If you love nothing more than organising a great party and know that you have a special talent for it, why not go professional? Of course, any business start-up needs clear strategic thinking, and to make your new venture a success will take a lot more than a flair for room decorations and great conversational skills.
Business savvy skills you will need to perfect include sound financial management and the ability to juggle multiple tasks, all the while remaining calm under pressure. If you think you’ve got what it takes, here are some tips to get your off the starting blocks.
Build up relevant experience
Whether you have a college degree or years of commercial work experience, in order to become credible as a professional party planner, you need to build up your events industry experience. There are various avenues you can pursue, even during the Covid-19 situation:
- Internships and entry-level work experience: Interning at a party planning business can give you a fascinating glimpse and valuable hands-on experience of real-life part planning. Most successful event planners are desperate for an extra pair of hands, especially through busy times, even though some may only be able to offer unpaid internships. Alternatively, entry-level positions such as Admin/Events Assistant, Guest Relations Assistant or Event Volunteer should give you plenty of on-the-ground exposure that will look good on your CV.
- Finding a mentor and going it alone: If you feel you know enough about the industry to be commercially active as a party planner, it’s a good idea to get guidance from a seasoned pro who has been there and done it. Find a mentor who can show you the ropes and guide you towards developing the right skills and best practices. Take advantage of industry conferences as a great place to learn about trends and make valuable industry contacts.
- Industry training: In the party planning business, formal qualifications matter much less than practical experience and talent. However, any qualifications in the following fields may be helpful: Event Planning, Hospitality Management, Tourism Management, Marketing & PR, Business Studies.
Develop your industry contacts
Every good party planner has the equivalent of a ‘little black book’ packed with professional contacts of every conceivable kind. Treat is as your ‘bible’ – you never know when you might need additional inspiration or professional help.
Who do you call for a wow-effect birthday cake, who do you have on speed dial for the best wedding flowers in London, who can help with country house party venues? Bespoke cake maker Robin Green counts many celebrities amongst her clientele including, recently, Gary Barlow and Rita Ora. Phillipa Cradock was responsible for the gorgeous floral displays at Harry & Meghan’s wedding, and Carrie Larwood knows virtually every unique party venue in the country. That’s how it works.
Knowing the right people is half the battle in the planning process to put on a spectacular event, so network where you can – both in person and on social media. Not only will your knowledge of who can help with what vastly improve the service you can offer to clients, but a wide professional network offers opportunities for referrals and partnerships. After all, you’re all working in the same industry.
Perfect these 4 skills
No matter whether you have your sights set on organising events for corporate clients or private celebrations, there is a non-negotiable list of key practical skills and personality traits that you will need to succeed in your chosen sector.
Excellent people skills are essential for all successful party planners. You need to be able to comfortably connect with people from all walks of life – from high-level executives and government officials to suppliers, vendors and sponsors, venues, staff and guests. Party planning is all about communicating effectively via phone, email, text and in person.
“Planning a party is like putting together a puzzle. All of the pieces have to fit inside your budget,” says Chicago event planner Cindy Shanholtz, and it all has to come together on the night. Can you confirm contract details on the phone while approving room decoration choices and signing for a delivery? Your project coordination and management skills will be stretched to capacity and beyond.
Do you have the commercial acumen to get the best deal for the client? You will need to have a good understanding of the finer points of business contract terms, find the wiggle room in negotiations and pursue the best value in a confident and personable manner, all the while maintaining positive relationships.
Party planning is a fast-paced activity full of pressures to deliver excellent results when it counts and to tight deadlines. Do you thrive on adrenaline and can cope with stress? The ability to remain unflappable under pressure and maintain your sense of humour in the face of (organised) chaos will be a huge advantage.