Perhaps you have always dreamed of becoming an event planner and are wondering where to begin. Or maybe you are your family’s unofficial party planner and “host extraordinaire” and are considering starting your own event planning business. Either way, you may be asking yourself, “Now what?”

Here are some easy-to-follow tips for getting started in event planning.

Event Planning Certification Is Not a Job Requirement

First, let’s clear up the confusion around event planning certification.

There is a general misconception that, in order to begin working as an event planner, you must gain certification. This is not true. Most event planning certifications require at least three to five years of experience before you can even take the test. Event planning certification is a measure of your knowledge of the industry and your experience. Once you become certified, you may use this designation after your name and title to reflect your knowledge of the industry.

Once you have a few years of experience, you may want to consider certification as either a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) or a Certified Special Events Professional (CSEP). CMP is the most widely recognized certification in the meeting and event planning industry. Candidates must have three years of event planning experience and a current full-time job in the industry. CSEP focuses on special events and is the only other openly recognized certification in the event planning industry.

Candidates require three years of experience in the industry and must have had employment in the special events industry in the last twelve months. 

Knowledge Is a Must

Event planning courses – whether they be classroom style or online – can provide valuable, much needed knowledge about how to be an event planner.

You can find these programs at many universities, local colleges, adult education programs and online resources. If you are new to the event planning industry, select something more general for an overview. If you have some experience in event planning and want to focus on a particular type of planning such as special events, corporate meetings or fundraisers, then explore courses that are specialized and will provide knowledge in that particular area of interest.

How to Gain Valuable Experience

Wondering how to gain experience as an event planner when no one will hire you without experience as an event planner? It is a catch-22. But there is an answer. Volunteer. Volunteering your services gives you invaluable experience. Many nonprofits and charities host events to raise awareness and to fundraise. These organizations do not have the funds to hire additional event planning staff; their focus is on raising as much money as possible. Volunteer to help them plan the event and put your skills to work. Work the event and gain hands-on experience. Ask questions and learn as much as you can. Spread the word that you are thinking of becoming an event planner or launching your own event planning business.

Get contact information from vendors and business cards from those involved at the charitable organization. Volunteering is a great networking opportunity in addition to the opportunity to do something good.

Event Planning Is Not about Going to Parties

If you think that event planning is all about going to parties, think again. Planning events is hard work and it isn’t very glamorous. You are not the guest; you are the one responsible for creating a wonderful experience for those guests. It can be quite stressful at times but it can also be a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding. Many components come together to host a memorable event. Excellent organizational skills, attention to detail, creativity and flexibility are a few of the qualities that are necessary to succeed in this business.