The Event Manager’s Profession: Myths and Reality

Have you ever had the following conversation:

Someone: “What do you do?”
You: “I’m an event manager. I organize events for a living.”
Someone: “Aha, you are wedding planner!” or (a confused face) “Oh… So what do you actually do?”

To me that has happened countless times. No, I’m not a wedding planner, never been and will never be. The only wedding organisation I took actively part in was my own wedding, and I still hired a wedding agency.

And, yes, an event manager is an actual profession requiring specific expertise, skills, and qualities.

For some reason, most people have no idea, or worse, have a completely wrong perception of what an event manager really is. Even new job positions like social media manager or content marketer are clearer as concepts to them than that mysterious and obscure event manager’s job. That’s why I decided to write about the main misconceptions of our profession and what it actually involves.

What an Event Manager is NOT:

Most people consider the event manager’s profession as a fun job. They see us as party animals who have chosen a profession that gives us the perfect opportunity to earn money while living it up. Can’t be further from the truth! The reality is that even when organising an entertainment event, you’re the last one to relax and entertain yourself. The event manager is there to secure the good time of the attendees, not be one of them. The smoother the event goes, the harder the event manager works.

And let’s not forget that event coordinator was ranked the 5th most stressful job of 2016! Doesn’t sound like so much fun, right? It surely means lots of adrenaline, though. Despite some challenging aspects of our job, we truly love and enjoy what we do!

What’s even more frustrating to me is when the event manager’s profession is being confused with other jobs. Some of the most common misconceptions are:

  • Catering agency manager: event managers work with catering agencies, not in them.
  • Event venue manager: same story here. Venue managers are people we’re in a regular communication with when organizing our events. However, they have a completely different kind of job.
  • Administrative assistant: organizing your boss’s meetings or some team gatherings does not make you an event manager. Neither does throwing a party or two for your friends. Simple as that.
  • Wedding planner: the wedding is a very specific type of event requiring particular skills. Some of them, like organisational skills and creativity, are common for all event profs. However, lots of great event managers neither possess, nor need some of the skills that are essential for the wedding planning job like: being very skillful and adroit (not left-handed like I’m) and a kind of DIY person with a strong aesthetic sense. On the other hand, wedding planners don’t need to master some other crucial competences that event managers can’t do without such as marketing or PR expertise. In a nutshell: a great wedding planner does not (necessarily) equal a great event manager and vice versa.

What an Event Manager ACTUALLY is:

Apart from requiring a variety of skills and qualities, being an event manager demands specific background, expertise and know-how. If not having a big team (which is often the case), you need to combine a number of professions into one and to constantly gain new expertise. Here are the most common roles every event manager should implement into his/her everyday work:

  • PR professional: almost all types of events are meant to attract public and media attention and that’s a main prerequisite for their success. Here comes the importance of having a strong PR expertise when organizing events. As event managers we need to be skilled in writing attention-grabbing press-releases, need to possess great interpersonal skills for building and retaining close relations with media representatives, need to be creative in designing campaigns for spreading the word and attracting the public attention toward our events, and so much more. In short, without strong PR skills, your event might fall into oblivion and pass unnoticed, which is like a death sentence for any event.
  • Marketer: not many people realize it but marketing the event is probably 70% of the job for a great number of events. And how could it be otherwise since the success or failure of almost any event depends greatly on the event manager’s capacity to promote it. After all, a logistically perfectly organised event is worth nothing when the event venue is empty, right?
  • Copywriter: from the copy of the event website to the weekly e-mail newsletters and all kinds of marketing communications, the event manager needs exceptional copywriting skills.
  • Social Media Expert: a strong social media strategy is an indispensable part of any event marketing strategy, so social media expertise is another skill event managers ought to master to be great at their job.
  • Sales Manager: as event managers we need to be able to sell our event not only to the target audience, but also to “sell” it to sponsors and partners. And just like sales managers are the key figures and driving engines in any business, so are sales skills crucial for the final turnover of any event.
  • Event Tech Expert: OK, you don’t need to be a chief technology officer or ingenious developer but you definitely need to be tech savvy and to constantly follow the event technology trends.
  • Negotiator: as event managers, we also need to possess excellent negotiation skills since we have to come to terms and work out details with dozens of providers and suppliers (like venues, catering companies, tech companies, photographers, sponsors, partners, you name it) and, of course, with our clients (if you organize events for customers).
  • Project Manager/ Coordinator: not in the common engineering context, of course. However, an event is an actual project with its typical cycles (initiation, planning, execution and closing phases) demanding a kind of control-freak, namely the event manager, to govern the whole process and parties involved.
  • (On a funny note) Crystal-gazer: envisioning your event to the tiniest detail and trying to predict all that could go wrong is an indispensable part of the event planning process. Don’t really need a crystal ball, though ;). A meticulous and detailed planning will do the job instead.

Hope this article will help debunk some myths about the event manager’s profession and will provide at the same time a good summary of the essence of the event manager’s profession. So next time someone asks you what does your job as event manager entail, don’t waste your time explaining – just give him the link to this article.

We will be happy to hear your opinion on the topic. What are the worst misconceptions you’ve encountered about our profession? And do you also need to combine all of the above listed competences in your work as an event manager? Share your thoughts with a comment below.

P.S. Every forward-looking event manager needs not only skills but also tools to be great at what he/she does. Weemss is an event management software that will save you tons of time and efforts and will let you focus on what’s truly important: the actual event!

Featured image: derivative, original by Ivana Divišová licensed under CC0 1.0