As I am sure most of us can relate to, each time I am prompted to update my smartphone apps or operating system, I am reminded of just how dependent our society has become on keeping current with all things digital. Not surprisingly, the meetings industry is one where technology has had a pronounced effect on our daily activities. And while I certainly appreciate all of the efficiencies and benefits of using technology to plan, implement and manage projects and events, I also believe that there is often too great an emphasis on keeping up with the Jetsons, er, Joneses, and that it can be too easy to overlook some of the other skills and talents that lead to success in this industry.
With this in mind, I thought it would be interesting to create a list of some of the event planning skills that are not dependent on technological know-how. While many of these skills can certainly be enhanced or augmented by the latest software, app or other technological innovation, none require any advanced technological knowledge. Further, most of these skills are essential to success in the meetings industry and can be developed and improved using old-school learning methods such as reading, workshops and seminars along with personal experience. So while you are waiting for the latest OS software update to download, see how many of the following traits and skills you might want to brush up on starting today to help boost your event planning business or career.
From becoming a better public speaker to enhancing your listening abilities, developing superior communication skills is absolutely crucial in the meetings industry and can build a solid foundation for many of the other skills discussed here. With many free or inexpensive resources (such as joining a local Toastmasters group) available, it can be easy and fun to work on these skills on a regular or monthly basis. Plus, it is a great way to meet new people and expand your circle of influence.
Creativity and innovation
Learning how to think outside of the proverbial box is obviously at the heart of every great event planning career. From making the most of a meagre food and beverage budget by using more seasonal and local produce to exploring unique event venues that can bring added pizzazz without breaking the bank, planners have learned that it takes far more than a university education to make it in this business. Instead, success is often predicated on the ability to see new possibilities, do more with less and distinguish yourself or your clients from the competition. It is creativity that provides the spark to make events and meetings stand out to participants and is an entirely different skill set that successful planners bring to their clients.
Organization and time management
Most planners have long been told that they were born organizers. From understanding the importance of delegation and project management to how to prioritize on the fly in response to ever-changing client demands, organizational and time-management skills are powerful tools to have in your event-planning arsenal. Obviously this is one area where technology can indeed play a major role.
Flexibility and resilience
As with many aspects of life, knowing how to bounce back from adversity and how to respond to the pressure of last-minute changes, building your resilience skills can be an important facet of your planning career development. Some key areas for building resilience include developing coping strategies for handling stressful situations, learning to be more open-minded to new possibilities and building a strong support network to turn to when the going gets tough. As a wise person once told me, when you know how to bend, you’re less likely to break.
Going hand-in-hand with communication skills, developing people skills is all about creating and nurturing relationships. Few industries are more dependent on building solid relationships than the event-planning field. For some great tips on how to build these critical skills, check out my previous blog post and video reports on the importance of cultural and emotional intelligence, two of the key components of developing an outstanding set of highly effective people skills.
Although planners are generally to be found in the background and should be all but invisible to event guests and delegates, that does not mean that a good planner should take a back seat. In fact, leadership is one of the often-overlooked qualities required for success in this industry. For some great reading on how to build your leadership skills, I highly recommend John Maxwell’s many excellent books on the topic.
I know I started out this post saying that there can sometimes be too much emphasis placed on technology at the expense of developing other important skills. However, there is no denying that the digital universe is becoming increasingly influential on how meetings are organized, promoted and implemented. Staying on top of the myriad number of new apps and technological innovations that are coming online every day can be a daunting prospect. But by focusing on a few key apps and social media channels, planners can make the most of technology while not allowing themselves to get swallowed up by it. In other words, try to use the technology without letting it use you.