Event Planning

We humans are social animals and communicate best when we meet face-to-face. To be sure, the telephone and more high-tech methods of electronic communication now allow us to carry on conversations without leaving our homes or offices. Nevertheless, people value opportunities to meet in person to exchange ideas. We also enjoy coming together for celebrations, commemorations, rallies, sporting events, and other group activities. But bringing people together for events can be a complex undertaking, especially when large numbers of people are involved or when participants have high expectations of the amenities they will enjoy. As a result, an industry has developed to facilitate such events.

In a study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Convention Industry Council, it was reported that in 2012 (the most recent data available), approximately 1.83 million meetings were held in the United States, with 225 million participants. This was a 10 percent increase in attendance compared to 2009 meetings attendance. The 2012 meetings contributed more than $115 billion to the economy, and employed nearly 2 million people. About 1.3 million of these meetings were classified as corporate or business meetings, and included 273,700 conventions, conferences, or congresses; 10,900 trade shows; and 67,700 incentive meetings. Meetings generated $88 billion in federal, state, and local taxes.

Note that this study excluded weddings, holiday parties, concerts and shows, athletic events, political rallies, and consumer shows, all of which are events that attract large numbers of people each year and that involve considerable planning expenses. More than 2.2 million Americans are married, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

One industry study of weddings in 2014 found couples spending an average of $31,213 on weddings, exclusive of the honeymoon. One in three couples used a professional wedding planner, and those who did spent an average of $1,973 for the planner's services, up from $1,874 in 2013.

The professionals who plan these various kinds of events are known as meeting, convention, and event planners. Roughly 100,000 people work in this occupation. They often choose the location of the event, make arrangements for transportation, lodging, and meals, and handle numerous other details. Before the meeting, they confer with their clients to agree on a budget and what should be included in the event, visit meeting locations ahead of time to inspect the facilities, work out details with the staff on-site, and negotiate contracts with service providers. During the event, they monitor activities to make sure everything is running smoothly. They often travel and may have to work long hours during the event. They may have clerical support staff, and those make up the rest of the workers in this industry.

Because event planning is a relatively new occupation, there are no formal entry requirements, but employers often want job candidates to have a college degree, and a major in hospitality services is especially relevant. Some voluntary certification programs exist and can help with career advancement.

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