always be able to handle catering for you – and you can sample their efforts well in advance.

 

4. Organisational skills

Perhaps this one is a bit obvious, but organisational skills are a must for successful event planning.

All event planners need to have incredible organisational skills. Even if you are planning and organising alone, you will be interacting with many (sometimes hundreds) of others in the run-up to the event, and for their sake, your organisational skills need to be tip-top.

Contractors, event speakers, the venue personnel and all other staff need to be kept up to date and informed, every step of the way. Someone needs to keep everyone informed, and that person is the event planner.

And with event planning, the plans can constantly change (see Flexibility below), which means that you need to keep on top of who knows what, and who needs to be informed when circumstances are changed.

If the number of delegates suddenly doubles at the event, it’s all very well telling the caterer, but not if you forget to tell the venue manager, who then fails to supply the right number of tables on the day.

At the same time, informing everyone involved of every tweak and adjustment will cause an overflow of irrelevant info. Keeping one large email list of everyone involved, for example, will mean that your caterers will get pointless updates when you change the running order of the speakers, or when the keynote speaker falls ill and you replace them with someone else.

An abundance of unnecessary information dropping into email inboxes will cause important messages to get missed; so careful organisation is required to keep relevant messaging going to the right people.

And this is just one example of how bad organisational skills can impact the success of an event. There are many more.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Try out several organisational software apps and find the one that works best for you and your style of working. As with almost every task, data is crucial, and getting the right data to the right people is essential.

List everything – don’t rely on memory and don’t rely on telling people anything – always communicate in writing, either physically or electronically.

Always have a Plan B. A part of being organised is to be prepared for when things go wrong (again, see ‘Flexibility’).

 

Top event planning tips

 

5. Communication skills in event management

How to keep your client happy, your contractors happy, and your guests/attendees happy?

Communication!

Great communications skills are a must – as we have seen in the last point above. Communication delivers information to the right people at the right time – but remember it is a two-way channel.

As we have already discussed, avoid the error of over-communicating unnecessary information, as the important things will get lost in all the unhelpful chatter.

Keep messages short, to the point, relevant to the receiver and polite.

Here’s a great example; one that Splento recommends is used at every event and should be communicated in the event literature to all delegates (even at a private function). It’s to the point, and the message is very clear:

Disclaimer:
When attending (name of your event), please be aware that photographs will be taken. By taking part in this event, you grant the event organisers full rights to use any images resulting from any photography and video filming (including any reproductions or adaptations of the images) for fundraising, publicity or any other purposes, to help achieve their business aims. This may include (but is not limited to) the right to use them in their printed and online publicity, social media, press releases and funding applications. If you do not wish to be photographed, please inform an event organiser and/or the photographer or their assistant.

Your initial plan has everyone working from the same page – good communication keeps them there, even as plans change and unexpected circumstances try to throw a spanner in the works.

Great communication involves great listening as well. Be open to someone suggesting a better way to organise something, and listen objectively. Everyone is on the same team and suggestions will come because the person proposing them believes it’s a good idea.

If it is, then incorporate and adapt to the suggestion; if it turns out it is not, then explain why in a way that genuinely values the idea and the person proposing it.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

The best way to communicate well is to…communicate! Keep the language simple and clear so there is no room for ambiguity, and always keep a check on yourself to make sure you are open to comments and critiques from others.

Have open meetings with all relevant people (really easy these days, with video chat) – but remember to set everything in writing. Even after a meeting where everyone seemed to understand the outcomes, quickly circulate a written summary and ensure everyone reads it, just to make sure. You’ll be surprised to find that, sometimes, a meeting’s outcome has as many interpretations as there are attendees.

 

6. Problem-solving skills

When organising any event, you will come up against problems – which makes problem-solving an essential skill for any event organiser.

These days, you will also need to go further – you will need the ability to solve problems fast, and keep calm under pressure.

When your boss, or client, calls you out of the blue, one week before the event, to ask if you can fit in an extra 50 delegates, they don’t want to hear ‘I’ll let you know in the next couple of days’. They want to know now.

So a great part of problem-solving is anticipation. Always, always have a Plan B.

As a part of your planning, you should be asking yourself a host of ‘what if…?’ questions:

What if the keynote speaker doesn’t turn up?

What if the client suddenly needs those extra 50 delegates squeezed in?

What if you are planning an outdoor wedding and on the day it is raining hard?

Having said that, however much you prepare, something will happen that threatens to destroy all your careful planning and hard work, so a degree of ingenuity and ability to handle pressure is a must.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

When the unforeseen happens – ask for help! Gather the team and brainstorm some solutions. Don’t panic and don’t try to resolve major issues on your own.

There are times when sharing the load works best, and this is one of them.

Communicate with everyone at the first opportunity, especially those putting on the event (the company or client) to update them on the problem and a couple of potential solutions. Explain which one, on balance, is the best route forward and why.

Once the plan of action is decided, communicate it to everyone else that needs to know as a matter of urgency.

