Event management and event planning: everything you need to know

What if you had a party and nobody came? Or...what if too many people came? What if your caterer cancelled, your vendors didn’t show up, your budget was completely off the charts, and the venue was double-booked?

These are the questions that keep even the best event planners up at night. And it’s not without reason—unfortunately, the most poorly planned events are also the ones you can never forget. The key to avoiding these disasters is easier said than done: perfecting the art of event management. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through what exactly event management is, the necessary skills and expertise an event management team should have, and the tools you need to pull off a phenomenal event.

What is event management?

Event management is the process of planning and executing events. Many organizations rely heavily on event management一while industries like entertainment build their entire business around events, it’s common for all kinds of businesses to host multiple events every quarter or year. Conferences, internal and external meetings, even client dinners involve some level of event management.

And that very much includes virtual events—no matter where your event takes place, it still requires significant preparation to stay within scope and budget. And nearly all of that preparation falls on the shoulders of the team managing the event.

Skills and responsibilities of an event management team

Depending on the scale of your event, event management teams might plan months, or even years, in advance. They partner with event planners (more on that later on) to create a vision, map out the steps needed to bring that vision to life, and ultimately are responsible for the event itself. Typical duties of event management teams might include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Contacting and coordinating with vendors and venues - Big events can have hundreds of vendors and multiple locations, but even a small event with a single caterer and venue can result in weeks of negotiation and paperwork. Event management teams are responsible for negotiating and reviewing bids, coordinating schedules, and securing contracts. This means team members need to compile, track, and compare lots of information, from vendor availability and line-item price breakdowns to contact information and payment details. 

  • Promoting the event - You need attendees to make an event successful. So whether you’re looking to turn a profit, or win over a VIP client, you'll need to come up with creative ways to promote your event. Depending on your team structure, event managers might partner closely with their marketing team, or be responsible for event promotion themselves, using techniques like online advertising, email marketing, direct mail, and social media. 

  • Organizing transportation logistics - For large in-person events, event management teams coordinate closely with public and private transportation systems to work out logistics like blocking off parking areas, planning for overflow parking, and offering shuttle services to and from an event. That means they need to research, keep records on, and be able to communicate about everything from permits and other public works paperwork to pick-up and drop-off sites for shuttle services. Even for smaller in-person events, event managers need to think through parking and transportation—for example, if you’re serving alcohol at a small dinner, can you offer rideshare credits to get attendees home safely? 

  • Developing safety and emergency plans - As the saying goes: hope for the best, plan for the worst. Experienced event managers have a plan B, C, D, and E. Team members create contingency plans for a whole host of possible derailments, from inclement weather to breaking news events. To do so, they collect vital information like emergency contact details; head counts of participants (attendees, vendors, etc.); maps with clearly marked emergency exits; and more. Most importantly, the event management team needs to make sure they can quickly and easily share these plans with whomever needs them. 

  • Securing necessary permits - Most events require some type of permit. Event management teams must gain authorization to close certain streets, set up stages, and serve alcohol. This means contacting the right city officials, filling out paperwork, and sending in payments. Event managers are also on the hook for maintaining compliance with permit regulations during the event. 

  • Coordinating vendor payments - A good vendor is hard to find, so it’s important to make sure they get paid on time. Event management works closely with the finance department so the company doesn’t incur late fees and maintains good relationships with vendors. To make sure nothing falls through the cracks, team members comb through all of their vendor contracts and centralize key payment information like preferred payment method, when deposits and remaining balances are due, and contact information for whoever is handling payments on the vendor’s side. 

Event management vs. event planning

It seems like event management involves a significant amount of planning, so it’s no surprise that many people conflate event management with event planning. However, planning and management are two distinct functions. Event planners are generally in charge of developing the vision and theme of the event. They decide on big-picture elements like theme, venue requirements, and entertainment. 

Event managers, on the other hand, are the doers. They’re accountable for recruiting, training, and directing on-site staff; booking vendors; handling any unforeseen day-of situations; planning and executing any contingency plans; and making sure everyone complies with health and safety standards. Ideally, these two groups work side-by-side to engineer the perfect event.

The key to successful event management

To throw an incredible event, you need an extraordinary event management team. With so many moving parts, it’s easy for things like vendor payments, marketing funds, parking permits, and emergency plans to slip through the cracks. Event management teams use their attention to detail and organizational skills to ensure a smooth, successful outcome. But even the greatest event management team can’t tackle a large-scale event without the support of technology.

Airtable makes it simple for your event management team to create automated workflows, collaborate with other departments, and store all of the details you need—from images and contracts to budgets and timelines—to coordinate and execute your event. With flexible views ranging from calendars and Gantt charts to grids and Kanban boards, your team can view the information they need in the way that works for them. Plus, integrations with tools like Slack, Google Suite, and Dropbox means your events team has all of the functionality they need, right at their fingertips.

Ready to dive in? Take the first step towards transforming your event management process with one of Airtable’s event templates—you’ll find everything from planning and budgeting to marketing your event.

Start building with Airtable today

About the author

Airtable's Marketing Teamseeks to inspire, guide, and support builders at every stage of their journey.

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