So you want to be an Event Manager. Fancy the bright lights, the glitz and glamour? Sorry to burst your bubble but there’s a stark difference between being an event manager and being a guest! So what do I think are the 7 key skills a event manager needs to succeed today? I have been organising events for the past 20+ and wouldn’t want to do anything else. I love the live and exciting world of event planning. I have also been a events guest on many occasions too and know where I prefer to be.
So what do I think are the 7 key skills a event manager needs to succeed today?
1.The great communicator
Being able to communicate across a wide range of levels with clarity and purpose and importantly to be heard (I don’t mean be loud) are vital skills. For communication to be truly effective, it needs to be two-way. When it is your event teams will feel involved, valued and committed to the cause. You also need to communicate with passion, have a genuine interest in people as well as being able to connect with people. My own personal experience says be nice to people, help them when you can, say please and thank you and when you need them they will come running. Event planners always need help. You can’t do this on your own.
2.The team player
While there is a lot you can do on your own, you will need others to help you. Being able to work collaboratively and effectively in a team is a vital skill. One of the greatest challenges of any event manager is creating a real sense of team amongst an often-disparate group of people. This team needs a great team spirit and a strong desire to deliver a successful event. You also need to be happy to go along with the team’s decision, even if you don’t agree with it… You must commit wholeheartedly to the course. This is not always easy, I know. Being part of a team is also about being able to take individual responsibility. If you say you will do something – do it. No excuses please.
As the Leader (event managers are leaders) you will need to set the direction and communicate it with passion, energy and belief – it’s the ‘talking it up’ by the event manager that inspires staff to follow and commit. Good leaders also set very high standards in integrity, trustworthiness, time keeping, support to name but a few. With leadership comes responsibility so you will be making difficult decisions and solving problems. Your problems in some cases will be minor and easily resolved. In other cases, they will be major and threaten your events’ success. They will all need dealing with and to be looked upon as opportunities for you to demonstrate your initiative, resourcefulness and leadership skills.
During the design stage of planning your event, you will need to be creative: generating new ideas and innovative ways of doing things. You may well see things differently to others and be an original thinker. Your ability to bring products, services and event programmes to life in an interesting way is also key skill. You will need to be brave! While you (and me) will make mistakes, you must always try to promote creativity and innovation and support your event planning team members when mistakes happen – this keeps the ideas coming and the confidence to try new things.
5.The Operational planner
A key skill is the need to understand how things and people work. Practical and logical thinking are required throughout the whole process of designing, planning and delivering an event. If we use this stage, run this ad campaign, book this speaker, have this act…what are the implications. What do I have to do make it happen, what do I need to understand about it, how does it arrive, how does it get built, what must I do in the process… and so the list goes on. I cannot tell you just how important this skill is. When you have it, you will know instinctively how things work and what you will need to do. The only danger is that during the design stage you ‘shoot down’ your own ideas, before you have even said them. Not helpful!
6.A head for business
Events are a service and must be organised in a business-like fashion. Events not only need to attract an appropriately sized audience but the figures need to add up. Event managers need a head for business. Increasingly they are required to know how a business sector works. They need a commercial instinct, ensuring that key decisions are taken in the context of what makes the most business sense. What is best for the events’ balance sheet and not just the event? At some stage in the event planning process you will need to be take tough decisions about the direction your event takes. These decisions need taking with the head and not the heart. Again, these are difficult decisions and not always welcome by the team.
7.Become an events groupie
The Event managers who always impress me are those who have a genuine interest in all sorts of events. They know what’s coming up in the world of events. I don’t hear them say…are but I don’t do sports event. They do are interested in all types of events. They are what I call an events groupie – a student of events. They read the events press enthusiastically, attend a whole variety of events and they can see how an idea/concept from the world of arts events can be incorporated with a tweak or two into the world of say conferences. They have an open mind. Their past experience does not dictate their present thinking. They are alive to the event possibilities.
Event managers are wonderful multi-talented people! They have a wide skill set and would be asset to any company or organisation. I do honestly believe this. Anybody who can make things happen will always be a useful member of staff.
As you develop your event management skills, start to become aware of your strengths: the areas you tend to focus your energies on. More importantly, recognize the areas of your work you avoid, saying ‘it’s not really my thing’. Alas, it is time to step out of your comfort zone and make it your ‘thing’. You’ll need to do your research and start asking others ‘in the know’ to help you. You will be amazed how quickly you start to build up your confidence in areas of perceived weakness. As with everything, the more you practice the more confident you become and soon you will be saying what weakness!
I class myself as a continuous learner and even after 20 years in events I am still learning my craft, trying to make myself a better event manager. If I can do it, you can. Actually I knew nothing about events when I started!
So what do you think to these core skills?
Thank you for taking the time to read my latest blog
Chris Powell, The Event Expert
How can I help you?
The Event Expert specialises in helping turn new, accidental or experienced event managers into confident and skilled events professionals able to design, programme, promote and deliver successful and rewarding events. I deliver In-house event management courses covering all types of public and business events.