All posts in “event planner”

10 Questions from an Intern – My Journey as an Event Professional

IMG_6625I had the opportunity to work with an intern, Erin Quadrozzi, a Hospitality student at Endicott College, over the winter break. She was a delight to have in our office and it was a pleasure showing her “the ropes” onsite at events and during the planning phases of several upcoming events. I’d like to share 10 questions that Erin asked during her parting interview about my career path, a typical day for an event planner and how to prepare for a career in events.

1. What is your professional background and how did you decide to work in this field?
I began my career as a volunteer for a youth leadership organization while I was working in the insurance industry in Boston in my early twenties. I liked organizing, working with people, seeing how solving complex organizational challenges was rewarding and fun. It was a very social experience – collaborative and altruistic – providing high school students with a chance to interact with community leaders.

I joined my father’s moving and storage business shortly after and began working with exhibit and display customers – shipping their booths to trade shows across the county. It was then that I was asked to assist with a hospitality event for customers of one of my trade show clients. They saw that I was organized and was a reliable partner for them, so I said yes to helping. The woman who had asked me was going on maternity leave and planned to come back to finish the planning for this event, but never did, so I saw it to fruition. It was in New Orleans in 1991. We hosted the event at Mardi Gras World where all the floats from the parade are stored. From then, I planned their annual event each year at locations in the US where the show was being held – Atlanta, LA, Dallas, Chicago, New Orleans. At that time, I relied on my colleagues in the International Special Events Society to help me resource vendors and venues. It was before the internet became widely used, so I did all my investigative work through phone calls and the yellow pages. It was exciting traveling to these different locations and creating an event that provided a social experience while meeting the client’s sales and marketing initiatives.

2. What degree(s), coursework, and skills are most helpful to persons entering this field?
I have made a conscious effort to help those who want to enter into the field or advance their careers by sharing my expertise and bringing my colleagues together to also serve as instructors, lecturers and mentors with an online program – Special Events Institute. It’s been rewarding and exciting to see so many event enthusiasts learn from best practices and not have to do it the hard way – by trial and error. I think a combination of course work – either in your community or online – is a great starting point. Add volunteerism, working with a mentor or an internship to put what you’ve learned into action. Those two components will help build an event professional’s skills and confidence.

3. What other careers (or job titles) are related to work in this field?
Event Marketing, Fundraising or Development for Nonprofits, Academic Event Planning, Hospitality, Hotel and Restaurant Management, Wedding or Social event planning, Tour or Travel Specialist – so many industries use qualified organizers or planners to meet their goals – it’s all about creating the experience.

4. What professional organizations (and/or publications) related to this field provide resources for students to help them learn more?
These are the organization that I have found most helpful. For a full list, you check Appendix B in both of my books – How to Start a Home-based Event Planning Business and How to Start a Home-based Wedding Planning Business.
MPI – Meeting Professionals International
PCMA – Professional Convention Management Association
ISES – International Special Events Society
NACE – National Association of Catering Executives

5. What do you like and dislike most about your job?
I like the journey – seeing a need and figuring out how to make it happen. I like to see people come together for a purpose and enjoy the experience. I like solving problems, overcoming challenges. I like making something new and different through a creative experience. It’s challenging to have prospects that don’t understand the value of a professional, or who don’t heed your advice. Especially when it comes to safety issues or recommendations to create unique elements of an event. At times, a client comes in with ideas that they have seen or heard about and want to do the exact same thing. It’s more fun if they let you as the event professional, add some nuances or style to make it their own, or do it in a way that will yield a better result.

6. What are advantages and disadvantages of working at small and large organizations?
Small companies allow you to get involved with many aspects of the planning process. You see something from start to finish. On the other hand, you have to do a lot yourself at times. You don’t necessary have the “team” to hand things off to, but you can create your own team of event colleagues and vendors to be your strategic partners and support you. They can fill in when you need them and round out the skills that you have.

Working in a large company, you have access to more resources – an IT department, a marketing department, a travel department – it’s nice being able to dial a number or send an email and have your computer fixed or flight booked. The downside may be that there are more levels of approvals or management – and you may not be able to see all parts that go into the end result of an event.

I have worked as a small business owner for my most of my career, but have had amazing strategic partners that have allowed me to plan large-scale events worldwide, so it is all about the team, no matter the size of the company your work in.

7. If you had to start over again, would you do anything differently? If so, what?
Not really – I have been fortunate to meet many people, travel the world and experience the pleasure of creating successful events that have made a difference to so many people. I have enjoyed the variety of clients – social, nonprofit, corporate, community and academic – and that diversity has really enriched my life. I also have been able to balance my work life with a full home and personal side – having a family, great friends and I enjoy the outdoors when I can. I have no regrets and now, after 29 years in the industry, really love to hear that I have inspired or helped someone who dreams of having a career in events. It’s been very rewarding!

