May 10, 2024
By Paul Cook

From in-person gatherings to virtual and hybrid formats, event management is a strategic and creative process that involves crafting moments that leave a lasting impression on attendees and drive impact for organisations.

Read on to learn more about event management, essential event manager skills, and why keeping up with event tech is crucial.  

What is event management?

Event management is the process of planning, organising, and executing events to achieve a specific goal or set of goals.

Events help drive business goals in many ways, including boosting brand awareness, generating leads, and supporting customer retention. This makes event management a critical part of many organisational strategies. 

Whether it’s a large-scale conference, trade show, or small meeting, careful planning and execution are needed to create memorable experiences that exceed attendees' expectations. 

What does event management include?

Event managers are responsible for ensuring that the event runs smoothly and meets the expectations of multiple stakeholders. 

Below are seven key responsibilities of an event manager. While an event manager may not handle all of these alone, they do need to ensure that each task is delegated or dealt with. 

1. Event strategy 

As an event manager, defining the event strategy is the first thing you must do, as every other decision stems from it. 

A well-defined event strategy includes:

  • Setting the event’s goals
  • Identifying the target audience
  • Developing a budget
  • Developing timelines
  • Managing logistics 
  • Designing engaging event content
  • Marketing and promotion 
  • Measuring success

💡 Learn more in our Event Strategy Guide.

2. Venue sourcing 

Venues are important because they set the stage for your event, especially with attendees wanting more immersive experiences.

Venue sourcing is, therefore, critical, as the chosen venue has to meet the event's objectives. For example, a venue on the outskirts of town wouldn’t be ideal if attendees expect to travel from an airport easily.   

In addition, you’ll need to consider the venue's sustainability and accessibility credentials, which are becoming increasingly important as organisations prioritise their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategies.  

3. Vendor management  

Event vendors are vital to an event's success. As an event manager, you’re responsible for finding and contracting the right vendors. 

Researching suppliers is an essential part of this process. After all, they need to be trusted and capable of delivering the service you need. In addition to starting the relationship, it’s essential to manage it continuously to ensure everything goes smoothly throughout the event and post-event. 

4. Event logistics 

Event logistics involves ensuring that the right people and equipment are in the right place at the right time so that the event flows as smoothly as possible. 

Logistics includes a wide range of activities, such as ensuring attendees are on the right shuttle bus from the airport to the venue or that banner stands are in the correct breakout room or plenary. 

5. Marketing and promotion 

To maximise attendance at your event, you’ll need to promote it. Marketing and promoting the event through a range of digital channels, like email and social media, is therefore essential, but don’t forget the power of offline marketing, too.

As an event manager, you may work with an event marketing team to ensure the event is well-promoted. While the event manager doesn't have to do all the marketing, you do need oversight of the overall event marketing campaign.  

6. Onsite event management  

When an event is live, it’s critical that everything happens as needed. The event manager needs to supervise everything, including logistics, content, and production, in real-time to ensure it goes smoothly. 

This could include anything from ensuring that all breakout rooms have the right screens and microphones, to bringing forward coffee and refreshments if attendees break early from the plenary session.   

7. Post-event analysis  

The event isn’t truly over without a clear analysis of how it went. A post-event analysis is an important task that helps establish what the attendees thought of the event and also determines the ROI. 

You’ll need to create satisfaction surveys for attendees, with separate questionnaires for sponsors and other stakeholders.

In addition to establishing what attendees thought about the event, an event manager must review any lessons learned from the running of the event. It’s crucial to think about what could be improved for the next time.  

Managing different event formats

While in-person events remain a core part of any event manager’s role, the growing popularity of digital events in the past few years means you’ll also need to factor virtual and hybrid event formats into your event strategy. 

In-person events 

Most often, when people think of events, they’re thinking of live events. 

In-person events involve people getting together and meeting face-to-face. There are multiple types of in-person events, such as conferences, trade shows, sporting events, and music festivals. 

Virtual events 

Virtual events allow speakers and attendees to connect online. 

