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33 Skills Needed to Become a Successful Event Planner

33 Skills for Meeting & Event Planners

[This article was originally published on our affiliate site PlanYourMeetings.com.]

If you’re like many corporate meeting planners, planning meetings and events may only be part of your job and you learn as you go, without formal training. But if planning meetings and events are a passion of yours and you want to become a meeting professional, there are 33 skills you need to master to become a pro. 

The Meeting and Business Event Competency Standards (MBECS)

The MBECS were created jointly by Meeting Professionals International and the Canadian Tourism Human Resources Council. The MBECS comprise 12 categories. 

Each category requires mastery of subskills that we’ve outlined below. Each one is linked to a story by a meeting professional that we think will help you understand them better and apply them to your work. So bookmark this page and come back whenever you need some guidance. 

33 Meeting & Event Planning Skills

In case you need to visualize the MBECs, we’ve created a periodic chart of the elemental skills every meeting and event planner need to master.

Meeting & Business Event Competency Standards 

A: Strategic Meeting & Event planning

The most important piece of the meeting and event planning process is defining the strategy. Put simply: If you don’t know why you’re having the meeting, you shouldn’t have one. By communicating with all the meeting stakeholders in advance and understanding what they’re trying to accomplish, you’re able to develop a strategic plan that’s guided by how you will achieve their goals and objectives. Knowing that will help you properly allocate budget and staff resources, make smart design and vendor choices and help you prove the return on investment later.

1. Manage the strategic plan for meeting/event

There’s a popular saying: If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. Nowhere is this truer than in the meeting and event industry. If you create a strong strategic framework at the beginning and identify clear goals and objectives, it’s much easier to keep track of meeting logistics and all the little details that follow.

1.01 Develop mission, goals and objectives of meeting/event

1.02 Determine feasibility of meeting or event

1.03 Determine requirements to carry out meeting or event

1.04 Develop financial summary

1.05 Monitor strategic plan

2. Develop the sustainability plan for meeting or event

Event Sustainability PlanDid you know that meetings and events generate more waste and consume more energy than any other American industry except for construction? If you’re strategic about creating a sustainability plan for your event you can have a powerful positive impact on the environment, your participants and your host communities. That’s why integrating economic, social and environmental considerations into your meeting/event design is the second skill you need to master if you want to become a meeting professional.

Being sustainable is more than just eliminating paper, reducing waste and recycling whenever possible. It also involves taking into consideration local concerns and communities, enlisting the help of your vendors to implement sustainability initiatives and measure their effectiveness, and developing a communication strategy so attendees, vendors and meeting stakeholders understand the importance of compliance and can celebrate the resulting successes.

2.01 Implement a sustainability management plan

2.02 Demonstrate environmental responsibility

2.03 Demonstrate social responsibility (CSR)

3. Measure the value of the meeting or business event

Meetings and events are one of the most effective marketing channels businesses have to fulfill business objectives. Studies have shown that face-to-face meetings are one of the top ways to close new business, build relationships, gain consensus, launch new products, train employees and handle crises. Yet, the value of meetings is often called into question by public figures and the media, often because of a lack of understanding. That’s why it’s essential that meeting and event organizers understand how to articulate how their programs benefit the company, achieve organizational objectives and generate revenue for local economies.

3.01 Develop evaluation plan

3.02 Measure return on investment

3.03 Evaluate/audit meeting or event

3.04 Evaluate effectiveness of risk management plan

B: Project management

After developing your strategic plan, it’s time to get organized and develop a framework for tracking deliverables, deadlines and keeping track of all your meeting elements.

4. Plan meeting or event project

With your objectives and goals in mind, you can map out a blueprint for your meeting or event. This framework will help you identify available resources and define the scope of your project. It also will help you set policies, procedures and manage expectations.

4.01 Develop a project plan

4.02 Develop quality standards and procedures

4.03 Develop theme for meeting or event

4.04 Develop procurement plan (acquisition of goods and services, RFPs)

4.05 Establish milestones and critical path

4.06 Develop integrated communication plan

4.07 Develop evaluation/audit procedures

5. Manage meeting or event project

Once the blueprint is set, it’s time to create a critical timeline/path filled with the tasks, deadlines, deliverables, responsible parties and other details that need to be tracked through to completion.

5.01 Manage critical path

5.02 Manage contracts

5.03 Manage implementation of meeting or event

C: Risk management

It’s a scary world, we’re just planning on it. Whenever people gather, there’s a possibility for something to go wrong. You can’t prepare for every contingency, but creating a risk-management plan is an essential part of the planning process.

