How to be a Creative Event Planner

The word “Creative” gets thrown around a lot in the event planning industry.  So how do you define what it means to be creative and better yet, how do you BECOME creative?  It’s really quite easy: switch the word creativity with resourcefulnes.  Creativity is a pretty open-ended term for being able to think outside the box and on your feet, putting things together and having a successful event.  While creativity suggests that you are able to just pull things out of thin air, to really be the kind of event planner that gets labeled as creative, you need to expand your resource pool. Part of what I love about writing this blog is the fact that it requires me to do research, meet other people and learn new ideas.  When you take the time to learn about the people you work with and how they operate (i.e. vendors), you can foresee some of the challenges that may or may not work in your situation.  Then instead of trying 10 different options to see what works you can jump ahead and operate more efficiently.  So here are 4 tips to help you become more creative (aka resourceful) and a successful event planner.

1. Be Talkative
In events, hospitality and entertainment personality is key.  Event Planners tend to be outgoing and friendly individuals.  Use those qualities you already have to get to know your clients, vendors and people you interact with.  Apply it to something valuable to your own career.  Rather than just remembering the names of their kids or a birthday (not that that isn’t important), take an extra 5 minutes to learn about that person’s trade or line of work. ASK questions. “Can you accommodate this?”  “What would you do for a situation like…”  You don’t need to have a list of scenarios on you at all times, but make the effort to know as much as you can.  If you do this for most of your encounters on a daily basis you’ll be surprised how much you can learn.

2. Really Learn Your Own Industry
There are so many aspects of event planning and it all varies.  Even if you’ve been working in the same field for 20 years things change.  Don’t assume you know everything about it just because you’ve been doing it awhile.  Clients are always impressed by the latest and the greatest.  (Why do you think Apple has  new products all the time?) Make the effort to learn about the trends for the year and what is happening in your industry NOW.  If you can combine the knowledge you gain from being talkative with the most recent trends of your industry you will be on top of things and ahead of the game!

3.Try to Learn Other Industries
In Events, things tend to overlap.  While your primary focus should be learning about your own area, where you can really push into your resourcefulness is by learning how it works in other industries.  You may be a great meeting planner, but you could be better by incorporating new or creative ideas from a technical trade show for example.  There are innovative people in every industry and if you can creatively replicate those ideas into your own field of work, you’re proving that you can spice things up and add something fresh and new to the usual — something creative.

4. Volunteer
While all of us are undoubtedly busy, for most people there is some down time – even if it’s short and sweet.  The main component for building your creative skills is knowledge. Take your skill set and offer to volunteer for a local non-profit.  Whether it’s fundraising or putting together a small event or just participating in something, this will give you an opportunity to learn about a completely new area depending on the organization you choose.  (www.chicagononprofit.org is great resource for find a non-profit organization to work with in the Chicago area.)
Go outside your comfort zone and pick a non-profit that is different than your usual interests (if you are normally a women’s shelter kind of person, choose something with Vets or medical).  Not only will you be a helpful member of society and give something to those who need it, but you will have another outlet for creativity.

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