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I’ve worked for four years as a Group Events Coordinator in the amusement park industry. As an event planner with a fancy title, I’m not just responsible for handling event logistics, but also staff, marketing, sales, and booking.
The day to day entails maintaining and expanding a customer base, handling sales queries, working with customers to build an event that fits their needs, and contacting service companies needed for events.
On event days I keep tabs with customers to make sure they’re happy, and generally make sure that everything goes according to plan. When the inevitable snags happen, it’s my job to solve the problem quickly.
The biggest misconception about event planning is that it isn’t the planner’s job to keep things running smoothly. That may sound contradictory, but many customers seem intent on running things themselves. This misconception may come from the fact that when done right, it will appear that the planner is doing nothing.
But a planner is like a juggler. When done well, it looks easy. A good planner is constantly evaluating the pieces that make up an event, anticipating problems before they occur, and doing any job that needs to be done.
It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Coordinating an event requires a level head, a willingness to get your hands dirty, and the ability to take abuse from clients. I like the fact that days spent at a desk are broken up with the hectic activity of running an event, but it’s not for everyone.
I would rate my job satisfaction at about an eight out of ten. Event planning in the amusement industry generally offers low commissions and open positions rare, making changing employers tricky. Independent planners don’t have this concern, though.
Event planning can actually be quite fulfilling, because it’s about creating memories. People come to you to plan their special day. With over 13 years doing a variety of jobs in the customer service industry, there’s no other job I’ve held in which so many customer’s names and faces have stuck with me.
Once you see a child’s face light up on seeing her custom puppy-themed birthday cake, which you decorated yourself for a last minute birthday celebrated early, due to a death in the family, the hard work seems worth it.
As I’ve mentioned, I work as an event planner for a larger industry. For every recreational facility, there is an event coordinator handling group sales and events. This differs from event planners who work independently, as we must meet corporate standards.
Your level of independence is largely dependent on your employer, and can vary wildly, so it’s a good idea to find out how much leeway your employer will allow before accepting a job.
I found myself in the industry because I worked for a catering company through college. I learned the ropes of setting up events, and how to recognize potential problems before they occur. After college, I found myself best equipped to move up in the events industry and soon found myself working for a fun park.
Customer service inevitably makes people cynical, but I had to learn the hard way that that doesn’t mean you let them abuse your good will. I pride myself on doing an excellent job, but there comes a point where what they want hurts your bottom line.
Take a company picnic I once planned. Being a non-profit meant they had a tight budget. I was happy to work with that, until they used their status to take advantage. They didn’t want to pay for the park shutting down, for instance, and were warned that would mean long lines.
Despite repeated warnings, and negotiating a package at a fifth the normal admission cost for over 200 people, and they still complained, trying to get a further discount. From then on I’ve never booked an event like that without including a disclaimer in the contract.
One thing that nobody tells a person before entering the working world is that hard work isn’t enough. You need to toot your own horn, or most bosses will take your efforts for granted. It’s a secret rarely shared, but getting noticed without looking like you’re trying to is an art worth learning.
Not knowing what’s going to happen is what keeps me coming to work every day. Every day is a new problem, but best thought of as a puzzle. The only truly frustrating problems are those that stem from unreasonable expectations.
Until you’ve had a client ask you, in all seriousness, why you don’t turn off the rain, you don’t know the meaning of crazy expectations. This real example is unusual, but is simply an extension of the idea of thinking an event planner can control everything.
I’ve learned you can’t take things personally, and need to be able to put stress behind you. Aside from the event day, this job only needs to be as stressful as you make it.
Event planners make a median salary of $55,000 a year, but the industry variance is extreme. Commissions help with my overall salary satisfaction, as I have some control over how much I earn overall. If you get vacations, realize that means occasionally phoning in to make sure everything is being handled while you’re away.
Educationally speaking, bachelors degrees are preferred, but industry experience holds a lot of weight, as you can’t teach contingency planning in a classroom. The biggest factor in success in this industry is learning to enjoy organized chaos.
In my case, while I enjoy the amusement industry, I’d like to move on to working with non-profits to help create unforgettable events for people and institutions on a budget.
Event planner image from Shutterstock