8. How much do you travel for work? Why? How do you balance this with your personal life?
Now I don’t travel as much, but when I did for client events, site inspections or meetings, I relied on support from family and professional services so my children were safe and happy. I have been in a book group for 25 years (although I must admit, I don’t read the book all the time), and love to grow vegetables in the summer, walk my dogs and be outdoors when possible. I think multi-tasking has worked for me – walk the dogs and get exercise – visit friends and read a book – garden and feed my family – things that I can do in small doses throughout my day or week that bring me pleasure!

9. How many hours/week do you work? What sort of work do you take work home, if any?
I guess you could say that I would work all the time – but it’s just living my life. I love what I do, so I am always thinking of new things to do, ways to connect with clients, and how to make projects the best they can be. I typically work at least 8 hours each day and some of the weekends as well. I have a home office so it’s easy to slip into my office and jump on the computer. Once I do, I connect with students and instructors in my courses, work on projects, or take care of business details for my businesses.

10. What is a typical day like? A typical week? Year?
In a day, I spend quite a bit of time on the computer – in my courses with current students, on social media, reading, sharing and connecting, on the phone with colleagues or clients or with marketing or business planning details. I also walk my dogs with my daughter or husband daily, cook and dine with my family, visit a friend or attend an event or meeting. I am on the board of an art gallery and am active in my community with events that may be held during the week.

During a week – I have my daily schedule, and on the weekends, try to spend time outdoors, will take my elderly Mom out for errands or to my home to cook and visit and take care of home chores. I also love music and will see live music or have dinner with my husband and friends when possible.

In a year, I attend professional conventions, speak at colleges, universities or at conferences, vacation with my family and enjoy the seasons of New England. I like to cross country ski, hike and walk, swim and visit the ocean and be with my family, cousins and friends. I plan a few get-away’s a year with my girl cousins to stay connected with them as well. It’s great having support and love – and giving it – I feel very lucky~ I’ve had an amazing career that has allowed me to travel, write books, create educational opportunities for others and give back and have fun along the way.

The Balancing Act

Coffee Break

Best-selling author and SEI Executive Director, Jill Moran, CSEP shares her insight on balancing the many responsibilities of an event or wedding professional. From family, to scheduling, to friends and downtime – she’ll share her insight on how to fit it all in and make choices that work for you.

Is it really necessary to have a sitter when I work? My child is only six months old and sleeps most of the time.
If you are serious about your business, you should approach it as you would any other job. You may be able to squeeze a little time in if you have a long and deep sleeper, but you may need to plan for the worst-case scenario. In most cases, you may not be allowed to take your child to an outside office and work at the same time, so why should you expect to have one ear on the monitor and one on the phone with a client in your home office? Noise from children or pets and other distractions in your home will make it harder for you to portray yourself as a true professional. If you can’t bear to bring your little one to a day-care center, consider an in-home helper who can attend to his or her needs immediately. It will take the pressure off you when you are in “work” mode and help set the stage of professionalism for your clients and family.
I have so much work to do; do I really need to take a night off to play? Plus, I love my job!
Yes! Take a break! You deserve to refresh your spirit and body, and it will allow you to come back with new ideas and a fresh approach to each wedding. If you love the business so much, consider a visit to a flower show (you will be getting ideas about the latest blooms and arrangement options), museum (creative ideas on which to base future wedding themes), or the gym to work out (you will look and feel great when you visit your clients). Even the Bible suggests a day of rest, so plan to work it in weekly if at all possible.
How should I schedule my workday? Is it necessary to work from nine to five?
It’s not essential to “clock in and clock out” of your home-based office. By all means, fit in that exercise class or trip to the dentist when you can, even if it’s at 10 a.m. or mid-afternoon. That is the beauty of having your own business. A flexible schedule is one of the best perks, and you will more than make up for it when you work fourteen-hour days on the weekends during a busy wedding season!
Should I give up my weekly tennis match or book group meeting with my friends because of my new company?
Not at all. Incorporate your lifestyle into your new business. Maybe you want to pick and choose the outings that mean the most to you, or make the most sense with your new work schedule. If weekends will be busy and balancing all your extracurricular activities more challenging, focus on the activities that will help maximize your time. Consider attending an exercise class with a group of pals, or play golf with both a client and a buddy to meet both your personal and work goals in one fell swoop!