The big advantage of virtual events is their inclusive nature. They are accessible for anyone to attend as there are no barriers to entry, such as finding childcare support or extra travel costs to an in-person event. 

However, one of the biggest challenges faced by virtual events is providing an engaging experience when people are more likely to be distracted while they’re at home or at the office. As an event organiser, you must consider the virtual experience as distinct from the in-person experience. 

Hybrid events 

Hybrid events combine in-person and virtual activities. They offer attendees and speakers greater flexibility, as they can participate by attending in-person or online. 

However, managing hybrid events is often more complex because of the number of moving parts involved.

For example, the delegates' programmes need to be tailored individually, as online attendees will not be interested in the timing of an evening dinner. Likewise, in-person attendees may be having a venue tour while the online audience enjoys an interview with a keynote speaker. 

There will be times when both sets of audiences are brought together for a shared learning experience. 

What skills should a successful event manager have?

1. Organisational skills

Being organised is an essential quality for all event managers

You’ll need to coordinate multiple activities and multiple stakeholders. This means that you’re often dealing with many concurrent activities, such as ensuring deliveries are scheduled and the event set-up is completed on time.   

In addition, keeping the event to budget is an essential priority that can only be achieved if the event manager is organised.  This all takes exceptional organisational skills.

2. Creativity 

Creativity is important to make sure your event stands out from the rest.

Part of the event manager’s role is to ensure each event feels fresh and compelling for attendees. This can take many forms, such as new ways to hold panel discussions, innovative seating, or menu planning. 

3. Ability to work under pressure 

Event management is a famously pressured role—it's often considered one of the most stressful occupations

And with good reason. Clients, attendees, and colleagues still need you to make decisions when you’re up against the clock and often working with incomplete information. 

Increased event attendee expectations and changes in work patterns, such as hybrid and remote working, bring added responsibilities to event professionals. 

Despite that, event managers often thrive under pressure. Make sure to set clear boundaries, delegate where possible, and automate as many of your processes as you can. 

4. Communication skills  

Effective communication skills are vital for event managers as they interact with people from various backgrounds and cultures.  This is all the more important when working with different teams and stakeholders who may have competing priorities. 

That’s why listening actively to all parties is crucial to meeting their needs and expectations. 

5. Negotiation skills

Negotiation skills are integral to event success. Event managers must negotiate with vendors, team members, and other stakeholders. The real skill is knowing what’s important to push back on and what can easily be conceded. 

Sometimes, negotiation can be more nuanced than asking a supplier to reduce their pricing. For example, imagine that the CEO wants a dance band to perform a twenty-minute slot as an opener on the second day of the conference, but it’ll be too long to hold the attention of the delegates. This is the perfect opportunity to use negotiation skills and see how an agreement that works for both sides can be reached. 

6. Problem-solving  

Event managers are problem solvers, they expect unforeseen issues to arise during an event and know how to resolve them. While many problems can be anticipated, you’ll always need to be prepared to deal with the unexpected.  

💡Check out our guide on how to plan for the unexpected at your events.

7. Tech skills  

Event managers need to be comfortable with the basics of using event tech to make their lives easier, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a master of technology. 

Here are some event tech tools you need to be familiar with.    

  • Communication tools: Emails, instant messaging (e.g., Slack), video conferencing (e.g., Zoom), and project management (e.g., Asana) can help you communicate with various stakeholders more easily and stay on the same page.
  • Event management software: This helps you plan, organise and execute events more efficiently. It streamlines tasks like event registration, attendee management, and budgeting and helps you capture the right data to measure your event’s performance. 
  •  Virtual event platforms: Facilitate the hosting of virtual events, allowing attendees to consume information and network virtually. They offer features such as live streaming, interactive sessions, virtual networking, exhibition booths, and attendee engagement tools. 

The role of event management tech

1. Sourcing venues 

Venue sourcing technology allows you to save time finding the perfect venue for your event. Before this technology was available, event managers had to spend time and energy poring through multiple venue websites, looking for the right info. 

