Meeting and Event Planner Careers

Name: Jamie Lamb
Job Title: Meeting and Event Planner (& Professional Bridal Consultant)
Where: Middletown, Pennsylvania 
Employer: Self-Employed - Coordinated Dreams
Years of Experience: 3
Education: Bachelors of Science in Business Management, Franklin University
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the median event planner salary.

Meeting and Event Planner Careers

If you're interested in meeting and event planner careers, you don't want to miss this Salary Story.  Meeting and event planner Jamie Lamb told us about various meeting and event planner positions, gave advice for new meeting planners and explained the leadership skills required for successful event planner careers.

Jamie also gave tips for beginning meeting planners on how to become a certified meeting planner, told us about the factors that affect an event planner salary, meeting planner duties and what to expect from both independent and in-house event planner careers. This interview provides invaluable info for anyone wondering how to join the ranks of independent meeting and event planners.

Meeting and Event Planner Job Description:

An event and meeting planner does the budget breakdown and time-line creation of the event, negotiations with vendors on price, and contracts and sponsorships. Menu planning and equipment rentals may also be involved with some meetings. Some larger seminars may also present gift bags for attendees, so this would be an extra task to design and put those together. 

How did you join the ranks of independent meeting planners?

I have always been involved with planning events. Even in high school, I was always the one in charge of planning fund-raisers, homecoming, class trips and the prom. While in college, I found myself getting involved with the local music industry and slowly began networking with musicians. I ended up doing marketing and management for bands, which eventually led me to concert planning.

I have an Associate’s Degree in music business and a Bachelor's of Science in business management; I completed these in three years, which ultimately taught me time management. After college, I worked in the hospitality industry primarily with weddings & social events for 2 years.

I got into planning meetings by getting experience working within a hotel. I was specifically a social event sales manager, but every once in a while I would get handed a meeting. Naturally, when I started my event company, I also began planning meetings.

While working in the industry I became a professional bridal consultant through the Association of Bridal Consultants and took classes on event planning. Ultimately, I knew I always wanted to own my own event planning company.

How does one become a certified meeting planner?

Currently, I am not certified, but am looking into becoming a certified meeting planner in the next year or so. Event Planners who want to become a certified meeting planner should look into Meeting Professionals International.

Any tips for beginning meeting planners on how to stay on budget?

When beginning work with a client, I always get the budget first and then breakdown the different costs associated with the event. If I know ahead of time how much I have to spend in each category, I know where I can splurge and where to negotiate better costs.

Can you explain the different meeting planner duties?

A meeting manager may actually be a sales manager. They would finalize the sale of the meeting, book the space, and then hand it over to the meeting coordinator. The meeting manager is the point person for the client and the coordinator works on finalizing details such as menus, equipment needed and breakout times.

A meeting planner would be either just another name for a coordinator or a combination of the two. Meeting assistants, however, are below these other positions and therefore their duties and salary are lesser. Meeting planners, managers and coordinators all delegate to an assistant.

What types of meetings and events do you plan?

Coordinated Dreams plans a wide variety of events, but here is a short list of the majority that we handle: social trade shows, company holiday parties, weddings and business seminars. Currently, I’m working with a national networking group that has a chapter in Harrisburg, PA. 

I plan monthly meetings for them as well as an annual seminar. I’ve also worked with a few local corporations who hold meetings that require a number of meeting rooms, menu planning and sleeping rooms for out-of-town employees.

Any advice for those interested in meeting and event planner careers?

Being a meeting manager takes business sense. I would encourage them to get a business degree and then work within the hospitality industry to see how venues work with meetings. This will give you the background you need to succeed.

Get as much hands on experience as possible. I can’t stress that enough. I get numerous emails a week from people wanting advice on how to break into the event industry, and I always tell them that they need to go work somewhere to get hands-on knowledge, whether working in catering or as an event coordinator for a hotel or independent venue.

Being an event planner is long hours and weekend work. You also have to be able to see the big picture.  When working with events, you have to see and anticipate everyone else’s job and plan for the worst.  If you don’t have the gift to plan ahead and see the big picture, events probably aren’t for you.

What is the outlook for meeting and event planner careers?

As an independent meeting planner, I believe it is slowing because more and more companies are hiring in-house planners.

I believe the event industry is booming right now thanks to the recent television shows featuring event planners. Once again though, companies are only going to take on event planners that have the experience backing them. The downside to the industry becoming so popular is that people who plan just one event think they should do it full-time.

What factors can affect a meeting and event planner salary?

Event planners working in larger cities will definitely see a higher income potential than those working in less populated areas. Areas like Philadelphia, New York, and Los Angeles have higher populations and therefore have more of a demand for event planners.

Event planners that start their own company may struggle with income in the beginning, but if they’re good at what they do, and are good business owners, they will see their income rise with no fear of a “ceiling." However, working for a company will give stability, and depending on the metropolitan area, a meeting and event planner salary can range anywhere from $30K to $80K.

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