Top Tips for a Successful Career in Event Management

The recent A-Level and GCSE results got me thinking about what advice I would give to anyone interested in Event Management.  You may be considering studying an Event Management degree and/or want to embark on a career as an Event Manager?

I was 17 when I set my mind on my future career path and I have enjoyed writing this blog post and looking back at the information and learning that I would give today to anyone just starting out on this journey.

Be warned and be prepared though; this is a very competitive marketplace with hundreds of people applying for every university place and job.  To succeed you will need to stand out from the crowd and be the cream of the crop!  Here are some of my top tips to give you the best chance of a long, exciting and rewarding career in the events industry.

Read all you can

Read as much as you can about the events industry, including event management books, industry magazines, press releases, blogs, websites, etc.  This is a fast-moving industry and it is important to keep up to date.  Not all of this information has to be purchased – there is a wealth of free information out there which will help to give you the bigger picture and teach you some of the basic principles about event management.

If you are looking to study for an Event Management degree authors such as Goldblatt, Getz, Bowdin, Watt and Tarlow (to name just a few) will help to introduce you to the subject area.

Don’t just limit your reading to purely event management based articles either, reading around marketing, customer service, presentation skills, health and safety, social media, creativity, project management, business planning, management, negotiation, finance/budgeting and so forth will all help in any future event management role.

Don’t specialise too early

Even if you are adamant that you wish to work in a particular area of the events industry I would urge you not to specialise too early, to ensure that you gain a broad range of skills and experience.  Although organising a music festival is a very different area of expertise to organising a conference or exhibition the basic principles of event planning are the same and experience of managing a live event in any shape or form will help to make you a better and stronger Event Manager.  When I started studying for my event management degree at Leeds Metropolitan University I was certain that I wanted to specialise in the music industry, organising festivals and gigs.  Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to work on every type of event imaginable; from fashion shows to awards ceremonies, exhibitions to weddings, music festivals to conferences, sporting competitions to open air movies and everything in between.  Today though, although I still really enjoy working on every single event management project, I get the most satisfaction from organising conferences and this has become my personal niche and speciality.

Organise anything you can

If you are considering working in the events industry you are probably already seen as the natural organiser within your friendship group – the one that makes things happen and generally looks after the arrangements and finer details.  Although organising friends birthday parties, holidays and nights out may be on a much smaller scale compared to organising public events it is still a little more practice for your future role and every little helps!

You can make other opportunities for yourself too.  Could you organise an event for a local charity for example?  If you are willing and able to take the initiative and help with fundraising on any scale I guarantee that they will be very appreciative.  And what about getting involved with your local amateur dramatics or other performance group?  That would be a great opportunity to shadow a sound and lighting engineer and to learn a little bit more about how it works behind the scenes.

During your career you will often be working with a tight or very small budget and so being imaginative, negotiating, making every penny count and generally making magic on very few resources is something that you should be working on at every opportunity (and your friends/local charity/theatre group will thank you for it too).

Get to grips with Social Media

You are no doubt already really comfortable with the internet and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and Google+.  Incorporating social media and marketing into events is common practice nowadays so ensure that it is a routine part of your day/week too and think about how you could use it in a professional rather than a personal capacity to help promote your own future events.

Start to follow #eventprofs on Twitter and learn from the thoughts, knowledge and discussions they inspire and share.

Ensure you have a good computing skills

A lot of administration is required when planning an event and as an Event Manager you will need to be well versed in using a range of different software and tools.  Get as much working knowledge as you can of Microsoft Office (particularly Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher) and also learn basic accounting, project management, web design, video editing, design, writing and marketing skills if you possibly can.

Being familiar with the keyboard and typing quickly will be essential!  Likewise experience of writing professional correspondence in the form of emails, letters, reports and budgets will be a regular requirement.

As an Event Manager you will need to be technically proficient in many areas so seize absolutely every opportunity to learn.

Get a driving license

Event Managers often work unsociable hours and venues are not always accessible by public transport, particularly at 5 am!  Likewise you will often have a lot of equipment to transport so having a driving license and ideally your own vehicle is essential in my opinion.

Volunteer and get work experience

Volunteering and paid or unpaid work experience are absolutely vital and this cannot be stressed enough.  This shows a future employer that you are serious and committed to your chosen career and hungry to gain experience whenever you can.  Find out about local events and event management companies and ask them if they have any opportunities for you to get involved.  Don’t just think this should relate to the live event period either – the hard work is done in the office during the planning stages in the weeks/months/year leading up to the event.

Often it is possible to volunteer for events such as music festivals and aswell as gaining essential work experience and knowledge of a live event you often get a free ticket and “time off” to enjoy the festival in return for a set amount of working hours per day.  Regardless of whether you have chance to work on large-scale events such as the Olympics, Glastonbury, V Festival, etc, or events on a more local level, nothing should be discounted.

Although it may be difficult juggling your paid work commitments with your eagerness to volunteer you must do it to set you apart from the masses.  This has to be done as a long-term investment as without proof of experience working on actual events you are unlikely to even get to the interview stage.  Show willingness to volunteer and prove yourself to an Event Manager and this may of course then lead to paid work in the future.  Without getting your feet on the first rung of the ladder though you are never going to progress and develop your skills.

Of course if you can gain paid experience in the events industry that is even better.  Be open-minded about how you can gain experience too, for example could you work as an event steward?  This is a good grounding in terms of managing crowds across a venue or event site, dealing with different health and safety issues and ensuring the smooth running and safety of all attendees.

Go to events

At every possibility go to a broad variety of events and observe how things are done as a spectator.  What has worked well, what could be improved?  Why do you think things have been set up that way?  How has it been marketed?  How is everything managed?  What did you learn?  Consider jotting down notes, questions and observations that you can refer back to in the future.

I hope this post has inspired you to begin your exciting career in event management.  I love my role as Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd and find it extremely satisfying and rewarding working on events both large and small.

We wish you the best of luck to fulfill your dreams too!