Saturday, October 17, 2009

Ten Things You Need to Know

I receive emails and phone calls on a daily basis from girls who want to explore the possibility of becoming a wedding and event planner. Many want to meet with me over coffee to discuss the path I took that got me to the place I am today.

Unfortunately, I'm rarely able to fulfill these requests. Not because I don't want to. But because I have a precious family, a demanding business, and girlfriends I don't get to spend enough time with. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

That brings me to the point of this post. The requests for internships, shadow appointments and coffee dates seem to be at an all-time high these days. And as I was laying in bed a few nights ago, the idea of putting together a post for prospective event planners came to me.

So, for all of those wonderful girls who have contacted us, sent your resume, and tried to make an appointment to meet us, please know that I appreciate you all and your enthusiasm for this amazing line of work. This post is written just for you in hopes of inspiring, encouraging and educating.

Ten Things You Need to Know if You Want to be an Event Planner

  1. This is tough work. Not just physically but also mentally. Be prepared to blow the sweat dry from your hair with a blow dryer 15 minutes before your guests walk in. And be prepared to deal with clients that you will never make happy. No matter how hard you try. You need tough skin in this line of work. You need to be able to set healthy work boundaries. And you need to be willing to walk away from the wrong client when your gut tells you something is not right.
  2. You don't get to where we are overnight. Don't expect to graduate from college and land the event planning job of your dreams. You must be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up. Nothing good in life ever happens without blood, sweat, and tears. This year marks 16 years in the industry for me. My first couple of years out of college I was a copy writer at an advertising agency. I learned all about design, production, printing, and account management. Those years were immensely valuable to me and laid a crucial foundation. The bulk of my career was spent at a private college, first in the special events office managing space around campus and facilitating events. Then as the sole event planner to the President of the college and the myriad of events he hosted at his home and across the country. There I learned the nuts and bolts. I learned how to squeeze blood from a turnip when it came to stretching a design dollar. I wasn't given a lot of money to work with but I created magic with what I had. During those years I dreamed of having my very own event planning firm. But, I knew then that I wanted to do the big, fancy stuff. And I was willing to wait until I had the experience I needed and the established reputation to become a viable competitor in the market. All this to say, please establish yourself before you hang your shingle out. Nothing irritates me more than an individual with an entitlement attitude. It's not attractive and it says to me that you're not in it for the long haul. If you're not willing to perfect your skills doing jobs that aren't so glamorous but necessary for the knowledge bank, then you only bring the industry that I love down. And that's not fair to those of us who have worked so incredibly hard.
  3. Can you solve 10 issues in 30 seconds without second-guessing yourself? If your answer is 'yes,' then you're on your way. This work is not for an indecisive individual. You need to be able to make a decision and move on without a second thought. This skill is crucial to your success.
  4. Organization is King. Enough said.
  5. Know your limitations. You may be a fantastic details-person with execution skills like no other but struggle in the area of event design. Be sure to find someone to work with who's got an eye for design then. I happen to have been blessed with an innate sense of design and the ability to execute details. But this isn't the case for everyone. So, be sure to celebrate what you're good at and ask for help at what doesn't come as easy.
  6. Volunteer. Volunteer. Volunteer. There are so many amazing non-profits out there who do fundraisers and are dying for assistance. Find an organization that you're passionate about and work your tail off for them. Turn your energy into a grass-roots effort to build your skills, knowledge and resume.
  7. Learn to write. You're going to be doing it all the time in this business. There are proposals to get the job. Invitations to pen. Speeches to craft. Thank you letters to send out. And the list goes on. If this is something you struggle with then take a business writing class.
  8. Align yourself with the best. One of my dearest girlfriends often says, 'If you lie with dogs, you're bound to get fleas.' I love this quote! Surround yourself daily with the greatest in the industry. Read all the books out there. Follow the amazing people on Twitter and read great blogs. But don't just limit yourself to event specific literature. Read and study anything that's of interest to you. Chances are, it will translate itself into one of your events.
  9. Always persevere. When the chips are down and you're feeling like you're never going to reach your desired goal, stay positive and remember that slow and steady wins the race. Keep your chin up and remember why you're doing what you're doing. And don't lose sight of that goal.
  10. Passion is not something that can ever be taught. It needs to burn in your belly. Integrity can't be learned either. You need to have both to be a success in this industry.

Best wishes to each one of you who dreams of becoming a successful event planner. The work is hard but so rewarding!



Michelle@Memorable Events said...

Good post Jodi, I can those phone calls and emails all the time too and it is so hard to know what to tell them while still being encouraging. Thanks!

Aletha | Pearls Events said...

I plan on sending each person that contacts me to this post. Thank you for putting this info out there!

saundra, event engineer said...

Aletha got me to this post. THANK you and I'm going to get some traffic to it. I wrote a series, So You Want To Be a Wedding Planner a few years back and this is fantastic! Adding a link to my blog now.

Amanda Katherine said...

Thank your for the advice. This is invaluable to someone like me who is just starting out in the business.

Jessica at Stella Event Design said...

I couldn't agree more! The sheer volume of requests I've received in the last few months is incredible, and it's everything from girls still in school looking for interviews and shadows, to girls who have already "established a business" but are wanting to shadow, which I have to say is a bit backward:-) So glad you touched on some great points! I wish I could respond to everyone, but I think directing them to this post could be a great alternative to still get them some info!