Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tapping into the Event Planning World: Where to Start

If you're interested in meeting planning and need experience but don't know where to start, here are some tips to finding positions in your city. Remember, many corporations from all different industries host events. So, keep an open mind and don't rule anything out just because you aren't familiar with it.

1. Internship

If you are still in college, an internship is essential. Not just for this industry, but for most. Especially in the business world. There are SO many students graduating with business degrees. Yes, you may have top honors, or have been involved in every group on campus, but employers these days want to hire people with experience. Even if you have an internship where you are simply in a business setting, it's helpful. It doesn't have to be exactly related to your career path, but being in a professional environment helps.

If you are out of college and still looking for a job, you can still get in on these. Many companies end up hiring interns based on performance and availability. And you can schedule them around your side job that brings in the rent money.

2. Look for local Association Management companies.

My corporate planning experience has thus far been with associations. I didn't even realize what a large group that was until now. There is an association for EVERYTHING. And most of them have events to get their members together. Also, where some corporations hire outside companies or indepenent planner for events, many associations have planners in-house.

So look in your area for associations who run themselves. Also search for association management companies. These are organizations that manage multiple associations under one roof. Often, they all plan meetings so you can work with one or more.

3. Search what companies are headquartered in your city. Research or contact them to see if they host events and, if so, do they plan them in-house or outsource?

This is where you can find the "sleepers". A lot of associations and corporations plan annual events but you would never know if you aren't involved in their respective industry. For example, my company is an asphalt trade association. Who knew the asphalt industry hosts multiple events a year? I certainly  didn't. Yet here I am.

Like I've said before. You don't have to be an expert in the field for which you plan events. You just have to be an expert at planning events.

4. Look for stand-alone event planning companies or independent planners.

Maybe you discovered that DSW is headquartered in your town (Columbus) and you discovered that they outsource their planning to a local company, XYZ events. Contact XYZ and see if they have openings. Self-sustaining event companies usually have many planners and multiple clients. You can even look for independent planners in your area. See if they need an assistant or associate planner.

5.  Look into local hotels, convention centers, conference centers, arenas, universities and other venues.

Research any venues in your area that hosts events. Most of them will have in-house event services representatives, who assist all of the groups they bring into the facility. Like I outlined in my previous post, you can either be on the "client" side making the decisions, the "independent" side where you work with clients and venues, or the "host" side where you bring groups into your property to execute the event.

Also, keep in mind places you wouldn't immediately think of. It doesn't have to be a hotel or convention center. Universities, arenas, race tracks, restaurants, museums, etc. all often have banquet rooms or meeting space specifically to host group events.

6. Search your local venues and see what events have been hosted recently.

Many venues will host groups from other cities, but you may find some local companies who use the venues in your city. Maybe you talk to a nearby hotel/restaurant and they tell you that a local medical association always hosts their 2 annual events there. You can then look into that medical association and see if they have planner positions available. It's sort of a backwards way of finding who plans events in your area. But, like I said, they can be hard to find!

7. Check your city's Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)

CVBs are in just about every city and have sales and event services positions available. Since these people are also very well connected throughout the city, they may also be a great resource for local openings or companies you could reach out to.

Also search for any Destination Mangement Companies (DMCs) which are local groups that assist with special event needs for meetings brought to the city.

I hope these little tips helped! As always let me know if you have any questions!

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