What Makes a Great Event Manager?

Download the guide

Sure, it can sound fun to manage lavish weddings, lively celebrations, and fun retreats for a living. But not everyone is cut out for the fast-paced world of events. When you peek behind the curtain, you’ll likely see someone who’s working long hours, under multiple deadlines, and trying to please handfuls of clients at once. It’s a career that requires a certain skill set to succeed, no matter what type of space you’re managing events in.

We wanted to dive deeper into what traits are necessary to make event managing a successful career path, so we sat down with Kim Heiter, events coordinator for Heirloom Hospitality Group, a restaurant group in Asheville, North Carolina. She spoke with us about the strengths that an event pro should possess, skills that she was surprised she had to use in this industry, and more.

Be comfortable handling financials

While the majority of your job is probably going to entail giving tours of your venue, meeting with potential clients, and managing events, you have to keep a handle on financials. You’re going to be in charge of explaining pricing structures and keeping track of payments from clients. If you don’t have an event management software that allows you to easily run credit cards and calculate add-ons (like taxes or customized requests), you’re going to have to crunch these numbers manually.

“Being able to adhere to a client’s budgetary request is very important for building trust and brand loyalty,” explains Kim. “Setting the expectation of what can be accomplished within a budget and communicating that effectively between the guest and your team are equally important. The last thing you want to do is over promise and under deliver. Having the ability to provide real-time financials and adjust them as necessary has made budget-specific requests much easier to manage!”

Be flexible

When you’re managing a venue, you have to be personable and willing to accept the majority of client requests to ensure a positive customer experience. No matter how unique the request may be, the more flexible your venue can be, the more likely you are to get that business and make your customer happy. When you focus and commit to helping a client’s vision come to life, you’ll be able to create a lasting relationship with them, which will help build your business’ reputation and brand.

Be a team player

Whether you have multiple people on your events team or you’re the only event manager at your venue, it’s important for you to be able to work well with others. This includes not only clients, but event planners, caterers, florists, photographers, furniture rental companies, bakers, and more. “While I work independently 99% of the time, I also work closely with our management teams between both restaurants to articulate guest requests up until each event,” says Kim. “Knowing I have developed a strong, go-to relationship with each manager, chef, server, and owner gives me the confidence to keep growing our program further.”

Work well under pressure

The world of private events is fast-paced and filled with deadlines. The ability to work well under pressure is essential to anyone looking to embark on a career in this industry. Whether you’re trying to manage client expectations at your venue or ensure you meet your event sales goal for the quarter, this job requires tough skin and someone who doesn’t crumble under a little pressure. For Kim, responding to leads is the most important part of her day, no matter how many come in at once. “I strive to respond to a lead inquiry within the first five minutes to one hour of a request. I’ve discovered this to be the most time-sensitive opportunity to turn a tentative prospect into a confirmed event booking.”

Know how to multitask

On any given day, your tasks and duties as an event manager could change. If you’re working on creating a proposal for a client and you get a call from a caterer about an event that weekend, while at the same time a prospect shows up for a tour of your venue, you have to know how to prioritize each task and still get them done on time. Organization is key here — figure out the method that works for you to keep all of your tasks on track and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.

Out of hundreds of clients we surveyed, 56% said increased organization has been the most beneficial aspect of event management software. (Gather)

Think on your feet

Managing events almost always means working with multiple vendors and businesses, which can be unpredictable. You have to be able to think on your feet in case unexpected chaos ensues. “While my job is in part to plan for the unexpected, certain corporate style events are challenging to nail down final guest counts in advance, due to the nature of their RSVP system,” says Kim. “For example, a client informed me two hours before their event they anticipated 10 additional guests to arrive for which we were not prepped or staffed for. Fortunately, having even this small window of time allowed me to communicate the likelihood to my team and we were able to pull off a successful event. Now even more than before, with these types of events, we err on the side of too many [guests] versus too few.”

Be able to communicate clearly

The event manager is the first point of contact for a venue when clients have questions about the space. You have to know everything there is to know about your space, from where caterers set up to how many guests you can accommodate. You have to be able to communicate that clearly to prospects — not just in person, but over email and social channels as well. “Whether you’re part of a larger team or in my case, a department of one, the ability to communicate clearly, written and verbal, in a time sensitive manner is a crucial, if not the most essential skill an events coordinator can possess,” explains Kim.

Breckenridge Distillery increased communication between event and finance departments by 80% with Gather. (Gather)