Event Planning as We Know It Is Over (Welcome to a Brave New Era)

Event Planning Is Over - Welcome to a New EraEvent planning spans back thousands of years to the earliest royal pageants, pagan festivals and village gatherings, with hands-on coordination and personal relationships being the core skill sets for those very early “planners”. Event planning and management as a profession has its roots in the early 20th century when wealthy families starting hiring other people to coordinate all their fancy weddings, balls and receptions, and it grew into a larger profession as advances in transportation and communication made it possible for people to travel longer distances to attend industry meetings and social events.

Celebrity event planners like David Tutera have brought event planning to television and have made event planning a hot profession in recent years, but right now event planning itself is in the midst of a critical juncture that will dictate the future of the profession and how events are planned in the 21st century. We are seeing this firsthand at Planning Pod, and we wanted to share with you how this transformation is affecting our customers as well as other professionals in our industry.

In our humble opinion, event professionals and planners have not always earned the respect that is bestowed on other similar industries like marketing or design, but that is all changing, and for a few important reasons:

  • The events industry is the quiet elephant in the room among large industries. It generates well over $1 trillion in revenues in the U.S. alone and is bigger than the auto industry and the data/IT industry  . In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics predicts that the event industry will expand 44% from 2010 to 2020 , which exceeds most growth predictions for other industries.
  • As the industry proceeds to expand, more and more savvy, experienced professionals with considerable (and impressive) skill sets will be required. Event planners of the 21st Century must have a firm grasp on marketing and sales, customer service, project management, design, human resources, communications, contract negotiations and many other disciplines in order to be successful; few other professions demand such a broad base of competencies.
  • With all this growth and income pouring in, innovation is not far behind, and we are seeing an unprecedented amount of technological innovation in the event sector right now, which will also require a work force that is quipped with the requisite skill sets to understand and employ these event tech solutions.

So what does this mean for event planners, meeting planners and wedding planners? And what does it mean for other event managers who are on the front lines of coordinating events (like conference center and venue managers, caterers, hotel managers and non-profit marketers)?

Well, it means a quantum shift in what event planners and professionals have been doing for years and what you need to be doing to prepare yourself and your business for this new era.

Here are the four big differences between event planning of yesterday and event planning of tomorrow.

1. Yesterday’s planner was a master of details. Tomorrow’s planner is a master of systems.
You may still be tracking hundreds or thousands of details for every event, but in the 21st Century you will be employing more advanced systems to help you manage all these details. Lots of these event management software tools will automate the process so that you don’t have to “touch” so many details many times but instead will have a centralized place where tasks and details will “flow through” to the appropriate people and give you the appropriate notifications and reminders at the right times.

Will these systems add to your workload? Overall, they should save you tons of time. Upfront these event planning software systems might require a bit of time to set up and customize. But once you have them tweaked as you want them, they will save you many hours of busywork.

Right now, we are at the beginning of this event tech transformation, and the event management systems will only get better and easier to learn and use. But the days of juggling lots of spreadsheets, documents, email trails and post-it notes will soon be over, and the event professionals that effectively employ the latest systems, software and applications will have a big advantage.


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2. Yesterday’s planner was a master of face-to-face relationships. Tomorrow’s planner is a master of hybrid relationships.
In the past, planners had a very personal connection with their vendors and contractors. You personally knew every one of them and often met face-to-face to discuss important event details and jobs. You may have even done business on a handshake.

Tomorrow’s planner will still have personal relationships with many vendors, mainly because vendors are the key to the success of any event, and you have to be able to trust your vendors to follow through on their promises. However, maintaining these relationships and how you communicate with these vendors will change as we dive deeper into electronic communications and social media platforms.

In the future, you may rarely speak with certain vendors unless an issue arises or you need to clearly communicate and confirm certain details. Or you may find a new vendor based on a trusted recommendation you got from a colleague on Facebook or LinkedIn; hire them via an email conversation; and exchange vital information online regarding the job. All this is happening already, and it will be even more common as we move forward.

Just like you have Facebook and LinkedIn friends and real-life friends (with some overlap), you will probably have some online/electronic-based vendors and some offline vendors (again, with some overlap), and this may even apply to clients (for example, many destination event planners never see their clients until the day of the event). But the planner of tomorrow will be able to effortlessly move back and forth between the real world and the Web to maintain their relationships with vendors, contractors and clients.

3. Yesterday’s planner wore dozens of hats. Tomorrow’s planner distributes hats efficiently and manages the people wearing them.
Yes, you may still take on multiple roles when planning any given event, but as certain event functions become more and more specialized, you will find yourself coordinating among a number of professionals rather than taking on all those roles yourself.

A good example is event design. For the longest time, event planners and managers have included design in their roles, and mainly because they enjoy it and are good at it. But soon event design will become its own unique sub-segment of our industry, and it will make more sense to contract with these folks who focus on design, freeing up your time to manage other aspects of the event.

Event planners have always been savvy managers and coordinators of people, but this skill will start to move to the forefront as event planners start to manage more and more specialists and delegate more of these responsibilities.

4. Yesterday’s planner put on events. Tomorrow’s planner creates experiences.
Certainly the goal all along has been to create a mood and a feeling for guests and attendees, but in the past it was a pleasant surprise when you came out of an event with a specific experience that was envisioned by the planner (such an experience would be similar to how a marketer envisions a brand and takes specific steps to shape that brand image in the mind of the customer). Now attendees expect to be provided with an experience.

It is the audience expectation that has upped the ante here. Haute cuisine TV shows and foodie restaurants have multiplied almost exponentially over the last decade, so now people expect much more than coffee and canapés. Hipster weddings and gala affairs have given people a taste of themed events where every detail has been studied and considered, so people expect this level of refinement in all events. And there’s so much competition among venues, caterers and other event vendors that businesses are scrambling to create a lasting impression for both the clients and planners who hire them and the attendees who sample their goods.

Like in any other industry, it’s client needs and expectations that dictate the direction of the industry, and as client expectations continue to grow, event planners will have to focus more on creating that singular experience that attendees will remember long after they return home.

So what is your opinion on the event planner of tomorrow? We would love to hear your feedback.