Breaking into event planning, with Melanie Woodward [Interview]
Event Planners are probably the most passionate professionals in the world. Even before breaking into event planning, we do what we love and we love what we do.
And regardless of the career moment we’re going through, which one of us doesn’t want to have a successful professional path? So we brought specialist Melanie Woodward to tell us everything about the set of skills one needs to start in the industry and to carry on with continuous development.
1. Who is Melanie Woodward when she’s not thinking about the next event or guiding aspiring event planners?
My brain is always going and so I’m constantly thinking about the future and different ways to improve how we help our community. When I’m not helping event planners, I value social entrepreneurship, my incredible friendships and world-travel (27 countries and counting!).
I’ve also been known to start random dance parties, make an entire 6-course meal from scratch and run a marathon and two half-marathons on a dare.
Currently, I’m embarking on a brand new and very exciting journey into motherhood. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out why such a small human needs so much stuff! As a minimalist, I struggle to understand where it’s all going to go. And also how I can neatly organize it so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. Problems I know I won’t care much about once the baby is home.
2 . We see aspiring planners still confusing Event Planning and Event Management/Production, even after breaking into the event industry. How do you see these professional fields relating to each other? And how do they differ?
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to these titles. And, even though an event planner can do event management or production or a manager can take a step back and focus solely on the planning side of things, they are not the same. Both roles are needed but not necessarily by the same person.
In one of my blog posts for The Balance Small Business, I wrote about this topic. Although the names are often used interchangeably, they don’t have the same role. So I think it’s important to both clarify each role and understand why and how they’re different.
An event planner starts the planning process at concept and goes to creation including the wrap-up details post-event. This role often involves just one person who (typically) works closely with the client to make their vision a reality.
Some of the planning responsibilities can include: creating a budget, selecting a venue, hiring a caterer, or arranging event entertainment.
On the other hand, an event manager will often have the same responsibilities as an event planner in addition to managing a team, developing contingency plans, negotiating contracts, and working with venue teams.
Despite being closely related, event managers are seen as the seasoned professionals that have strong industry connections and relationships. They’re also responsible for the entire event experience, including increasing company ROI and selling event tickets.
If a new event planner is looking for an industry job or to start their own event business, it’s helpful to understand the role each plays and the experience required.
3. Your work at Event Planning Blueprint has been widely recognized during these last 7 years. What was the first step for that? How did it all begin?
Event Planning Blueprint was born out of a desire to help more women create the freedom they desire — both financially and in terms of their time.
In the beginning, Event Planning Blueprint started as a weekly blog full of tips, advice, anecdotes, and strategies to start and grow an event career. We have many members in our programs who work as company event planners. So our goal was to help anyone who wanted to learn how to be an event planner.
From the start, our primary focus has been to offer incredible value that helps even the newest event planner easily improve their skills so they’re that much closer to their dream.
The funny thing about being an online educational platform is that when I started Event Planning Blueprint in 2013, I didn’t know anything about the Internet, SEO, digital marketing, or social media. So, my first step was to learn it by spending thousands of hours and dollars learning from the best in the world.
As a business, we’re still not perfect but, I strongly encourage my team to learn and implement and we encourage our students to do the same because knowledge is useless without implementation.
4. What other kind of knowledge would you recommend an aspiring professional to learn, besides event planning/organizing skills?
Business skills. One of the biggest mistakes I see event planners make is under-estimating the value of learning business skills like accounting. Being an event planner is not just about organizing caterers, choosing a venue and talking to clients.
Some of the most important aspects of being a professional event planner is knowing how to create and manage a budget, understanding how to market your services or an event, and how to use event software. If you know and understand how to plan events, and you’ve already done it successfully, then, no matter what your role is or who you work for, focus on taking business courses that’ll help improve your skills.
Thinking about breaking into event planning or just boost your career? Keep learning:
- How to measure Event Success [and 7 points to ensure it]
- 6 reasons why Planners fail when starting an Event Planning Business
- Data Analysis for Event Planners: let go of the fear of numbers.
Visit Event Planning Blueprint to check the newest projects Melanie Woodward is working at the moment.