6. Manage risk-management plan

Outline what attendees, staff members and support staff should do in case of emergency. Provide emergency telephone numbers, etiquette information and run through potential scenarios with your staff. Depending on your meeting location, it may be necessary to travel with or contract security teams.

6.01 Identify risks

6.02 Analyze risks

6.03 Develop management and implementation plan

6.04 Develop and implement emergency response plan

6.05 Arrange security

D: Financial management

It’s easier to save a dollar than make one. Meeting and event budgets include indirect, fixed and variable costs that need to be carefully monitored throughout the planning process. Meetings and events also generate revenue, so planners must identify those opportunities and create plans to manage and maximize them.

7. Develop financial resources

There are many ways to make money off meetings and events, whether it’s from ticket sales, exhibition booths, grants and scholarships, collecting donations or selling sponsorships.

7.01 Manage sponsorship process

7.02 Manage donor process

7.03 Manage program or grant funding process

7.04 Manage registration process

7.05 Manage exhibit sales process

7.06 Manage miscellaneous funding sources

8. Manage budget

Tracking revenue generation and spend is the best way to make sure that you’re being fiscally responsible. But sometimes you need to revise the budgets if projections differ from the actual reports.

8.01 Develop budget

8.02 Establish pricing (for sponsors, exhibitors, attendees)

8.03 Monitor budget performance

8.04 Revise budget

9. Manage monetary transactions

How will you track receipts? How will expense reports and reimbursements be handled? Will there be a master account for vendors to charge? Who has signing privileges? Are you operating domestically or internationally? These are a few of the things that will influence your cash handling procedures.

9.01 Establish cash handling procedures

9.02 Monitor cash handling procedures

E. Administration

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of paperwork involved in the meeting planning process. It’s essential to review and understand the administrative portion of your work so you can create depositories of event information that you or other staff members can access to track baseline measurements, demographic information and other important historical data.

10. Perform administrative tasks

Being strategic in your planning is useless if you don’t know how to operate the software you need to manage the process or report your successes to key stakeholders. That’s why planners need a basic working knowledge of administrative tasks and tools.

10.01 Coordinate office administration

10.02 Manage information systems

10.03 Write reports

F: Human resources

Even companies and organizations that have full-time meeting and event planning departments may need to hire temporary/seasonal staff or recruit volunteers for their events. Understanding how to manage and motivate employees is a crucial part of creating strong, productive, efficient and functional teams.

11. Manage human resources plan

Identify the internal resources available to staff the meeting or event’s planning and execution team. Figure out what additional help is required. Then develop policies, procedures, training and communication plans.

11.01 Determine workforce requirements

11.02 Establish workforce policies and procedures

11.03 Develop training plan

11.04 Monitor human resources plan

12. Acquire staff and volunteers

Now that you understand the gaps in your workforce, develop the requirements and skills candidates need, recruit staff and volunteers, conduct interviews and make offers of employment.

12.01 Develop selection criteria

12.02 Recruit staff and volunteers

12.03 Interview candidates

12.04 Select best candidates and offer positions

13. Train staff and volunteers

People must have direction, goals, deadlines and expectations to be effective and productive. If they’re not properly appreciated or taken care of, it takes a toll on their morale. It’s important for planners to be able to communicate praise as well as criticism in a way that encourages, rather than demotivates staff. At the same time, it’s important to hold people personally accountable for unsatisfactory performance and know how to handle terminations and resignations.

13.01 Provide orientation

13.02 Provide training

14. Manage workforce relations

People must have direction, goals, deadlines and expectations to be effective and productive. If they’re not properly appreciated or taken care of, it takes a toll on their morale. It’s important for planners to be able to communicate praise as well as criticism in a way that encourages, rather than demotivates staff. At the same time, it’s important to hold people personally accountable for unsatisfactory performance and know how to handle terminations and resignations.

14.01 Supervise staff and volunteers

14.02 Motivate staff and volunteers

14.03 Manage teams

14.04 Evaluate staff

14.05 Process terminations and resignations

G: Stakeholder management

Anyone who is impacted by the success or failure of your event is a stakeholder. But not all stakeholders are created equal. Some help you determine the primary goals and objectives for your meeting or event. Others may have goals and objectives that are not your primary ones, but which will influence your meeting or event design elements. Some have very personal goals or objectives for participating that you can play off of to create your marketing and sales strategies. That’s why managing stakeholder communications and expectations is a key skill you need to master if you want to excel in your job.

