Event Management vs. Planning: What's the Difference?

What You Need to Know to Avoid Client Confusion

Event Management vs. Event Planning

The event planning industry is host to numerous job titles and job descriptions. Event planner. Meeting planner. Event Coordinator. Convention planner. Event manager. The list seems endless. As the industry grows, so does the list of job functions. While job growth is always a good thing, the range of event planning job functions and event management job titles can be terribly confusing to those starting out in the industry.

It is equally frustrating for seasoned professionals faced with clients who misunderstand the services offered.

“Event management” and “event planning” are frequently tossed around interchangeably even though they are two very different things. Quite simply, planning and managing are not the same. While the skill sets of these two functions do overlap, they are two distinct functions. This creates problems for those dealing with clients who mistakenly think they need an event manager when what they need is an event planner. And for those clients who are under the impression that all event managers also handle event planning. So let’s clear up the confusion because it is important that you and your clients have the same understanding.

Event Planning

Let’s start with event planning. The key operative word here is planning. All events – from bridal showers to milestone birthday celebrations to big corporate gatherings – begin with a plan of some sort.

The initial discussions with clients regarding event ideas, themes, desirable dates and budget guidelines are all part of the event planning process.

Event planning starts at the beginning, from the very early stages of concept and continues all the way until the actual event takes place. And, honestly, for a few weeks after the event as event planners wrap up details and handle follow-up items.

Event planning involves working closely with the client to design an event that reflects the client’s vision of the gathering and meets the event’s objective. Clients who hire an event planner hire someone to plan all aspects of the event, including the related details and action items, and to see that event through until its completion.

Event planning responsibilities can include but are not limited to:

  • selecting an overall theme for the event
  • developing a budget
  • selecting a venue
  • negotiating hotel contracts
  • hiring outside vendors
  • planning the menu
  • hiring a caterer
  • arranging for guest speakers or entertainment
  • coordinating transportation
  • choosing the color scheme
  • developing invitations

Event planning is everything that goes into putting together an event. This function falls under the larger umbrella of event management.

Event Management

Every type of event is made up of numerous parts that fit together like pieces of a puzzle. All of those pieces ultimately come together to create an event. Successful events have all of those related pieces coming together at the right time and the right place, smoothly and efficiently and according to plan. This process is called event management. It is, in simple terms, project management of the event itself.

Event management involves creating, coordinating and managing all the different components of an event as well as the teams of people responsible for each aspect. Some aspects of event management may include but are not limited to:

  • reserving a location for an event
  • coordinating outside vendors
  • developing parking plan
  • designing emergency contingency plans
  • ensuring compliance with health and safety standards
  • managing staff responsible for each function
  • overseeing execution of event
  • monitoring of the event
  • resolving event situations on site

Event Managers and Event Planners Work Together

Clearly defining these two functions is challenging because, not only are they closely related, the responsibilities often overlap.

Individual event planners may offer event management services and event managers may also offer event planning. It all depends on the individual planner or corporate event management team, the venue, and the event itself.

It is important to understand the differences between the two and to determine which services you will provide. If, for example, you offer event planning services for a large-scale event, you will work with an event manager who will coordinate your services with those of the catering manager, the audio visual team, etc. Define your role and the services you will provide and clearly communicate these to prospective clients to avoid any confusion during the planning process.