Alli Girardin is a certified wedding planner and conference manager. In 2010 Alli became certified as a wedding planner through the Wedding Planner’s institute of Canada and started her own business. Her events range from large national conventions to business launches to intimate weddings.Read More
So you’re looking to break into the world of event planning. You’re organized, love to bring people together and have excellent attention to detail. Welcome! We’re happy to have you in our industry. Now that you’ve figured that out, how do you get started? Perhaps you’ve taken some Event Planning courses like the ones offered through MTEC, or maybe you have similar skills and are looking to transition.
One of the easiest things you can do to gain experience and get your feet wet is through volunteering.
Here are four reasons why you should volunteer as an up and coming event planner:
1. Real life experience
No matter what area of event planning you are looking to go into, there are key experiences that are essential: working with committees, working with volunteers, and working with clients/venues. In fact, you will often see these skills listed in job postings. As a volunteer, you have the opportunity to do all of these things. Don't have any experience working with committees? Easy! Join one!
2. Builds your network
No matter how cliché it is to say, when it comes to getting that first job, it’s all in who you know. However, if you don’t have a lot of connections in the event planning field, you need to reach out and make as many as you can. You can do that by joining a professional association like Event Professionals of Manitoba (hi!) and by volunteering at events. At any given event, even just as a night-of volunteer, you will meet the event coordinator, their coworkers and their volunteer committees in addition to your fellow volunteers. Boom! In one night, you’ve expanded your network by 5-10 people.
Once you’ve volunteered a few times (or a few months on a committee), you’re able to use these connections as a job reference. Don’t forget to add these new connections to LinkedIn. Yes, prospective employers and recruiters check out your page.
It can be tough to get that first new role when you’re switching career paths or just starting out. We can guarantee you that everyone hiring anyone in the event planning field is looking for someone with initiative. Everyone says they have initiative but how do you actually prove it?
“I really want to work in events with a focus on fundraising. This year, I volunteered on the ABC Walk-a-thon logistics committee where I organized a team of day-of volunteers and created site maps.”
4.Expands your knowledge
Some things cannot be taught in a classroom or found on google. No matter how fantastic your education is, nothing can prepare you for the actual day-to-day life of an event planner. For example, you’re never going to take a course that will teach you where to rent a goat (yes, that’s a real life example) or how many people can legally occupy a parkade. That information comes with time and experience. With every event you volunteer at or attend, you become exposed to new ideas and techniques that will inspire and inform your future role.
Ok so now you’re ready to volunteer. Where do you go? There are so many options!
1. Checkout Volunteer Manitoba to find a list of current volunteer opportunities
2. Join a Professional Association or a committee (yes, we’re looking for volunteers too!)
3. Contact the organizer of events you want to check out
4. Google, google, google
5. Ask your friends. It’s always comes down to your network.
What are some of your volunteer success stories? Let us know!
Stuff I have always wanted to say out loud…
My name is Janet Harder and I am the General Manager of the Metropolitan Event Centre. I am new to blogging but at the same time, have always wanted a place to do just that and say things out load that pertain to the Event Industry. I often train or introduce employees and colleagues to the event industry. There are two very important conversations I always have…
Sorry, you must “Sweat the Small Stuff”…
The event planning/management industry has been around for as long as there have been ceremonies and celebrations. The art of planning the perfect party, wedding, large scale or small scale – indoor or outdoor event is a passion and a commitment, no matter the challenges. The solid execution of a well thought out event plan is exhilarating while for some reason, positively, satisfyingly exhausting. Plan your work and work your plan. And then we start the next one and so on…
Everyone has centerpieces, floorplans, chair covers, sashes, table numbers in a photo frame, photo booths, risers, video screens etc.…so how do you make a difference and stand out? You MUST Sweat the Small Stuff. My apologies to Richard Carlson, the Author of the book series entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, but for event planning – sweating the small stuff is the only way. The difference for us IS in the details. As Event Planners, we must plan all of the known and unknown execution steps and anticipated needs of our guests and clients in advance so that our delivery is seamless. How the event runs and how easy you are to work with, makes the difference. You are the hub, the centre point for all information and the team leader. The degree in which you do this is measured in how much you sweat the small stuff.
Never say yes to the sweat pants…..
Walking through an airport back in the 90’s travel days [age alert] – there was a shoes shiner who advertised his services with short anecdotal quips. As you would walk by – he would chant “You can’t close the deal – with dirty heels”…and whether you knew it or not – you immediately looked at your shoes because you knew in a non-verbally communicated kind of way, he was right. 90’S or today, it is still relevant. I stopped – had my loafers polished and took the hint from that day forward. People notice, image matters, professionalism first.
Here are 7 tips to dressing for success:
1. Your attire takes you through a very long shift. Bending, stretching, lifting, shuffling, sitting, standing and climbing. Be able to meet the needs with stylish stretchable options.
2. How we dress, can affect those around us and how they feel in their own environment. We don’t want to make our client’s feel less prestigious and on the flip side we don’t want to make them feel as though we are not taking our meetings seriously enough.
3. Represent your team well in your appearance. Be conscience of how you represent your company/brand while ‘visually connecting’ with your client at first appearances. A key moment in the working relationship.
4. Always wear layered clothing for weather transitions. And don’t forget lots of deep pockets for cell phones, pens etc. You know it – we all want J Lo’s suit!!
5. Umm…Comfortable shoes with a capitol C. Don’t sacrifice your feet…they are all that gets you through 20+ hour shifts!!! Packing multiple heights for the day is best. I have often been caught wearing my 12 hour shoes on an 18 hour day!
6. Be stealth – blend in! You are behind the scenes and not part of the live event. You are also not to dominate an event planning meeting and take the attention away from the subject matter. Dark colors are always preferred. Black is the tradition but being relevant allows you to wear dark clothing and not necessarily all black. Lighter colored shirts under jackets is also fresh.
7. No sweat pants, torn clothing, tanks tops or sandals. The 4 major no-no’s during event set up. We won’t even consider justifying why this should never be worn during the event!!
8. Not always expensive but always practical.
I think it goes without saying that most of us know this. No matter how long we have been in the industry, whether we have 3 years or 30 years of experience, we need to be relevant to the client and the industry. This does not mean mimicking their gestures or dressing the culture (unless the event itself requires this). It doesn’t mean getting piercing and tattoos, dressing young or dressing old. It simply means dressing age appropriate and understanding the demographic within that event market. It could change for your next event, so have your own style that is professional and (specifically) transferable.