Now, you can simply type in your key criteria, answer any filter questions, and let the tech do the rest. The technology lets you send one RFP to multiple venues and share comparisons with stakeholders. 

2. Event website 

Event websites are easier to develop today because of the tech available.  A good event website helps drive registrations and promotion. It enables attendees to see the programme and register there and then. 

The most effective websites include key features such as clear dates and times for your event, a simple and easy-to-use registration form, and simple directions to the event. 

3. Check-in and badging 

Check-in has to be as simple and fast as possible. After all, no one wants to wait in line longer than necessary. 

It’s relatively easy to use event technology to quickly check attendees in by searching their name, email address, company name, confirmation number, etc. 

4. Engagement through mobile apps 

Mobile event apps are handy tools that increase engagement. Ensure that your in-person and virtual attendees remain engaged throughout your event by providing them with an app that connects them to other attendees and useful content. 

Mobile apps are great for push notifications, which keep attendees informed throughout the event. For example, highlighting when the next session will start or who is speaking next. 

5. Getting survey feedback 

Survey feedback is invaluable data, providing insights into which elements of the event worked well and which didn’t. These insights enable an event manager to make changes to improve future events. 

However, collecting survey responses is challenging. Event technology makes everything a lot easier here. Use tech to minimise survey fatigue and increase response rates while giving everyone a personalised survey experience. 

6. Reporting and analysis 

Survey feedback is an essential set of data, but it alone doesn’t provide the full picture of the event’s ROI. Sales data and KPI information also need to be added to the mix. 

Reporting and analysis tools capture insights at each phase to enhance the attendee experience and event marketing ROI, enabling stakeholders to be kept up to date at each reporting stage. 

Common challenges in event management

1. Budget constraints 

Budget constraints are a constant challenge for event managers, who are often expected to do more with less. 

Restrictions on budgets necessitate that event organisers exercise their problem-solving skills and question the necessity of certain items.

2. Unexpected emergencies/last-minute changes 

Coping with last-minute alterations and unforeseen emergencies is an integral part of event planning. Despite thorough preparation and testing, things may not always go as planned. For instance, a speaker may have to cancel due to personal reasons, or a supplier may face unforeseen transportation difficulties.

The best way of dealing with this is to understand and accept that things will happen and have alternative plans available. 

3. Managing different stakeholders & expectations 

Your stakeholders all have their own expectations of what needs to be prioritised, and you’ll often need to juggle different perspectives.

For example, internal stakeholders like sales and marketing have their own event KPIs to meet, attendees want to network and learn new information, and sponsors want to generate new leads. 

If event managers get to know all the stakeholders well and anticipate what they are looking for, it’s possible to manage the expectations of everyone involved. Arranging a quick call with each key stakeholder is a good way to understand what’s important to them.   

4. Attendee experience  

The attendee experience is a pivotal aspect of any event. If their experience is not great, it will reflect in the feedback received after the event.

To create a positive experience for all attendees, event managers need to put a lot of effort into pre-event planning and actively listen to their attendees' feedback.

5. Accessibility 

According to the World Health Organisation, around 16% of people worldwide experience significant disability. In the EU, this figure is even higher, with around 1 in 4 adults having some form of disability. 

This shows how important it is to ensure that events are accessible to everyone. 

💡 Learn more about how to make events more accessible for attendees

Event management: A complex but rewarding career 

Effective event management is full of complex issues, and event managers can never afford to sit still. With increasingly heightened expectations from delegates and stakeholders, events often need to surpass previous successes. 

Despite the challenges, the rewarding outcomes, such as making a tangible difference to organisations and leaving attendees with positive energy, balance the roller coaster of emotions involved in creating events. 

Discover more about event management in our Ultimate Guide to In-Person Events.

Paul Cook

Paul Cook has been immersed in business events for over 20 years, as a writer, producer, speaker, advisor, and educator. He is the author of three event focused books; Supercharge Your Virtual Speaking, Remotely Engaging and Risk It! Paul is a Past President of the UK Chapter of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and he is currently serving as a Jury President for the Eventex Awards.

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