Are There Too Many Event Planners Out There? If so, What Does it Mean for You?

Posted April 15, 2010

Is the Market Over-Saturated?

“Uggh.  Everyone’s an event planner now.” 20 year planner in Chicago.

“My event department got cut in half, and they’re giving some of my events to admins.  Can you believe it?  Admins!” 12 year corp. planner in NYC.

“Just lost a wedding client who’s hiring a friend (with no experience) to help her.  She wants to hire me for day-of only.” 7 year wedding planner in Dallas.

“They’re like mushrooms.  You go outside after it rains and it seems a dozen more planners have sprouted under a tree. They’re popping up everywhere.” 15 year event designer in LA.

Can we talk about this now?  Is it heresy to say there are too many event planners out there?  The quotes above were all given to me within the last month by frustrated, no, incredibly frustrated, event planners.  They are pulling their hair out.

What I want to know, however, is why anyone is surprised.  It seems like only yesterday when practically every planner I knew was complaining they were not getting enough recognition as professionals.  They wanted to be taken more seriously.  Well, they’re taken more seriously now.

Event planners appear, as professionals, in dozens of tv shows and movies.  The number of colleges offering courses in event management grows every year.  Trade organizations continue to develop best practices & industry standards.   New conferences and seminars are developed every year.  And, most importantly, it is now widely accepted that you need to have professionals manage social and corporate events.  In short, everyone’s wishes have been granted.

Is it no surprise then, that all this advancement and publicity have attracted gazillions of people to enter the industry?  This is the logical consequence of everything we all wanted, isn’t it?  What did we think, that the industry would take giant strides forward but that we’d keep it all to ourselves?

Welcome to a maturing industry, and get used to it.  Yes, our industry has grown, dramatically.  It’s not necessarily that are more events out there, but that more of the events are looking for dedicated event pros to handle them.  This is a good thing.

But we are also in an industry with no barriers to entry.  That means anyone can jump in and call themselves an event planner.  Get used to that too.  No licenses required (like having to pass the bar before you can practice law).  No equipment to buy.  Just some creativity, good organizational skills, and a client.

Years ago, the PR profession didn’t exist.  You had advertising, and that was it.  It’s only in the last 40 years or so that a dedicated profession developed to mange the media.  And now, it’s part of the landscape.  Well, the event industry has just gone through the same evolution.  And like PR, anyone can enter it, but not anyone can be good at it.

So complaining about all the planners “out there” is like trying to hold back the tide.  Hey, you want someone to have a cocktail with and commiserate about all the new competition, you’ll have a lot of company.  Count me in too, cause that’s a fun bitch-fest.  But when you wake up the next morning, it’s time to go to work on identifying what it is that separates you from the newbies.  (And by the way, we were all newbies once; let’s not get too full of ourselves.)  And if you’re a newbie, get ready to explain why you deserve a client’s business over a more experienced planner.   And it can’t just be that your price is lower, because there’s another newbie around the corner whose price will be lower than yours.

One of the smartest people in the NYC hospitality industry is Walter Rauscher, who was the Director of Catering at Tavern on the Green for many years (before moving on to Ark Restaurants).  He’s someone I look up to, who’s not afraid to speak his mind.  Many years ago when he was still at Tavern he said to me, “Back in the day I only had two competitors: the Plaza and the Waldorf.  It didn’t matter what kind of food we all served, if you had a big event you had to go to one of us, and we all made a ton of money.  Now, there’s a boatload of competition out there; libraries, museums, exclusive clubs; they’re all taking events.  Would I love to turn back the clock?  You bet.  Do I waste a single minute complaining about it?  No.  We roll up our sleeves and my team goes to work”

13 COMMENTS

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  1. Howard
    Jen
    April 15, 2010 at 12:53 pm Permalink

    Great point about how everyone was a newbie at one time. It’s time for veteran planners to get more creative and make themselves stand out. Perhaps they are all so upset because now they have to prove their skills and that they have the edge over the fresh-faced planners. Sure it’s frustrating that clients are being lost to babies who just learned to walk, but time (and lack of possitive feedback) will weed them out eventually and the true professionals will be left standing. If it makes my company look better or challenges me more by having new competition then bring it on! Maybe we could all use a wake-up call to stay more up-to-date.

  2. Howard
    Marion Marshall
    April 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm Permalink

    Whew! I believe there is enough business to go around. I really believe that. Many event professionals pay lip service to that. Many are a part of groups who think if a service is being offered for less than theirs a client not possibly be getting excellent service. Many are just afraid of competition. Get over it. It is competition that makes you work harder to find your edge, not whining. Just because there are more event planners does not mean all of them are serious about this business. Get busy working or go home!

  3. Howard
    Parthenia
    April 18, 2010 at 3:19 pm Permalink

    Great article. I have heard this issue come up quite a bit lately. This is an excellent response. I would be considered a newbie. I started officially about 3 years ago, but I did not choose it because of all the increasing attention regarding its professional nature. This is a passion of mine. It came to my attention after much prayer and personal inquiries regarding my personality and the plan that God has for my life. I love it! I desire to learn and grow for many, many years to come and consider it a privilege to be able to be a planner.

