Novices’ Guide to Event Management: Part One

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

So…are you just starting out as an event planner? If there’s one thing more daunting than the profession itself, it’s being a novice in the profession. Nobody knows who you are – or particularly cares. You’re competing with big names; men, women and organizations with more connections, better reputations, and more clients than you could ever dream of. And what do you have?

You may become the greatest event planner, but you don’t have any sort of portfolio to show for it. Without one, you’re going to find landing clients a herculean task. What’s a rookie management professional to do?

Well…you’re going to have to start small.

Today, I’m starting a new series of posts, “The Novice’s Guide to Event Management.” I’ll be going over all the ins and outs of starting out as an event planner, including landing your first real gig, finding trustworthy partners and suppliers, and dealing with clients. Today, we’re going to look at initial steps you can take to building up your event portfolio. The more successful events you have under your belt, the easier you’ll find it to land the big clients.

We’ll deal with your portfolio format next week. For now, we’re going to focus on creating portfolio content.

Join Up With Clubs

One of the best pieces of advice I’ll give anyone thinking about a career in event management is that you should take every opportunity that presents itself where event planning is concerned. Are you still a student? Most educational institutions have at least a few student-run clubs. Find a club or two you’re interested in, join them, and start helping to manage and run the groups meetings and events.

Of course, you don’t just have to join campus clubs, either. There are likely plenty of interest groups around your city you can join up with.

Networking: remember that everyone you meet and work with now may become a potential client in the future. 

Plan Small Events

Start finding ways to involve yourself in the event-planning field you’re looking to build your career. Want to be a wedding planner? Get an assistant position styling photo shoots or help a friend plan their wedding. Looking to deal mostly with larger conferences and conventions? Organize a multi-campus, or multi-club meet-up and discussion panel for a community you’re involved in.

Small events: don’t be afraid to create small events. You’re just starting out, and you will learn as much from failed events as successful ones.

Talk To Clients For Testimonials

Whenever you do run a successful event, talk to the client afterwards. Testimonials are akin to letters of recommendation for an event planner. If you’ve got a proven track record for satisfying clients, you want to show that off to potential future clients.

Feedback: you also want to talk to your clients when an event has flopped. Their feedback will help you not make the same mistakes twice.

Look For Career Development And Membership Certificates

Find the event management and business certifications that best support your professional growth, earn them, and proudly show them off in your portfolio. Yes, they’re just pieces of paper…but certifications can go a long way towards making you more credible as an event management professional. They’ll show potential clients that you’re serious about both your education and building your event planning business.

Get Good Press

Whenever one of your events is featured in the press in any way, keep a copy of the story it’s covered in. Start making a list of reporters, bloggers, publications and television stations that cover your field, or potentially have interest in the focus of events you manage. Cultivate a few key media relationships and look for the perfect opportunity to pitch a story.

Media attention: press a great tool to get you noticed by both clients and employers alike.

Photograph Everything; Include Video

Keep before and after photographs of your past events, and if an event featured video of any kind, toss that in, as well. High-quality photo and video of your events can strengthen a digital portfolio, and demonstrate that you’re a serious professional.

Video: video can tell a great story in seconds; use it on your social media channels or when you start to build your own website.

Think About Other Stuff Too

Consider adding miscellaneous items to your portfolio including copies of invitations, fliers, brochures, or posters associated with your events. None of these are strictly necessary, mind you…but they show a sense of style and attention to detail, both are elements of a portfolio.

Compile A Winning Personal Profile

Last, but certainly not least, put together a profile that demonstrates your strengths as both an individual and an event planner. This doesn’t need to be long, verbose, or particularly over-the-top; it just needs to put your best foot forward and show your clients something about who it is they’ll be working with. Think of it as the cover letter of your portfolio.