15. Manage stakeholder relationships

Every meeting or event has internal and external stakeholders—clients, CEOs, board members, participants, officials, sponsors, etc. If you can define what’s important to them, prioritize those interests, issues and priorities, then you’ll be able to determine a strategy for stakeholder management.

15.01 Identify stakeholders

15.02 Assess stakeholders

15.03 Classify stakeholders

15.04 Manage stakeholder activities

15.05 Manage stakeholder relationships

H: Meeting or event design

Once the blueprint for your meeting or event is set, you color in the details with design elements. Meeting or event design elements cover a wide array of details ranging from thematic tie-ins, signage, audiovisual production, speaker selection, technology use, seating, room set-ups, food and beverage menus and program content.

16. Design program

The goals and objectives for your meeting should inform the way you program the content of your meeting or event, from its agenda pattern to the way speakers engage audiences in general, plenary or breakout sessions.

16.01 Determine program components

16.02 Select program content and delivery formats

16.03 Structure and sequence program components

17. Engage speakers and performers

Educational objectives should dictate the speaker-selection criteria. Create a call for proposal, go over submissions and select candidates. Then communicate expectations, set deadlines for deliverables and secure contracts.

17.01 Determine event requirements for speakers and performers

17.02 Develop selection criteria

17.03 Select candidates

17.04 Secure contracts and communicate expectations

18. Coordinate food and beverage services

At a typical day-long event, participants are fed two to six times, including morning and afternoon breaks, receptions, breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s important to chart out how many meal functions you need to plan and understand your audience, their preferences and allergies, because that will inform your menu design and how food should be delivered. Don’t forget that meeting objectives and themes can be reinforced by the menu design, as well.

18.01 Determine food and beverage service requirements

18.02 Select menu(s)

18.03 Plan service style(s)

18.04 Select food and beverage provider(s)

18.05 Manage alcohol service

19. Design environment

The space that the meeting or event inhabits also requires design, from seating and room-sets to signage. Some of these are functional and others merely set the mood, but all are important.

19.01 Establish functional requirements

19.02. Select décor and furnishings

19.03 Coordinate meeting or event signage

20. Manage technical production

Every meeting room requires some kind of sound and lighting design. Other technical elements include staging, video walls, projection equipment and more. It’s important for meeting and event planners to understand the basics of technical production, even if they outsource that function onsite to a technical director, because they will be better able to communicate their needs and question the costs associated with audiovisual teams.

20.01 Determine requirements for staging and technical equipment

20.02 Acquire staging and technical equipment

20.03 Install staging and technical equipment

20.04 Oversee technical production operation

21. Develop plan for managing movement of attendees

A crucial component of event security is ensuring participants are in a secure environment that can only be accessed with the proper credentials. In addition, planners need to consider how they’ll manage the way attendees will be physically moving from one space to another onsite. Transportation plans help planners identify how they’ll manage the movement of participants from the airport to hotel to meetings and offsite venues and if additional requirements, such as visas, might be required for attendee travel.

21.01 Develop admittance credential systems

21.02 Select crowd management techniques

21.03 Coordinate accommodation and transportation

21.04 Manage protocol requirements

I: Site management

The buildings, rooms and outdoor venues you select to house your meeting or event are known as sites. Site-selection criteria, like all other meeting design elements, should be driven by what your goals and objectives for meeting are, because the meeting/event environment can profoundly influence participants’ mood and behavior.

22. Select site

Outline what kind of spaces you require for each meeting, event or meal function. After you research potential candidates, send off your requests for proposals (RFPs) and create a short list of potential sites that you’d like to inspect. Once you’ve awarded your business, don’t forget to notify the other places that responded to your RFP.

22.01 Determine site specifications

22.02 Identify and inspect sites

23. Design site layout

Using the meeting pattern and requirements, map out which spaces are best for each function. Bear in mind that you want to make it as easy as possible for attendees to travel from point A to point B and to create an experience that engages and delivers on the expectations they have for your event as well as your objectives and goals.

23.01 Design site layout

24. Manage meeting/event site

Communicate with your vendors to determine how they will implement your meeting design onsite and how long you may need to put rooms on hold to accommodate the pre-event load-in and post-event load-out.

24.01 Create logistics action plan for site set-up and take-down

24.02 Set up site

24.03 Monitor site during meeting or event

24.04 Take down site

25. Manage on-site communications

Anything can happen onsite. That’s why it’s so important to work out how you, your staff, emergency personnel, security teams and other essential contacts will stay in touch while the show is in progress. Don’t rely solely on cellular signals; they often hit dead spots indoors. Consider walkie-talkies, push-to-talk radios and other technical ways to make sure everyone you need can be found, whenever you may need to track them down.