 

7. Negotiating skills

Planning an event will almost always involve dealing with many other people and businesses and contracting their services, and this makes negotiating a great skill to have.

Negotiation requires confidence, an understanding of your budget, a clear idea of the outcome you want to achieve, and some tact.

You want your event to be a success. If it’s a business event, it needs to be profitable (or hit some other goal, as defined in step 1), so keep that in mind at all times.

If someone cannot provide the service you want at the price you need, then look elsewhere; don’t browbeat them into providing their services at a price less than they want to – you will only end up with a service less than you were expecting, and no one will be happy.

Remember, the best negotiations are where both parties win.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

When talking about prices and budgets, use firm numbers – don’t discuss ranges.

Keep open-minded to questions and answers from the other party, but keep your objectives in mind at all times – they will be focused on theirs, after all.

Aim for an outcome where both parties come out as winners.

 

Top 10 event planning tips

 

8. Leadership skills

You need to be able to work with your team (whether they are internal or external) – but you also need to be able to lead.

Leading by example is important – but that doesn’t mean that you do everything. A big part of leadership is trust and delegation.

There are people out there who do things better than you! So delegate the work to them and let them get on with it (this is the trust bit). Have them report back regularly, sure, but don’t be checking up on them every five minutes – you’re not doing them or yourself any favours if you do.

Having leadership qualities doesn’t mean being loud and extroverted – it is about inspiring others to do their best, getting them to work as a team, and making sure the job gets done, keeping the goal in sight at all times.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Understand yourself and how you work, before trying to understand others. Once you realise how you perform best, this will inform your leadership style and how you best get along with the others on your team.

Developing a positive attitude is a great leadership quality – a ‘can-do’ attitude mixed with just enough realistic expectations is a great start.

Remember that leadership is about encouragement and delegation, rather than ordering and expectation.

 

9. Flexibility

The next essential skill for event planners is flexibility.

Anticipate change, because it will happen – especially at the last minute. We’ve already discussed problem-solving above, and don’t want to repeat ourselves here, so what we are talking about here is the skill of being flexible.

What do we mean? Allow yourself to remain open to the fact that circumstances, events and situations are going to change.

While problem-solving is itself a skill, flexibility is the ability to accept and incorporate the changes needed to solve a particular problem. It is more about acceptance.

Accept the fact that something has changed, incorporate the solution and be flexible enough in your attitude to find a way to make it a positive.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

Flexibility often means putting your ego to bed, and listening to others and their input – especially when problem-solving under pressure. Understand the areas where you can compromise easily without losing sight of the overall goal, and make decisions based on what is the best outcome for the event.

 

10. Energy – and passion!

Event planning is hard work – often regardless of the size of the event. To do it well, you need to be enthused and passionate about achieving the best outcome.

It’s about keeping your team enthused and motivated, despite pressures and problems, and even in the face of shifting goals (which does happen).

It’s about keeping a positive attitude at all times – genuinely positive – not just wearing a thin smile.

And above all, you need to be the ‘power-source’ of the group – in the same way that a great football captain can inspire a last-minute victory on the field even when the rest of the team seems in despair (yes – it does happen sometimes).

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

It helps to be passionate about your company or event – so find something to get excited about.

But the other element to keep in mind here is energy, and that is hard to ‘fake it until you make it’. The best advice here is to look after your health – and yes, we mean that you should eat well, sleep well, exercise and keep yourself generally in good shape.

People are often surprised how much more energetic they feel after a little bit of health TLC – and exercise dramatically improves the mental state and impacts your positivity.

 

10 top event planning tips

 

11. Bonus point! Post-event analysis

Hey – point 11 on a Top 10 list? Yes – why not? We’re the generous type at Splento.

The truth is, we completed the top 10 list, but then realised we had to include this one as well, because it is so important.

Post-event analysis is as important an event-planning skill as any others on this list. It requires yet another meeting with all the team to discuss what went right, as well as what went wrong and how well you coped with the problems.

It’s a chance to learn lessons, apply experience and guarantee a better event the next time.

 

–          How to improve this event management skill?

As with many other points we have listed, the key here is to listen to others and accept what they say. Positive criticism, even of yourself, is a learning opportunity and a chance to grow – and this is how you improve this skill.

A positive meeting with a clear goal is required here – not an intention to run anyone down, but a genuine desire to learn, improve and above all, celebrate what was good.

A post-event analysis should leave everyone feeling better at the end of the meeting – it should be a positive session with positive results.

 


And there you have it. 10 (sorry – 11) top must-have skills for successful event planners.

Whatever kind of event you are planning, Splento can help you capture the best of it with photos and videos.

We have professional experts with event-photography experience, and we always deliver the finished results in 24 hours – perfect for social media follows up of the event.

We can even livestream videos and photos of the event while it is in progress – either to your social platforms or even cast it onto screens at the event itself. Whatever you need, we can do it and already have done it for someone in the past.

Event photos and video also make great marketing material for your next event too!

For all things photographic – including video – contact Splento today.

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