How young meeting professionals can get ahead

Finding the right mentor is key

The importance of following up with new industry folks at networking events could make all the difference for future events and projects. (Getty Images)

NEW YORK - Becoming an event-planning pro takes time. There's lots to learn and plenty of new skills to master, including everything from how to budget for a multiday conference to negotiating with suppliers and writing RFPs. For young meeting professionals just getting started, we've rounded up a few ways to get ahead.

1. Never Stop Learning
Try to soak up as much as you can about the industry. Learning the lingo and keeping up to date on the latest trends will make the planning process easier.

Following news outlets like Successful Meetings, Meetings & Conventions and Northstar Meetings Group are a great place to start, as they can help you stay abreast of new event trends and technology. It's also a good idea to consider seeking further education or completing certification courses that give you that extra edge.

"[Accredited programs] will put you at the forefront of the industry, learning the most innovative techniques, the most up-to-date standards, and provide additional knowledge on what part of meetings and events you'd like to build a career in," said Lauren Grech, CEO of LLG Agency and adjunct professor for NYU's new event management master's program. "From event technology to event design and production, there are many different avenues that education opens up for you."

2. Attend Other Events
New and experienced planners alike can benefit from attending other events. Set aside time on your schedule to take in a few industry conferences each year to see what other planners are doing. Grech also recommends volunteering at other events whenever possible. You might return with some new food-and-beverage ideas, inspiration for event decor or unique group activities to test out. On the flip side, you can also note what didn't work out and keep these things in mind when planning your own meetings.

"Even a single day-of event experience can be useful, as the classroom teaches you the foundation and skills, but working an actual event allows you to apply them," said Grech.

3. Learn From Each Mistake
Experience is the best way to learn and it often involves a good bit of trying, failing and trying again. Meeting professionals must get accustomed to failure and see each mistake as an opportunity for future improvement. According to Social Tables, an event-planning software company, resilience and adaptability are two of the most important skills necessary to planner success.

Particularly in the events industry, it can be hard to account for everything. Sometimes the venue doesn't work out quite as you expected, or a speaker is unable to make the meeting due to a cancelled flight or family emergency. You'll have to learn to think quick on your feet and improvise solutions. After the event, make a list of what went well and what could be improved. Use this information to better prepare next time.

4. Find a Mentor
In any industry, it's helpful to have a mentor to turn to for guidance. Event professionals just getting started might want to look to a more experience planner within their organisation for advice, suggests Social Tables.

It's also a good idea to attend networking events, which will give you an opportunity to connect with more people. Industry veterans who have been perfecting the art of event planning for decades have lots of tips and tricks to offer.

"Attend networking events and conferences -- and don't be afraid to speak up when you're there," said Grech. "Be prepared with a few lines about who you are and what you do, as well as a few questions to break the ice and get to know them. At the end of your exchange, always ask for a business card. And most importantly, always follow up! You never know what connections will end up being important."

Source: Successful Meetings US

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