  4. Howard
    Brandi Hamerstone
    April 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm Permalink

    Perfectly said! Amen!

  5. Howard
    Brit
    April 18, 2010 at 7:10 pm Permalink

    Great points – and I love Walter’s take on it (as well as yours).

  6. Howard
    Sharon Ringier
    April 19, 2010 at 12:02 pm Permalink

    Beautifully said! Kuddo’s to you for saying it!

  7. Howard
    Cathy MacRae
    April 21, 2010 at 3:39 pm Permalink

    There are event planners and there are “wanna-be” planners. There is something to be said that you get what you pay for. The strong will survive!

  8. Howard
    Kate Miller
    April 22, 2010 at 7:10 pm Permalink

    Thank you for this – you read my mind! It’s survival of the fittest out there, no matter the industry – we are in an information age where most business practices are more transparent than ever. However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a level of talent, skill and vision required to do what we do and do it well.

  9. Howard
    Candida Romanelli
    April 27, 2010 at 9:20 am Permalink

    Howard, I love the idea that you’re doing this! Its great to be able to read the real-life facts about our industry from someone who is experienced and not inhibited to offer real insight. I’ve been planning the auto show for nearly 19 years and truthfully I’ve often wondered if I should try my hand at a business of my own. It seems a daunting proposition especially since there is such a glutony of new, young event planners flooding the field these days.

  10. Howard
    jenny q
    May 21, 2010 at 11:45 pm Permalink

    I am so glad that you sai anyone can enter it, but not anyone can be good at it. What’s the barrier to entry for violin? For painting? For soccer? For writing? How many millions have such hobbies, but never rise to the top? I find it exhausting and demeaning when the experienced roar over the invasion of their “turf.” I’m an experienced dancer, but I dont feel a flood of jealousy and indignance when I see a new dancer struggling along… I feel glad that I’m not alone. Similarly, there is a high barrier of entry for doctors and lawyers, and I’ve paid good money for mediocre service from both!

  11. Howard
    Aldo
    September 20, 2014 at 4:04 pm Permalink

    In Malaysia, weddings at a 5-star hotel, just the f&b alone would cost beewetn MYR 60,000 to MYR 90,000 for 600ppl! This costing exclude the wedding attire, make-up artist fee, deco & flowers, photographer, videographer, wedding cake, invitation, favors, dowry, ceremonial fee, registration of marriage fee and all the other details in a wedding. With all that adding up, the couple spends at least MYR 150,000 for their wedding in a hotel.So to save cost on the f&b, most couple would have their wedding in a garden, hall, their house or in a restaurant., so the cost would be lower to beewetn MYR 80,000 to MYR 100,000I spent almost MYR 70,000 for my own wedding at a local restaurant and thank God! I have my own team to do the flower and deco set-up!

  12. Howard
    Raj
    September 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm Permalink

    Well, my marriage has not only mngaaed to survive after an affair, but our marriage is better than it was before the affair (well, if not better stronger and more mature). My wife cheated on me, and while I was devestated and thunderstruck, we decided to see if this was something we could work past and save our relationship.The primary advice I can give to you is to make sure that you are willing to make changes to make the marriage work as much as you expect to get your spouse to make changes. Most of the time after an affair the spouse will make their SO simply pay for what they did in order to show that they won’t put up with what happened and make them pay the price. The problem is that once the pennence is over your relationship is no better off and probably worse off than it was beforehand.As much as it seemed like the wrong thing to do, when my wife cheated on me we tried to figure out what we could BOTH do to fix our marriage. Sure there were more than a few screaming matches and attempts by me to try to push her away to see if she would just leave. And I certainly called her a number of things that I wouldn’t be allowed to repeat here. However, when it came to the marriage I also talked to her about what was lacking in our marriage from her perspective and we BOTH tried to address it. I didn’t just draw up a list of demands that she please me, I worked on the marriage and things I was not doing or communicating and she did the same.It was a hard and painful journey, one that 3 years later is probably not 100% complete. Yet, I can say with certaintly that we are closer now than we ever were before and we understand each other now more than we ever did before. Sure there are moments where I let myself dwell on what happened, but honestly my main regret is that it took us going that far down before we were willing to fight for our marriage.So yes, it certainly can work, but you have to BOTH invest into it for it to work. That means you have to give as much as you get which seems wrong to reward him for his bad behavior, but in the end, if you both commit to the relationship, it can work out.That doesn’t mean it can work out for everyone, nor does it mean that it will work for you. However, it is certainly possible to overcome this so long as you don’t just try to forgive and forget. It isn’t about putting it behind you, it is about moving forward to a point where it happens to be behind you. But you will never forget, that is the thing you both will always have to live with. I hope for your family that it is mainly a regret that you both ever let it get that far.

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