As a college student interested in event planning, you may feel you must wait until after graduation to start your career in the events industry, but that’s not true!
Here are five (5) strategic ways to immerse yourself in the events industry as a college student.
1. Join Event Industry Groups on Your College Campus
There are numerous event planning associations, organizations that bring together business professionals to help elevate their careers. Examples of event planning associations with chapters worldwide include The National Association for Catering and Events, International Live Events Association, Event Service Professionals Association, and American Planning Association. These associations offer student memberships, thus allowing part-time and full-time students enrolled in an accredited college or university hospitality undergraduate or graduate program to join the association for a discounted rate. With a student membership, students have full access to the association’s benefits that include but are not limited to, a business network, ongoing education, partner benefits, and information on trends and innovative approaches to hosting events with a competitive edge.
One of the most highly recognized groups that often has chapters on college campuses is Meeting Professionals International, an international association that has more than 18,500 members and 80 chapters in 22 countries. As a member of your school’s MPI chapter, you will have access to networking events, relevant educational resources, as well as other college students who share your interest in event planning. MPI serves as an outlet to work with other students on your campus to enhance your leadership, networking and professional development skills. As a member of this organization myself, I have worked with students on my college campus to host events on campus, as well as to organize and attend venue tours located in my college town.
2. Volunteer at Local Events
What better way to get involved in event planning than to attend events firsthand? Whether it be a road race through your college town or a Greek life fundraising event held on campus, it can be beneficial to experience how different events are planned and executed. While volunteering at an event try to stop and assess different elements. For example, how the location of the event check-in is best situated to accommodate a high volume of guests, or what décor was selected to enhance the event experience and environment. You may note how technology is incorporated into guest registration and payment to create a paperless process, and what promotional items are provided to guests to market the event and its sponsors. As one of the event attendees, rather than one of the planners, you can gain insight pertaining to how others have produced creative, organized and sustainable events.
3. Event Management Internships
Internships provide you with the opportunity to gain real work experience. Whether you intern for a private event planning agency or a national non-profit organization, internships provide insight into planning all aspects of an event. As an intern, you will get a hands-on perspective, a viewpoint that simply cannot be taught in a college classroom. As you collaborate with a team, you may learn from your internship how to choose venues, create menus, and select entertainment and transportation options. Event internships may focus on concept and theme development, travel arrangements, leisure activity coordination, budget preparation, and collateral design. Most importantly, as an intern, you can participate in planning real events that you may even attend.
As the summer event management intern at The Castle Group, I had the opportunity to work alongside all the members of the event management team. I completed a variety of projects, most of which were focused on events taking place outside of the country, and this was particularly interesting as I love to travel internationally. It was extremely rewarding to see my work play an integral part in the different stages of planning and executing an event. I learned how to manage my time while working on multiple projects, collaborate with others within the office, and attended a local Castle event to provide on-site event support— tasks that I experienced firsthand rather than learning in the classroom at school.
4. Customize Your College Schedule
Although general education requirements may fill up most of your schedule when you first come to college, it is also important to take classes that are related to your field of study. Make sure to enroll in different event management classes, where the information you learn in class and the knowledge you gain can be directly applicable to your future career. Event planning classes that may be offered at your school include event marketing, food and beverage management, event management and leadership, hospitality and tourism management, event budgeting and special events.
This past semester I was enrolled in Food Service Management, a course that focused on foodservice functions including menu design, purchasing, production, service, safety and sanitation, and facilities. Admittedly I was somewhat skeptical about taking this required major-related course at first, but I found it to be extremely beneficial as I now feel comfortable analyzing current food trends, selecting which types of food to serve at events, as well as how to be cognizant of the myriad of challenges and opportunities associated with foodservice. With that, it is important to enroll yourself in a wide variety of event management and other hospitality-related courses throughout your college career.
5. Keep Up with the Latest Events Industry News
The events industry is a billion-dollar industry that is constantly in flux, adopting new technology and trends. Whether it be new locations for international events or novel décor items, it is important to stay up to date with what is going on in the industry. As a college student, you can stay involved right from your college campus, or simply by browsing your cell phone or laptop. Sites such as BizBash allow you to read news articles that are relevant for event and meeting professionals. BizBash provides professionals with ideas and resources to create smart and sustainable events. You can sign up to receive a daily email from BizBash with the latest news about the events industry, ensuring that you are always kept in the loop.
If you prefer to listen to the news and take advantage of your time as you commute to class, whether you have a long drive in the car or a walk across campus, you can listen to GatherGeeks, a new podcast produced by BizBash. Listen to C.E.O. David Adler and editor and chief of BizBash, Beth Kormanik, as they discuss the latest events industry trends related to product launches, festivals, award shows, weddings, birthdays, and everything in between. For instantaneous news and to customize the type of news you receive, Google Alerts is an excellent tool that allows you to keep up with industry news in real-time. To set up a Google Alert you can create a list of specific keywords and hashtags that are related to the events industry, and Google will send you an email when news articles or blogs are published with your chosen keywords and hashtags.
For college students, it is both exciting and important to learn how to get involved in the events industry, even while you are stationed on campus for the school year. By utilizing the above five strategies, you can begin to immerse yourself in the events industry much sooner than you thought you ever could!