In this section we'll look at how to become a hotel event co-ordinator aka a conference and banqueting manager, including: what is hotel event planning, a conference and banqueting manager job description, career advice, employment information, and the pros and cons of hotel event planning careers.
Hotels that have conference facilities and/or ballrooms have a type of in-house event co-ordinator role. If a hotel has dedicated conference and meeting rooms, the hotel event co-ordinator is known as a Conference Services Manager (CSM).
Like a catering event planner, a conference services manager will liaise directly with the client—who will probably be an event planner—to manage the event from the venue, food, and beverage perspective. This will involve planning the use of the space, including room layout, flow, break-out rooms, one-on-one meeting facilities, staging, production, AV, load-in, food & beverage requirements, and guest accommodation.
Some hotels will not have dedicated conference facilities, but will have general function rooms, such as a ballroom, which are used for both business events and social events, such as weddings, dinners, and award ceremonies.
In this case, the hotel event co-ordinator will either be known as a Banqueting Manager or a Conference & Banqueting Manager. With social events, the banqueting manager’s role has the potential to also include overseeing the provision of services such as flowers, theming & decor, and entertainment.
Similar roles exist, usually given the title of Event Managers, at a wide range of other venues that host events, from museums and galleries to convention centers, arenas, sports venues, and tourist attractions.
Like catering, venue/ hotel conference and banqueting can be a great stepping stone to becoming an event planner. If you eventually want to work in corporate events, conferences, and meeting planning, then working as a conference services manager at a hotel that hosts a lot of business events is a great way in. A former colleague of mine worked in conference and banqueting at London’s prestigious Savoy Hotel, and from there landed a job as a corporate event planner at the investment bank Credit Suisse.
Similarly, if you want to work in special events, starting out in banqueting at a hotel with a grand ballroom that hosts weddings, dinners, and award ceremonies will be good training to work for a special events company. As we’ll see in the next section, one of the contributors to this book, Nathan Homan, went from being an assistant banqueting manager at London’s Dorchester Hotel to starting his own award-winning special events company, Rouge Events.
Working in conference & banqueting at a venue or hotel is another great way to get an understanding of how events are planned and run. You’ll get to experience both the planning stages and also the on-site delivery of the event. Compared to working as a catering event planner, where you might only work on one area of the event, being a hotel conference & banqueting manager probably brings you a little closer to the role of the main event planner—in that you'll have an input into both food & beverage and also venue related issues such as spatial planning, layout, and flow.
Granted, you are still only helping to plan the event from a venue-hire perspective, but food & beverage and venue management/use of space makes up a large part of event planning. Plus you'll also gain experience of other aspects of the event such as arrivals and press lines, check-in/registration, load-in / build / de-rig, staffing and equipment, and production, staging, theming and decor.
In addition to dealing with the client (often an event planner), hotel event co-ordinators have the opportunity to deal with almost every supplier involved in an event, including the caterers, set designers / builders, theming & decoration companies, lighting, sound & AV suppliers, florists, security, valet parking, photographers, and sometimes press & media.
They’ll have an input into how the event planner uses the space, how the production guys set up the stage, lighting, sound & AV, how the banqueting team run the food & beverage, how the decorators transform the room, and how the guests use the facilities at the event.
Working with so many different suppliers and clients, means conference & banqueting managers are also perfectly placed to develop relationships and network, which, as we’ll see in later sections, is how the majority of hiring within the event industry takes place.
As a conference & banqueting manager, you’ll also get a good insight into the technical and design side of event production, such as how empty rooms can be transformed with lighting, draping, props and installations. Or how lighting & sound rigs are designed, installed and operated, and how stage design, sets, and audio visual equipment are used for both presentations and performances.
You’ll also learn a lot about event logistics and operations, both front of house issues; such as capacities, room layouts, arrivals, signage, flow, and—in the case of hotels— guest’s accommodation, and also back of house issues. These include how suppliers load in, set up, and de-rig equipment, parking and storage, noise and access restrictions, power supply, heating & cooling, venue security, kitchen areas, changing rooms, event safety (including fire evacuation procedures, risks assessments, method statements and insurance documentation submitted by suppliers), and how to protect fixtures fittings and minimize damage to the venue.
During the pre-event planning stage, a conference & banqueting managers often holds the solution to a lot of problems faced by either the main event planner, or any one of the suppliers.
When the event planner wants to install a large stage for a full band, the conference & banqueting managers can advise on the best location closest to the power supply to avoid excess cabling along the floor.
When the lighting designer wants to hang lights from the ceiling, the conference & banqueting managers can tell them the best position for rigging points and the maximum weight load.
When the event planner wants to set up a bar just inside the entrance, the conference & banqueting managers can suggest moving it to the far end of the room so that the room fills up from the back.
When the decorators want to hang drapes along one wall, the conference & banqueting manager can advise them how to keep fire exits visible and accessible.
Being aware of all these issues and being able to offer solutions, based on experience you’ve gained as a conference & banqueting managers, will improve your knowledge and skills, which in turn, will help you problem solve when you become the main event planner. Plus, you’ll have built up a lot of great contacts within the industry.
To recap, some of the reasons why people choose to become a conference and banqueting manager are:
For more information on how to become a hotel event co-ordinator, check out this site's companion book Become an Event Planner: Secrets for Getting Hired from Employers, Recruiters, and Event Professionals. Topics covered in the book include: