What is it like being an event planner? While the majority of the work is anything but glamorous, over the course of your career you will get some incredible ‘pinch me’ moments. These range from the superficial; chartering luxury yachts, visiting private rooms at Windsor Castle [an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II], meeting Presidents and working with the Secret Service, to the profound; creating unforgettable experiences for clients/guests, and forming deep friendships by working onsite as part of team.
Below, event professionals describe some the most unique, memorable, and rewarding experiences that they’ve had during their event planning careers—to give you an insight into what it's like being an event planner.
“Being an event planner, you have once in a life-time experiences and meet people you usually wouldn’t. I just met former President Clinton, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Secret Service! Working in this business, you don’t always realize how unique and special the experiences are until you’re chatting to your friend and they’re like ‘seriously, you got to do that?’
I worked on an event for Bank of America and I got to play catch with the Carolina Panthers football team. I literally got to go out on the field and throw footballs around with them. I’m also working on a project for LEGO and get to go to their factory in the Czech Republic, which is like a big kid’s dream. It’s just full of millions and millions of bits of LEGO and I get to meet their master builder. The job provides unique experiences.”
“I wanted to work in charity events because it was important to me to be involved in something that would make a difference. After all the hard work that would go into an event, it was really satisfying to know that the money raised would be used to fund projects that would change people’s lives.
Despite the long hours and stress in the build-up to an event, watching all the hard work come to life on the day always gave me a huge thrill. The events team invariably suffered from post-event comedowns; you’re on such a high for weeks beforehand and particularly on the day of the event, then, before you know it, it’s all over. Then you get a couple of days rest and start getting back to normal work hours for a while before it’s on to the next project.”
“The buzz you get from being in control when everyone else is having fun. I love that point at around 10.30 p.m. when everything’s at its peak and you know you’re the one responsible for their enjoyment. The payoff is amazing.
I thrive on seeing the strength of my team when we’re really up against it on-site, and everyone’s exhausted but they’re all supporting each other. I know we’re not exactly in the army but there are, I think, a lot of comparisons to that feeling of ‘we all look after each other’. So we all go home at the same time, or if one person’s starting to wobble then we’re all in there supporting them and covering their work because we all know we might be the next person to have a wobble. That’s really special. You don’t get that working as a cashier at a bank.
The sensation you get sometimes when you recognize that you’re at the center of a really big moment. For me that was escorting Nelson Mandela to sit next to the Queen at a state banquet. It was Mandela’s first visit to the United Kingdom since he’d been released from prison, so it was all over the media and it just felt like a really big moment.”
“Just being a part of the Hollywood film industry and working on movie premieres and Oscar’s parties is exciting for me. I definitely enjoy the travel that comes with the job too, because I love to see different parts of the world.
Ultimately though, it comes down to the event itself. Despite all the stress that goes into planning an event, I always take a few moments at each event to stop and take it all in; to look at what we’ve created and take in everyone’s reaction as they come into the room, or to walk up to the dancefloor and see how much fun everyone’s having. It’s just so satisfying seeing all of your work come to fruition with everyone enjoying themselves.”
“For me, it’s all about the people. Just in the senior management team of our events group, our SVP & GM has been with the company 25 years, I’ve been here 16 years, and our Director of Content has just celebrated his 30th year with the company. So if you like what you’re doing and the people you work with, amazing things can happen.
What I get out of this business the most is that I get to work with some phenomenal people; real hard workers who aren’t just out there looking after themselves, but they’re looking at how we can all create one amazing customer experience even better than the last.”
“One of the most fulfilling aspects of this job and industry is the friendships that develop through working closely together over many years and the memorable shared experiences with clients, co-workers, vendors and industry partners. I also really enjoy the reaction of a client when they walk into an event and experience the realization of their original idea or vision happening in real time before their eyes. Turning their dream into a reality is very rewarding.
Most people outside the industry don’t realize the thousands of details that go into producing a large-scale program or special event. For me, there is a certain satisfaction in knowing what it takes and seeing the people behind the scenes, making it all appear easier that it really is.
Our goal is to exceed our clients’ expectations and provide lasting memories for their guests that will last a lifetime. In the process, we also get to share many once in a lifetime experiences that very few other careers offer.”
