The Difference Between Event Management and Event Planning

by Ty Collins on January 8, 2020 in Articles, Communication, Resources, Vendor Management

When putting together a major event, communication is key. Everyone involved needs to use the same terminology so that each person knows what to expect. One area where communication can fail, especially for clients, is understanding the difference between event management and event planning. 

The two jobs certainly have some similarities, but they serve distinctly different functions. A client looking for someone who can do all the functions of event management may not understand why an event planner isn’t able to meet their needs. 

What’s My Job Title Again?

Even industry professionals sometimes get confused. There are a wide variety of job titles and descriptions inside the event industry. Not only do you have event planners and managers, but you’ll also work with convention planners, event coordinators, meeting planners, and more. 

It’s a booming industry. New jobs are being created as the need arises. This is positive for anyone who works in event planning. However, it leads to communication issues when job titles aren’t clearly understood.

The confusion is understandable. The skill sets used in event planning and event management overlap. You can find event planners who also work as event managers and vice versa, further adding to the communication problem.

In order to help clients understand what type of industry professional they’re needing, it’s useful to define clearly the difference between event planning and event management.

Event Planning – Creating the Big Picture

When it comes to event planning, you want to focus on the “planning” part. No big event happens without a plan. Whether it’s a charity gala, a corporate event, a wedding, or a convention, detailed plans are drawn up long before the event kicks off. These plans include finding the best dates and venues, deciding on a theme, and figuring out a budget. 

An event planner works with clients from the beginning. They start with the original concept of the event. From there, they work out all the major details that need to be in place for the event to happen. 

Event planning involves working with the client to understand how the client envisions the event. The event planner takes the client’s vision and works to make it a practical reality. The goal is to meet the client’s objectives for the event while ensuring all the pieces are in place so that the event can go off smoothly.

Think of the event planner as the “big picture” person. Their job is to design the event from beginning to end with the client’s goals in mind. This might include tasks such as:

  • Coming up with ideas for the event’s theme
  • Deciding on a color scheme and designing invitations
  • Working with the client to create a budget
  • Locating the best venue
  • Planning the event’s entertainment
  • Finding a caterer and deciding on a menu
  • Negotiating contracts with hotels and vendors

The purpose of event planning is to get all the requirements in place for the event to happen. This doesn’t mean event planning stops when the event starts. It’s common for event planners to work during and after the event to wrap up any loose ends. The bulk of their work, however, happens before the event.

Event Management – Handling the Fine Details

If event planning is creating the big picture of the occasion, event management is handling the fine details before and during the event. All events are made up of many moving parts. Event management has the responsibility of keeping all the moving parts in motion and traveling in the right direction. When a part slows down or gets lost, it’s event management’s job to get the part back on track. 

Event management works both before and during the event to make sure it happens without any problems – at least, problems the attendees can see. Event management takes the overview created by the event planner and figures out the practical details involved in making the occasion happen.

Event management includes some areas that overlap with event planning. Event management might be involved in reserving event locations and working with vendors to ensure everything is ready for the event. However, where event planning ensures that there’s a venue to hold the event, event management makes sure there’s a plan for parking at the venue and each of the vendors knows where to set up. 

Among other event management duties, a manager might do the following before an event:

  • Make contingency plans for various problem scenarios
  • Familiarize themselves with safety and health standards and make sure the event is in compliance
  • Ensure all staff knows their jobs and has the resources to carry them out

During an event, the event manager oversees all the moving parts of the event. Event management has to coordinate with the venue, the staff, the vendors, and the client to make sure everything is working as planned. 

Event management can also be crisis management if something goes wrong. Whether the entertainers are running late or the conference room has flooded, event management has to be on top of the problem. They have to come up with a new plan that works around the crisis without having an adverse effect on the event.

Even when things are going right, it’s the event manager’s job to make sure they keep going on schedule so that the event attendees have an enjoyable experience. This requires monitoring each segment of the event to make sure each one starts and ends in a timely fashion. 

Event Management and Event Planning – Two Parts that Make an Effective Whole

It’s no wonder clients get confused about the differences between event management and event planning. When done well, both jobs appear to overlap seamlessly. It can be difficult to see the differences. Some industry professionals may offer both event management and planning services under the same umbrella, further blurring the distinction. 

It is important, however, to make sure clients are clear on which duties are the responsibility of the event planner and which are the responsibility of the event management.

Broadly speaking, the event planner’s job can be summed up as “the idea person.” Event planners figure out what the event is going to be like, choose the venue, hire the caterer, and generally get the structure of the event in place.

The event manager’s job can be summed up as “the detail person.” The event manager works with everyone involved – the event planner, manager of the venue, all the various vendors and entertainers – to ensure that everyone knows their job and has what they need to do it. The event manager keeps the event on track and deals with problems as they arise.

If these two functions are performed by one person, that fact needs to be communicated clearly to the client as well. The client will feel better knowing who to talk to when questions or problems arise at different points during the planning and implementation of the event. 

Good communication about the roles of event planning and event management helps the client know what to expect during the event process. By communicating clearly, you can ensure that your client feels informed and satisfied with your role in putting on their event.