25.01 Establish communications framework

25.02 Determine and acquire required communication equipment and resources

J: Marketing

Think of marketing as the honey that attracts people to your event. Marketing campaigns tell the story of what your event is, why people should come and creates demand. It can also create a deep human connection between your meeting participants, sponsors and exhibitors and your organization’s brand that creates loyalty and the desire to attend year after year.

26. Manage marketing plan

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all marketing plan. Just as you have multiple stakeholders, your event has multiple audiences that may want to attend. That’s why it’s important to define who those potential audience segments are, articulate what they care about and determine how you’ll reach them.

26.01 Conduct situational analysis

26.02 Define target market segments

26.03 Develop branding for meeting or event

26.04 Select marketing distribution channels

26.05 Develop integrated marketing strategy

26.06 Implement marketing plan

27. Manage marketing materials

Each marketing plan requires supporting materials, each of which may need to be tailored to the demographics of your target market and the communication platform or channel you’re using.

27.01 Determine needed marketing materials for event

27.02 Develop content and design parameters

27.03 Produce marketing materials

27.04 Distribute marketing materials

28. Manage meeting/event merchandise

Whether you’re organizing a product launch or selling T-shirts, any merchandise you sell onsite needs to be priced, produced and distributed appropriately.

28.01 Develop product(s) design and specifications

28.02 Determine pricing

28.03 Control brand integrity

28.04 Produce merchandise

28.05 Distribute merchandise

28.06 Coordinate hospitality

29. Promote meeting or event

How will you attract participants to your meeting or event? Which communication channels will you use to get the word out? Are there strategic partnerships you can formulate that will help you reach new audiences? Your promotional strategy may include formal advertising plans, contests, promotions and messaging you plan to use to increase registrations.

29.01 Develop advertising plan

29.02 Develop cross-promotional activities

29.03 Develop contests

29.04 Coordinate sales promotions

30. Contribute to public relations activities

No one wants to be the best-kept secret. That’s where public relation work comes in. It’s the art of getting people to talk about your meeting or event in the press, online, face-to-face in peer groups or via social media platforms. PR also has a crisis-management function, so don’t overlook its ability to smooth over a delicate situation or provide guidance during emergency situations.

30.01 Contribute to public relations strategy

30.02 Contribute to publicity plan

30.03 Develop media relations

30.04 Contribute to the implementation of a publicity plan

30.05 Manage crises and controversies

31. Manage sales activities

Sponsorships and exhibit tables don’t sell themselves. You need to create sales plans and objectives for how you’ll achieve your revenue goals.

31.01 Develop sales plan and objectives

31.02 Conduct sales activities

31.03 Determine sales platforms

K: Professionalism

Because meeting and event planners have purchasing power, they must be careful to always behave in an ethical, professional manner and not abuse gifts or favors from vendors or properties they don’t intend to do business with. Event planning is also one of the most stressful careers, so planners must understand how to manage stress and solve problems quickly without taking out their frustrations on other people.

32. Exhibit professional behavior

Whether you’re a coordinator, manager or director, you’re expected to conduct yourself professionally and ethically. The quickest way to advance in your career is to further your education, so professional development and a dedication to continuous improvement play a huge role in how far you can advance.

32.01. Projecting a professional image

32.02. Demonstrate leadership

32.03. Demonstrate ethical behavior

32.04. Work with colleagues

32.05. Work in a diverse environment

32.06. Manage time

32.07. Manage stress

32.08. Professionalism – making decisions

32.09. Solve problems

32.10. Keep up to date with changes in the industry

32.11. Facilitate continuous improvement

32.12 Participate in professional development activities

L: Communication

Meeting and event planners need to have excellent verbal, nonverbal and written communication skills because they deal with so many individual meeting stakeholders and vendors. In order to effectively communicate the value of their meetings and events, they also need to know how to create effective presentations.

33. Conduct business communications

This business is built on relationships. No relationship can thrive if communication is strained, irregular or unprofessional.

33.01. Communicate verbally

33.02. Conduct business communication

33.03. Use communication tools

33.04. Make effective presentations

33.05. Plan and conduct meetings

33.06. Establish and conduct business relationships


This article was originally published on our affiliate site PlanYourMeetings.com.


About the Author

kristi-sanders
Kristi Sanders

Kristi Casey Sanders, DEC, HMCC is director of professional development for MPI.