“I think some of the greatest things about working in this industry are the unique experiences that you are exposed to. Although you’re not an attendee at these events, you’re on the sidelines of some ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ experiences—and you’re getting to create those experiences for thousands of people every year. I always say to my team ‘we’re not saving lives, or curing cancer, but there is something really special about what we do because we’re creating memories for people’. These people come to San Diego, Las Vegas, or any of our destinations—keep in mind some of the client’s entry-level staff may have never been out of their home town before—and we get to show them the city and create experiences for them. It is really fulfilling when someone comes up to you at the end of the night and says, ‘oh my gosh, I’m never going to forget that, it was one of the most memorable things I’ve ever done with my family, my spouse, or whoever they’ve brought with them on the trip’. I think that’s one of the greatest things we get to do; to put smiles on people’s faces—and that’s something different with every program.
There isn’t one day that is like another in this industry; it’s always a different client and a different program, each with their own challenges and opportunities. And at the end of the day, when everything’s gone well, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to know that you executed something that created a lasting memory for someone.”
“For me, it’s the privilege of getting to see and do things that other people don’t get to do in their everyday life. I’ve travelled a lot with work, stayed in hotels that I wouldn’t be able to afford myself and been involved with so many amazing and unique projects. It’s such a varied and interesting role that involves lots of great and talented people who are as passionate about it as you are”.
“I’ve travelled to some amazing places, flown on a private jet, charted luxury yachts, worked with famous people - all of which is a huge privilege but really it’s the adrenaline of the event going live, the doors opening, the lights going up , the guests reactions and seeing it all come together with your team that gives me the buzz.”
“It’s a vibrant, high energy job; no two days are ever the same. It’s a fast pace with lots of different challenges—those are things I love about my job, that I get out of bed for.
I love going on-site and seeing all the hard work that I’ve put into a project, over eight months or a year, come to life and everyone walking around with smiles on their faces. That to me is the best feeling in the world. Seeing an event come together and the people sending me amazing emails afterwards saying how great everything was—I love that and, that’s why I do it. I love that praise and recognition, and seeing all that work come together in an amazing project with all your ideas translated into real life right in front of you, that’s what I love.
Of course there’s also all the other highlights along the way like food tastings, amazing wines, flying around the world business class, staying in beautiful five star properties that I would never be able to afford myself and being treated like a royal guest when you arrive. Even though these make up a small part the job, things like that have created some amazing moments in my career.”
“I love the build…the set up on the day of the event, the frantic pace, everyone following the plan and seeing it all come together.
Also, getting access to places that the general public doesn’t get to see. When I worked on the Prince of Wales 50th birthday at Windsor Castle I got taken behind all the red cordons, through the crowds and barriers and into all the private rooms and places you would never see. Seeing the kitchens at Windsor castle [an official residence of Queen Elizabeth II] and how they’re run, that’s someone you’d never get to see as a member of the public, which is very special.
I love being responsible for million pound budgets. On some events that might be someone’s personal money, so it’s a huge privilege to be trusted with, what could potentially be, someone’s life savings. Likewise, if it’s a wedding, that might be the most important day of someone’s life that I’m being trusted with.
Getting the amazing thank you letters from clients and being acknowledged for your work is also a really nice part of the job.
And of course, working on prestigious events and getting to try things like Château d'Yquem ’66!”
“It’s a phenomenally privileged world to be in, so you have to remain grounded. But the amazing experiences that you’ll have will completely outweigh all the sacrifices that you’ll have to make, in terms of giving up your personal time at evenings and weekends.
I’ve got to meet some amazing people, such as Bill Clinton and Colin Powell, but, you know, I grew up in Australia loving the movie Grease, so getting to work with Olivia Newton-John on the Pepsi Celebrity Festival was probably even more exciting for me!
It’s one of those jobs, like being an actor in the theatre, where you experience the audience’s reaction night after night. With the events business you experience your audience’s reaction in real time, and for all the stress that you undergo along the way, the high that you get from delivering something that’s exceptional and having people say 'Oh my God it’s so amazing'; knowing that they loved it and they are leaving on a high.
You always have occasions when you’re working with a team of people on-site and there are certain moments where you feel you could strangle somebody, but actually, you still pull together; because you’re all working as a team to pull off the event. It’s a very powerful feeling. It’s a bit of a drug really, which is why for most people when they work on events it’s very hard for them to leave the business and go on to other things—because it’s very hard to duplicate the adrenaline rush you get from pulling off a big event.”