I always tell people that my previous jobs and experiences led me to my career as a professional event planner — I just had to listen to life and what its adventures were trying to tell me. My first job as a bookkeeper for a scrapbooking business got me comfortable as a small business owner keeping track of my own books. My previous career experience as a technical specialist in the IT world allows me to stretch my software wings in offering online organizational solutions for my clients. It all comes together to allow me to do what I do.
However, in the past few years of hiring and firing contracted event planners to assist with larger events within my company, I've discovered that there are some consistent signs that a person is made for this field. In fact, these are the same exact characteristics that I'm looking for when I hire now — I know people with these traits will be a good fit for my company and be happy with the career long term. I can tell that they are made for this business.
1. You have an innate desire to help people find solutions.
In my estimate, 99.9% of event planning is problem solving. From choosing design elements, to the timing of the entire event, and from install to tear down — it's all about finding solutions. The preferred shade of purple isn't available in our napkin choices? Have them made from a local custom linen company. Jet-lagged guests arriving from across the country mean that dinner should start sooner than later? Have salads waiting at every place setting to expedite dinner service and allow hungry guests to begin eating as soon as they sit down.
Beyond the usual problems that one encounters when planning and executing an event, you could be served other problems outside of the scope of your typical job description. From family drama to a pregnant guest with a headache, you'll be entering the world of concierge and guest services. If you don't have the personality that embraces the desire to resolve client stresses and make people feel at home, you probably aren't made for this business. My best Associate Consultants are the type that constantly wants to help anyone and everyone.
2. You can solve problems on your own.
When you run a business that touts itself for the ability to create unique experiences customized to each individual client, you'll find that you typically don't encounter the same problem twice. It's partially because when you've solved a problem once, you'll learn how to better prevent that problem from ever existing again. But it's also because each unique event will come with unique problems.
Often, planners and vendors — from florists, to bands to caterers — have their own sets of problems they have to resolve throughout the day. When a lead or senior event consultant is in charge, it's his or her responsibility to make sure that each of these vendors can solve their own problems to the best of their ability. This means that, as often as possible, assistant consultants will be required to take care of issues quickly and efficiently on their own so that the lead or senior planner can focus on the bigger picture. Assistants won't make it far if they stop every time and ask for help. Once you are on your own, you are the stopping point. You will be expected to not only solve your own problems, but everyone else's. Problem solving is key.
3. You have a sense of vision.
While this applies mostly to those who will execute event designs and not just event plans, a sense of vision is crucial to both. If you don't have a sense of spatial reasoning, you will not be able to properly guide the installation of tables so that guests and catering can easily maneuver the room. You might accidently design a too-tall centerpiece that blocks guests' view. You might choose the wrong color lighting for the evening because you toured the venue during the day. Mistakes are common without a sense of vision. Fortunately, proper training can help with many of these issues.
For an event designer, a sense of vision is even more important. Your clients will likely not have a vision, so they've hired you to do this job. You must be able to envision unique designs so you can inspire a client who cannot conceptualize plans without your help. This skill ranges from the tiniest details to the bigger picture — and your flexibility here will really show through in your resulting events.
4. Basic math doesn't terrify you.
If you thought you were entering a truly creative field that eliminates your need for pesky math calculations, you are most definitely wrong. Math is crucial in so many aspects of what event planners and designers do, from creating to-scale schematics for your events to calculating the number of rentals needed based on the final guest count. You will definitely need to brush up on your math skills.
5. You are incredibly organized (or willing to improve).
To be an event planner, you must be incredibly organized — even more so than your clients. Many times, our clients may be professional project managers and event planners in other industries. While they are organized, they may not be familiar enough with the wedding industry, and they have the great sense to hire an expert to guide them through the process. You will be held to their standards at minimum, so be one step ahead of them. Make it your goal to be just a bit more organized than your most organized client, and you'll have great success.
6. You enjoy customer service.
I sometimes feel that this trait is something that people are either born with or born without. Of course, customer service can be taught, but if it's not genuine, people will see right through it. From vendors that you work with to clients who hire you — it is a service industry, and making the customer happy will always be imperative. While a wedding client will probably not be a repeat customer, you will work with your vendors time and time again. In a referral-based industry, it is important that you treat vendors as well as you treat your clients. Those associates that “get” this right away are the most successful — and they end up building lasting relationships with these vendors who, in turn, help them with their future businesses.
You will deal with difficult personalities. It is a given, and honing your skill in calming a really excited and unhappy vendor or client will become crucial to the success of your event. Drunk guests, irate vendors who don't understand their lack of professionalism, and clients who overstep boundaries are just a few of the common issues that make many cringe away from working in this industry. We are never safe from these types of people, but if you make customer service key, you will have the perspective to deal with it quickly and efficiently.
These are just a few of the signs that indicate someone will excel in event planning. In fact, I really think that it's crucial that all six are encompassed — without even one of the above, you may be setting yourself up for a disappointing career. However, if you feel that you possess all six — or at least know that you can improve upon these factors — you will most likely be highly successful as a wedding and event planner.