Free Webinar on Student Events 101 with Andrias White, CMP, CSEP

Do you want to learn more about student events? Join us for this FREE WEBINAR – Wednesday, July 22, 12:00 PM EST!

If you are in charge of student events at your school, on an event team at a college or university, or just want to broaden your event planning skills, mark your calendar and join us for our FREE WEBINAR with Andrias White, CMP, CSEP of George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.

Andrias White, CMP, CSEP

Andrias J. White, CMP, CSEP Event Manager, Office of Admissions Director of Logistics, Washington Scholars Program George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

12:00 PM (Noon) EST


Here’s what we’ll cover:

* Types of Student Events – from Concerts to Homecoming – Spring Fest to Alumni Weekend

* Challenges on College Campuses – scheduling, budgeting, vendor management and more

* Managing Staff and Volunteers – recruitment, training, evaluation and recognition

* Engaging Faculty and Staff – protocol, processes and partnerships for maximum impact

* Marketing and Communications – how to best communicate with your target audience

* Partnering for Success – working with your constituents for success

She’ll share what it’s like to be a busy Academic Planner and how to best address the need to create successful student-focused events on campus.

We hope to see you next Wednesday!

jsmoran signature

Executive Director – Special Events Institute

PS: We’ll be sharing a SPECIAL OFFER for all attendees! Don’t miss out!

Sharing the creative wealth!

Wedding & Event Planners Yard SaleCan you relate to the challenge of finding just the right platters for that Hawaiian themed event? Or the buffet or event decor that would take that your special event or party to the next level? Or not wanting to leave behind those vases and wedding decor that could be used for another wedding or event?  While I have re-purposed and reused many a floral centerpiece, vases and novelty items, there comes a time where you start feeling like a rental company and not an event planner!

After many years planning fun, creative and unique weddings and events, I have collected quite an assortment of decor and specialty items. It seems a shame to have them tucked away waiting to be used again and not enjoyed by other planners for their upcoming event! My “GIANT YARD SALE” that I hosted at my home sent a few items on their way, but there are still beautiful mercury vases, seashell platters and blue and green sand dollars and starfish that are looking to brighten up another special event. And lots of vases too!

So, I started a Facebook Group called Wedding and Event Planners Online Yard Sale. Request to join and you’ll find a great community of event designers and planners that my have items to share or buy!  I hope this will also spark some creative ideas as you peruse the items listed for sale.  You’ll be responsible for working out the purchase and delivery details, but you just might find that perfect item for your next wedding or event!  Enjoy!

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Evening of Sass with Steve Kemble

IMG_2888It’s always great to carve the time to meet up with industry colleagues and enjoy a night of education and fun!  ISES New England did a great job at their May meeting choosing the Music City Queen docked behind the Boston Harbor Hotel as the floating venue for an evening with America’s Sassiest Lifestyle Guru, Steve Kemble. Steve’s infectious laugh, hilarious comments and candid stories entertained and educated us all on how to create a brand that allows us to showcase our best qualities and connect with the RIGHT clients.

Here are a few takeaways from Steve’s chat:

  • Figure out who your ideal client is and focus on them – find out how you can over deliver and make them want to come back for more!
  • Create a brand and a tag line that works for you.
  • Use a focus group to test your brand building.
  • Choose your company name and brand wisely and walk the walk – live it in how you dress, what you drive and how you face off to the world.
  • Consider tying your brand to YOU – and connect on a personal and real level with your clients so they get to know you.
  • Overhaul your website and launch it only when it’s finalized.
  • Get savvy with Social Media – create a blog and post regularly (I listened Steve!), tweet and post on FaceBook and Instagram.
  • Market yourself in various forms – newsletters, articles, television or radio.
  • Consider hiring a publicist – they can help you to juggle all the channels and coach you on taking the right steps to skyrocket your brand.
  • Don’t overlook your professional image – from a handshake to thank you notes – make an impression that is lasting and positive and showcases your talents and style the way you want it to!

IMG_2889UD Kitchen hosted delicious Thai-Asian bites, and Gordon’s Fine Wine’s and Liquor’s provided refreshments. Thank you also to Shutterbooth New England for the fun photo booth!

A big shout out to my friend and colleague Karen Salhaney and the recent Event Management graduates who joined her. It was great to meet them all and host a mini-book signing of my Event Planning and Wedding books!  It’s inspiring to see their passion for the industry and the steps they are taking to prepare themselves for successful careers as event professionals!  Congratulations to all!

Career Tips: Working out of the home

IMG_4610Business software seems very expensive. Do I need event planning software right away, or should I wait until I have multiple clients?

