Learning the ABC’s of Planning a Successful Event
By Victoria Carter
With the right skills, planning an event can be done well by those given the task as part of other duties. In addition, event planning is a career in its own right, with its own terminology and networks.
And demand for those skills remains strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that jobs for Meeting, Convention and Event Planners will grow by 9,900, or 10 percent, from 2014 to 2024, which is faster than the average for all jobs. U.S. News and World Report ranked Meeting, Convention and Event Planner at number 21 on its list of “Best Business Jobs” in 2016.
Warwick Davies has 25 years of experience in the domestic and international conference and trade show business. Through his company, The Event Mechanic, he helps clients “build a path to well-attended and profitable events.” He talks here about his interest in the field and his upcoming class at PDC, which he says is “designed to give participants a basic understanding of event planning by explaining the key concepts needed to plan a successful event.”
Q: How did you become interested in event planning?
Warwick Davies: I got into the business by mistake many years ago. I was looking for a career direction which would allow me to utilize my foreign work and language experience, took an interview to see if I could get a job offer, and was offered a position managing overseas events (which was not in the original job description). I took the job, and the rest is history. Twenty-five years later I am still [in the] business!
Q: How do you define “event planning” – what kinds of events will you be talking about at the PDC course?
Davies: It’s a pretty broad definition and covers anything which requires people to get together at the same time with a common purpose and specific outcome. I’ll cover fund-raising and corporate events as well as conferences and trade shows.
Q: What kind of people could benefit from your seminar?
Davies: People in transition who want to add another skill set onto their resume, as well as corporate or nonprofit staff who have been tasked to organize an event and don’t know where to start! A recent “graduate” of this workshop told Larry [Elle, president of PDC,] she got a new job in large part because of the information she got from this workshop.
Q: What makes your seminar different from other ways of learning about event planning?
Davies: My own expertise – which runs the gamut from planning my own wedding to running 35,000 person events. Some of the stories related during the class will give the participants a real sense of what it’s like to work in this business and whether to move forward doing events.
I ask each attendee at the beginning of the class what they expect to get out of the workshop and customize the presentation to meet those expectations. I also think the slides and handouts are the first step to assembling a resource kit to either brush up or get you started.
Q: In your experience, are there some elements of planning an event that are more challenging than people anticipate? Are there any that are easier?
Davies: I think the three things which are challenging if you don’t master them from the outset are: 1) Using the limited time you have efficiently; 2) Keeping things on budget, and 3) Knowing what to do first. If you are a “people” person, then building the relationships you’ll need … to be successful … can certainly make your job easier.
Q: What events do you find most challenging and why?
Davies: The events which are usually the most challenging are the ones which have fewer resources, namely money or time. The less time you have, the fewer choices you have, and you need to make sure you can prioritize what to do first, next, etc. Money solves many “time problems,” especially if you can use it to get experienced hands on deck. Having someone who can use the scarce resources you have at hand and can still pull off successful events is paramount.
Q: Planning an event is a highly visible task that is very much appreciated by event attendees when done well. On the other hand, it is time consuming. What is advice to someone who is asked to plan an event as part of other duties?
Davies: Get a quick idea of the total resources you’ll command, then push back if, given your other duties, you feel you won’t be able to manage your old and new duties.
Q: What will people get from your course at PDC?
Davies: Confidence to move forward in planning events and a full inventory of the skillsets needed to be successful.
Q: What is one comment that you have gotten from a past attendee that is most significant to you?
Davies: “I feel you’ve given me the foundation to understand how to be successful planning events.” Obviously hearing from Larry that someone credited me in helping them get a job is another obvious comment.
“An Introduction to Event Planning” will be taught on Friday, February 17, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Career Source Career Center, 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, 3rd Floor, Cambridge. Cost is $60.00. For information and to register, visit www.pdcboston.org. Registration is currently being set up. Check our website again if registration does not appear.
Victoria Carter, after a career as an actuary, is reinventing herself as an economic evaluator of social programs. She can be reached at email@example.com.