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Starting an events-planning business

banquet

Event planning and event management is a rapidly growing, multi-million pound industry.

Events can range from the 7.7 million-ticket London 2012 Olympics right down to a small wedding with 50 guests.

This industry is varied and expanding fast - with intense competition and high demands - so how do you get into the game?

Many dynamic businesses offer a range of exciting, challenging opportunities for professional event managers, party-planning companies or wedding planners. Events management is a sustainable industry.

A primary goal for an events-planning business is to create a fresh experience, but still rooted in its founding customs and principles

Fresh experience

Manchester Pride is one of the biggest annual celebrations of lesbian and gay culture in the UK, blossoming over the last few years to include a range of art, cultural, music and social events. It raised raised £105k for charity last year, which 2009 is set to top.

Manchester Pride is known for reinventing itself year after year, a big asset to any event. A primary goal for any events-planning business is to create a fresh experience, but still rooted in its founding customs and principles.

As Pride organiser Jackie Crozier states: "Manchester Pride has traditionally been a fundraiser for the LGBT and AIDS/HIV communities and is the only Pride event in the UK that has consistently done so."

Tradition is key, and valuing heritage can make any event's success sustainable. The prominent music festival Glastonbury learnt this the hard way.

In 2008 the field-dwellers were outraged by the appearance of rapper Jay-Z on the same stage that so many indie favourites had performed on. Noel Gallagher, outspoken guitarist of the now disbanded Oasis, blamed poor ticket sales on this factor, telling the BBC that "Glastonbury has a tradition of guitar music…I'm not having hip-hop at Glastonbury. It's wrong."

Opening Doors and Venues is a corporate events-planning business started by Rose Padmore nine years ago. On her approach to event management, Padmore says:

 

"I have to truly understand what my client is hoping to see as the end result, and what they're hoping to get out of it. The content, actual message, who delivers those messages, getting the speakers and deliverers right, are all contributors to success."

She continues: "A really important factor as to whether an event is successful or not is finding a good presenter or facilitator. That person can be the heart of the event and really make a difference."

Potential event planners need experience, which is sometimes rated more important then degree qualifications. They must be a people person with a go-out-and-get attitude, who relishes the challenge to make things happen.

Skills in staff and budget supervision, organisation and time management, confidence in building websites and creating the overall ambience of an event are also desirable.

In her experience, Rose Padmore believes "the ability to be able to communicate with people is vital. Not just on a light basis, you must be able to really communicate a  message to people including speakers, delegates, guests and exhibitors."

She also looks for employees with "a willingness to work long hours with a smile. Being an event planner is certainly not a nine till five job."

The majority of events planners have previously worked within an organisation; the leisure industry is an ideal breeding ground.

Consultant Katie Martin came from a background in interior and garden design, but after a change of direction she is now a recognised wedding planner featured on the Style Network programme Whose Wedding is it Anyway? She established her business, Elegance and Simplicity, in 1988, and has now planned 3,500 weddings worldwide.

Revealing the secrets of her success Martin states: "My space planning skills, eye for colour, project management and my search for inspiration beyond typical wedding formulas all aid in creating celebrations that keep guests smiling all night long."

Earning potential

The earning potential of an event planner ranges widely. The type of event is a major influence on salary, as is the size of the company.

Salaries for the Beijing Olympics 2008 totalled £24m in 2008, rising from £3m in 2007. Of that total, £4m went to the top 22 event planning officers.

Corporate planners often earn more than self-employed party planning organisations. Padmore says that "from an independent viewpoint," they earn "probably £25k to £30k, but you can have a year where it's half that much. If you're an independent business it's not like being employed."

A typical salary for university event planners is "generally between the middle and lower end of the scale", according to graduate guru Carrie Plescan.

Like any business, difficulties arise and you learn new things as you progress. Rose Padmore refers to how the credit crunch has affected her business: 

"In 2008 an event was in the planning stages, my client had huge ideas, but due to the lack of sponsorship funds we had to shrink it considerably. I instantly learned how to manage a client's expectations and judge their over-exuberance. It made me a little more cautious."

Priding herself on emotional involvement, Padmore continues to attract clientele with her savvy networking skills. She speaks at Birmingham City University to pass on her knowledge, and is currently working on a presentation for a freelance workshop in the northwest called 'Project Management; It's not rocket science'.

Aspiring to be an event manager is a daunting task; background research is needed to ensure success. Attending events and observing the competition is useful to ensuring your business idea is not being done better and cheaper elsewhere. Sponsorship, promotion and marketing must also all be taken into account.

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