Five key event management skills

by Gareth Platt,

10 November 2020

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Five key event management skills

There’s no doubt it’s a tough time to be in event management. Jobs are hard to come by, demand is fluctuating wildly from one place to the next, and the overarching economic environment is as muddled and unsettling as Donald Trump’s rant on election night.

Thankfully, there is still some reason to be cheerful. In September 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted 8% growth in the event management job market in the decade to 2029. That’s double the average growth for other industries, by the way.

But, if you (or someone you know) is thinking of becoming an event manager, you need to understand the skills required to succeed in this competitive sector. In this post, we’ll outline our five most important event management skills and the reason they are so crucial to this particular industry. 

Organisation

Ok, this one’s pretty fundamental. Any event, no matter its size, location and audience profile, relies on watertight organisational skills. The ability to multi-task – and prioritise between those tasks – as well as keep track of your budget, allocate your resources and schedule the logistics of the day is key to being an effective event manager. 

Ben Atherton, founder of BCA Consulting and a regular contributor to our blog, puts it in simple terms: “Like any other marketing discipline, event planning exists as a relatively linear process.  If you try and do B, before A, you’ll run into trouble.”

The best managers won’t just think about how they want their event to unfold; they will consider what could happen if it doesn’t go as planned. An event has many moving parts, some of which are likely to shoot off in the wrong direction due to external factors – a speaker running late, an undisclosed dietary requirement, suppliers getting stuck in traffic, etc. With good organisation skills, we can prevent these problems with proactive planning.

Flexibility

Of course, organisation alone cannot guarantee success. You can plan an event to the nth degree, but no amount of organisation skill can prevent something unexpected from arising on the day.  Inevitably, you will need to make changes and switch your focus. 

Verity Deaville, an appointed Conference & Hospitality Show Award Venue Judge who runs the verityvenue.com event business, says: “It is crucial to be flexible as an event manager. Outside influences beyond your control can impact your event, so you need to be always prepared and ready to adapt.

At the same time, event managers need to be open to new technologies, such as augmented reality (which the vast majority of event managers are now planning to incorporate into their offering). The pace of digital evolution means we have to be able to embrace innovations with little or no warning.

People skills

Digital tools may be altering our industry, but event management will always be first and foremost about people – those who are hosting, exhibiting and attending. 

It is the job of the event manager to ensure everyone involved is happy and that those attending have a positive and memorable experience. Of course, some of this will be down to practical aspects like catering and the venue. But acknowledge the impact of how you, as the event organiser, deal with and relate to those around you.

Melanie Woodward, founder of the Event Planning Blueprint business, has written that “successful event planners are personable, engaging, good conversationalists, and excellent listeners. Event planning is a social profession in that the result – the event itself – will include a group of people, large or small. Understanding people and enjoying talking to them is part of the job.”

Passion

Even before Covid, event management was seriously hard work. The demands of picking the right venue, energising attendees via social media, selecting the right technology and networking with attendees during the event itself would test even the most energetic of people. Little wonder that in 2017, U.S. recruitment site CareerCast named ‘event coordinator’ as the fifth most stressful job in the world.

Now, the pandemic has added a critical layer of complexity. We have to consider virtual and hybrid technologies, factor in the demands of social distancing and entice people when they have a million other things on their mind. 

Only with a genuine love for bringing people together, and adding value to their lives, can we juggle this plethora of challenges to create something truly unique. In surveys carried out by EventMB, 39% of event professionals agree that ‘engaging attendees’ is fundamental to the success of any live event. 

Verity Deaville says, “event management isn’t a standard ‘9-5 job’. For a true event manager, it’s ‘let’s run this event to the very best of my ability whatever the circumstances’. So you need that passion to keep you going.”

Time management

Finally, it’s time to consider the most basic event management skill: the ability to make things run on time. 

One thing guaranteed to frustrate attendees is when an event runs late. So it’s essential that we create a realistic schedule for our event, and plan the steps needed to achieve it.

Time management is also vital in the run-up to your event. You need to organise your own time – and that of your team, if you are in a leadership position – between the various events you may be organising to make sure you are allocating your resources where they are most needed. Thanks to the emergence of time-management tools such as Harvest, we now have plenty of tools available.

Skills for the future

It can be incredibly rewarding to see the event you’ve planned become a reality. And there’s no doubt that, for all its implicit challenges, an event management job can be fun, creative and challenging.

Undoubtedly there will be changes in the way the events industry operates as a result of the pandemic – the latest projections suggest that virtual events will grow nearly ten-fold over the next decade, from $78 billion to $774 billion.

But whether your event is online, in-person or a hybrid, the skills required to steer it to success are the same as ever.

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