To get your business off to a professional start, I would recommend a basic office suite that, at the very least, includes word processing for letters, proposals, invitations, and menu cards, and a spreadsheet program for budgets, lists, and charts. (You can add to this with specialized software for wedding planners as you grow.) Doing things from scratch will help you develop some basic skills to keep your business and your clients organized and to help you understand the basic steps of your wed- ding planning business. If you don’t want to invest in financial software, you could create your invoices in Excel, but as soon as you can, it would be worth streamlining things and moving to a program that interacts with online banking and your receivables and invoices, such as QuickBooks.

How do I separate my household to-do lists from my event business or wedding planning to-do lists?

While lists are important, too many lists can be overwhelming. Since you may be responsible for being at every business appointment and lacrosse game, a master appointment schedule is the way to go. To complement your appointment book or smartphone or computer calendar, to-do lists will keep you on track to get things done on time. Too many items on your lists can be difficult to manage, so consider grouping them by clients or projects. I am not advocating leaving out details—in this business, it is important to remember even the smallest task—but to organize them in a manageable fashion. I recommend having a notebook or computer document that you can use to create your to-do list, which can be updated daily or weekly. I also have a notebook by my bed that I use to jot down things that I need to get done the next day; by writing them down, I can put them out of my head and get a good night’s rest. I also have small note- books and sticky pads handy in my car and purse for phone messages or things I don’t want to forget; I jot them down and transfer them later to my master to-do list. For your home tasks, consider using a corkboard or message area to enlist the help of other family members in getting things done, thereby removing some of the burden from your shoulders.

I don’t know any specialty vendors. How do you compile and build a list of vendors/resources?

The best way to find good vendors is to ask someone who has used them. If you can put together a networking group to share ideas and issues, you will learn who your colleagues are using and who they have had success or problems with. If you join an industry group such as the International Special Events Society (ISES) or the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), you will have access to monthly meetings and wedding professionals who attend meetings and are members. These are great resources for building your little red book of names and contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask hotels or country clubs you visit who they have had success with. They will be happy to share their top picks for floral designers, photographers, or limousine services.

How many clients should I take on in my first year?

Depending on how much time you have and whether you will start your business full-time or ease into it will determine how much you can take on at the start. My advice would be to apprentice with an experienced planner at the outset, and also offer to help a close friend or family member with his or her nuptials. Start with a smaller wedding with traditional details and ease into the destination or multicultural affairs. During high wedding season (spring and fall), you could end up with a wedding each weekend, but I wouldn’t take on more than two per month to start with. Once you get your planning timelines established and resources lined up, you can take on more as you feel comfortable. At the beginning, you will be doing most of the planning, meeting, and legwork yourself, so make sure you allot sufficient quality time for all of your clients to keep your business and reputation solid.

Spring 1 Term begins March 9th

Join us for our Spring 1 term which begins on March 9th and runs through May 3rd. Register for courses in our Special Events Certificate Program or for one of our Specialty Courses – Academic Event Planning or Weddings. You can find more about the classes on our MORE tab or register on the GET STARTED tab. Join event enthusiasts from across the globe in these award-winning courses to launch and expand your career as an event professional!
Young Businesswoman

Here’s what one of our student had to say:

“Overall, I greatly enjoyed my first course with Special Events Institute. I learned a tremendous amount – more than I anticipated.


My favorite topics and assignments included creating proposals in topic 5 and topic 7 which involved budgeting and financial/time management. They were both informative and the activities allowed me to explore and experiment with creating tools for events that will prove to be incredibly necessary.


The informative videos that went along with some of the topics, and the interactive assignments were really gratifying, both based on educational value and fun! Thank you so much more this experience and I look forward to moving on to course 2!”

Are you ready to join the next class?  What are you waiting for!  It’s fun, informative and if you have been thinking about taking the next step to get the confidence to plan events like a pro – we can help.

We also offer college credit through the Van Loan School at Endicott College and credit hours toward your CMP recertification.   For more information, email us at or call us at 855-271-6636.

Meet Your Instructor: Karen Salhaney

karen salhaneyKaren Salhaney is SEI’s current instructor for Course 5: Event Management and Leadership.


What made you decide to become an event planner and what do you currently do professionally (aside from teach with SEI)?

Becoming an event planner was not a career I intentionally planned. As a matter of fact, I was running a successful Insurance Agency and never thought I’d ever blossom into an event professional.  However, it was through my philanthropic leadership while I was volunteering at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital that I discovered the love of bringing people together in a positive way — this magical feeling came from organizing fundraising events.  Over time, I came to realize that my passion was deeply imbedded in the event industry.  I thought, instead of managing insurance portfolios, why not manage events.  I took my volunteer experience and transferable skills of critical thinking, organization, and building good relationships which eventually evolved into a fulfilling event planning career.  I started at a Trade Show Exhibit firm, then to owning my own Event Management Company and finally to being a Director of Events for a nonprofit organization  I currently consult and teach Event Planning — and feeling very satisfied!


