Here's a secret most universities don't want you to know: you can be a good planner without having a degree in event management. In fact, most successful planners don't have a degree in this field, since the education programmes in event management are rather new.
According to Tomas Pernecky, the editor of Approaches and Methods in Event Studies, it is only recently, with the international growth of planned events and new industry standards, that we can witness the increase of university programmes offering courses in event planning. No doubts that having a degree in event management can be a plus, especially in the first few years when you want to break through the industry. However, being a good planner is more about accumulating work experience than high grades. And the classroom is not necessarily the most appropriate environment to develop a problem-solving mindset and strong communication skills.
So don’t be discouraged if you don't have the possibility or the time to go back to school. Here are some ideas that will help you start your professional activity without having an event management degree.
1. Try and fail, try and fail, try and fail again
The best way to learn how to be an event manager is to plan small events and fail. It sounds counterproductive, but it’s true! By doing so, you’ll be able to gain firsthand experience and develop a healthy attitude towards failure.
In his book The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable, the author Seth Godin notes, "Fail fast and cheap. Fail often. Fail in a way that doesn't kill you. This is the only way to learn what works and what doesn't." Accept that you won't always get things right, yet know that you have the power to learn from your mistakes and use them as an opportunity for improvement.
Call to action: Take a notebook and write down the things you did incorrectly while designing and planning an event. Identify the reasons why these mistakes occurred and find a way to avoid them next time.
2. Take event professionals out for a coffee
If you want to be a good event manager, learn from the best. There's nothing more valuable than a talk with someone who has years of experience in the industry and could share their knowledge. Don't be afraid to invite them for a coffee. You could tell them that you are just starting out and want to learn more about this career path.
Call to action: Make a list of ten distinguished event managers who are developing their networking or professional activities in your city. Send them an email introducing yourself and highlighting why you admire their work, and then ask them if they'd meet you for a coffee. Keep it short and professional. If there's no reply, don't get discouraged. Event managers are insanely busy, so give them a few days to respond and then follow up politely.
3. Transform eventplanner.tv into your learning platform
One of the best things about the internet is that you have instant access to education. So if you want to become a great event manager, don't ignore the overflowing quantity of online learning resources. You can start with the content we publish on eventplanner.tv. Apart from the useful articles and tips, you can read our book or watch our TV episodes.
Call to action: Dedicate a few hours a week to educating yourself. Create your own learning schedule and decide on which topics you want to focus. Then visit our site and enjoy the content we specifically created for you.
4. Use Quora to clarify your doubts
Event managers don't have multiple forums or platforms where they can bounce ideas off each other and ask work-related questions. However, Quora is a good tool when it comes to reaching out to people who could help. If you have questions or doubts related to event planning, don't hesitate to use Quora and create a new stream of useful information.
Call to action: If you don't have a Quora account, create one - it's free and only takes a few minutes to register. After getting familiar with the site, ask your question, adding the 'event management' or 'event planning' tag.
5. Attend other events
Attending other events is a great way of learning and observing what other event managers do, either as an event volunteer or an attendee. When attending the event, bring a notebook and jot down all the things you like or dislike. By doing so, you’ll know what aspects you could improve and what things you could avoid when planning your own events.
Call to action: Make one list of events you are interested in participating as a volunteer and another list of events you are interested in attending. See the volunteering and/or the registration conditions, then decide where and when you want to attend. Prepare your notebook and write down the things you want to pay special attention to (the registration process, session dynamics, moderation style, engagement methods, etc.).
Nowadays, you have all the necessary tools to become a great planner without having a degree in event management. Always be aware of the learning opportunities at your fingertips and know that you can develop a problem-solving mindset, strong communication skills and a proactive attitude through accumulating work experience.