The Real Poop
Variety is the spice of life—and there is nothing spicier than a great corporate-sponsored night on the town. If you dig organized fun, you may want to consider becoming a corporate events manager.
As a corporate events manager (or CEM, as absolutely no one calls it), you might find yourself organizing an inter-office 5k run for charity one week and haggling with a catering service over the price of a Human Resources training breakfast the next, throwing in a shopping trip for the perfect goodbye gift for Susan's retirement party somewhere in between.
How can one position have such a variety of job responsibilities? Let's break it down. "Corporate" means everything having to do with corporations—i.e., the businesses of the world. "Events" refers to the mandated social interactions that take place within those corporations. "Manager" means in charge.
Put it all together and you get being in charge of the social events within a corporation—or King/Queen of All Corporate Happiness, as you might choose to put it.
Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration, but it's not a big one. As a corporate events manager, you'll be responsible for the organization and success of loads of different kinds of company events, ranging from staff trainings and business meetings to trade shows, publicity stunts, and the staff Christmas party. On average, you'll get paid $46,490 to coordinate and pull off every type of staff event imaginable (source).
And yes, this also means that folks will come to you when Ted from engineering is still singing karaoke well past the time he should've stopped. All hail Your Majesty.
The reason for all this potential variety is that each and every event will be its own unique experience. You may be organizing charity functions one week only to be asked to plan a surprise birthday party on a day's notice. Add to that the fact that many corporate events managers work freelance—contracting with numerous corporations to run their special events, with each boss having their own new set of obscenely high expectations for you to meet—and you can see that things will be far from boring.
Event planning's got a few more steps involved than just handing out flyers and saying, "Hey, we're doing this thing."
You've got to find a place to hold the event, communicate to people when and where it's happening, and make sure that the people who show up are going to be safe (and fed—food is very important when working with a crowd). You may need to hire support staff such as waiters, valet parkers, or decorators.
And you'll have to do everything while keeping a strict eye on the budget—it's like an allowance, only if you spend too much of it, you get fired instead of grounded.
Considering that an event manager's job consists primarily of organizing people and events, you're going to need to be good at—wait for it—organization. If getting to school on time with your pants and your shirt is an organizational milestone for you, perhaps you should consider a different career (and maybe a little morning meditation).
If you're the type of person who can break complex projects down into steps and meet multiple deadlines, then this might actually work for you. You're going to need to work very well with people—from fellow co-workers to bosses to the vendors you hire, it's a good idea to be nice. Doing so will certainly help you inspire a legion of co-workers, volunteers, and/or employees to see your vision through to a successful event.
Experienced corporate events managers will also have general knowledge about the industries in which they work, so some business know-how is going to come in handy. Having hospitality experience will mean you know what makes a good event into a great event. Knowledge like this will help you work with every size group of people while keeping everybody happy.
Marketing and communication skills will also serve you well, as you'll need to get the word out to participants and sometimes the press. This is one of the few jobs that makes social media something you're supposed to do while working, so make sure you're computer-savvy. Those same marketing skills will also serve to pay the bills, as independent corporate events managers will need to sell their services to get hired in the first place.
Because of the wide range of skill sets needed and the huge responsibility given, most corporate events manager positions require a bachelor's degree in an applicable area like hospitality or public relations (source).
Another option would be to earn an associate's degree in an area such as event planning. Being the field trip organizer for your class or social club is a good start, but the big money people will expect you to actually have real-world training.
Whatever path you take to becoming a corporate events manager, you can expect some excitement the minute you arrive. This is a challenging position that changes daily, is rarely boring, and can bring some long hours and stressful days. Many events will rely on your ability to make the right decision at a moment's notice—but if you're any good at your job, you'll have already planned for that.