What SEI course do you teach and why do you enjoy it?

I currently teach the Event Management and Leadership course at SEI.  Being confident and well prepared while managing people and projects is critical. This course elevates ones competencies and confidence in the areas of events, financial, service and business management — all absolutely necessary as an event leader in our professional.  I get a lot of joy watching a student excel when they utilize the management tools that SEI has provided when planning a successful project and unveiling their creativity.


What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an event planner?

As we know, having a good relationship with clients, vendors, employers and your event team is very important.  As much as we can feel prepared through the event process, my biggest challenge where the times that communication was lacking.  I have discovered that we can not assume anything when planning an event and that it is better to over communicate then under communicate.


What advice do you have for the current SEI students?  As an event planner, being an astute listener can help ensure you come up with a special event that the client wants.  While listening seems like an easy skill to master, always remember that you involve:  paying attention, understanding and remembering.


When hiring, what type of qualities do you look for in an event planner new to the industry?

For me, it’s all about being positively authentic, efficient and organized.   When it comes to hiring an event planner, I will always choose the person who has a polished appearance, is respected, a positive attitude, is extremely resourceful and is always enthusiastic.

Alumni Corner: Lisa Perkins of Luck Companies

Lisa Perkins - 2014 Graduate Luck Companies - Richmond, VA

Lisa Perkins – 2014 Graduate
Luck Companies – Richmond, VA

What made you decide to enroll at SEI and become an event planner?
I decided to enroll in SEI, because of the courses the program offered. The course being online fit into my current work schedule. I decided to take this course working toward an Event Planner role with my current organization.

What was your favorite SEI course and why?
My favorite course was Event Design and Décor, this course allowed us to put the learning elements together. Having the visual of what you are learning while using the application of the elements.

What was the biggest takeaway from your studies with Special Events Institute?

My biggest takeaways was truly learning all of elements and practices it takes to put on an awesome event. I learned how to generate and complete checklists for events no matter the size to ensure every element is accounted for.

What next steps did you take after receiving your Certificate from SEI?
I generated a Business Plan and presented to the organization to move forward with the Event Planner role. Since that, I have been working on events within the organization, displaying the true need for a permanent Event Planner. It has be a wonderful experience. I am anxiously awaiting the Specialty Courses coming this Summer, so I can complete the entire program and move forward with my CSEP.

What advice do you have for the current SEI students?
The possibilities of events are endless. Take every opportunity to reach out to others, sharing ideas and asking their advice. Reach out to Instructors, encourage them to challenge you. The responses you will get are incredible and will help you become the best Event Planner you can be.

Career Tips: So you want to get serious about planning special events?!

Gene DeCosta, Root Catered Events

Gene DeCosta, Root Catered Events

Should I quit my job to start my own business?

Depending on the financial support or savings you currently have, it may make sense to begin your event business on a part-time basis. Many events can be done in the evenings or on weekends. You may be able to begin working with other seasoned planners to get your experience and once you have a solid working knowledge of the process, go out on your own. To move from a part-time to full-time commitment will take a solid client base that will guarantee repeat business and repeat income. You also need to consider the cost of health care and your fixed living expenses. Make sure your event business can offset these costs and put you in a positive cash-flow position.


I am not very organized and hate the minute details of things, but I love parties . . . can I be an event planner?

There are some basic skills that will be necessary to build a successful event planning business. Creativity is one of them, but organization and attention to detail come right behind. Building a successful business will require a good reputation and delivering excellent service. If the little details drive you crazy and you can’t be bothered to figure out how to “right” the “wrongs,” you may be better off filling your schedule with parties to attend, not plan. If you think you have what it takes but need some honing of skills or support in a few areas of business know-how, consider teaming up with someone who complements the skills you have.

How do I take my background in catering and launch my own event business?

It is helpful to have a background in hospitality or business if you want to focus on special events. You can take the training and experience you have and round it out with specific training in events or management from local colleges, universities, or at industry conferences.

I love all kinds of celebrations . . . what type of events should I focus on doing?

Plan to focus on the type of events that you are most comfortable with or have the most experience in. If you come from a corporate background, it may be easier for you to relate to the corporate market—and vice versa with a bride or groom if you have experience in social events. You already may know the lingo and the culture. Start with something you are familiar with and see where your successes take you. If you are chomping at the bit to make a big change, just get the training you need before taking the leap!