Conference and Event Planners - What They Do

Conference and event planners plan, organize and co-ordinate conferences, conventions, meetings, seminars, exhibitions, trade shows, festivals and other events. They are employed by tourism associations, trade and professional associations, convention and conference centres, governments and by conference and event planning companies, or they may be self-employed.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Meet with trade and professional associations and other groups to promote and discuss conference, convention and trade show services
  • Meet with sponsors and organizing committees to plan the scope and format of events, to establish and monitor budgets and to review administrative procedures and progress of events
  • Co-ordinate services for events, such as accommodation and transportation for participants, conference and other facilities, catering, signage, displays, translation, special needs requirements, audio-visual equipment, printing and security
  • Organize registration of participants, prepare programs and promotional material, and publicize events
  • Plan entertainment and social gatherings for participants
  • Hire, train and supervise support staff required for events
  • Ensure compliance with required by-laws
  • Negotiate contracts for services, approve suppliers' invoices, maintain financial records, review final billing submitted to clients for events and prepare reports.

Job titles

  • convention co-ordinator
  • conference and meeting planner
  • conference planner
  • conference services officer
  • event planner
  • festival organizer
  • meeting planner
  • special events organizer
  • trade show planner
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • A university degree or college diploma in business, tourism or hospitality administration is usually required.
  • Several years of experience in hospitality or tourism administration or in public relations are usually required and may substitute for formal education requirements.
  • Certification relating to special events, meetings or conference management may be required.

Essential Skills


  • Read industry publications, press releases, economic-impact reports and newspaper articles. (2)
  • Read letters and memos from clients and tourism personnel. (2)
  • Read contractors' proposals and tenders to evaluate them. (3)
  • Read insurance documents and other legal documents for risk management. (3)
  • Read and interpret contracts. (3)
  • Read and interpret permits, proposals and grants for employees and funding. (3)

Document use

  • Use media directories. (1)
  • Read function sheets for banquets and other events. (2)
  • Interpret floor plans and site plans. (2)
  • Monitor income and cash flow statements and balance sheets for ongoing projects. (2)


  • Write photo captions and other short texts. (2)
  • Write business letters and memos. (2)
  • Compose media releases and public service announcements. (3)
  • Write job descriptions, including those developed for volunteers. (3)
  • Write resource development material for sponsorship and individual fundraising. (4)
  • Write project proposals, grant applications and project evaluations. (5)
  • Create marketing materials, scripts, speeches and feature articles. (5)
  • Write program brochures and articles for newsletters. (5)


Money Math

  • Prepare invoices, handle cash and make payments. (2)

Scheduling, Budgeting & Accounting Math

  • Prepare monthly budgets and schedules and then monitor actual revenues, expenditures and activities against these. (3)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Take measurements when reviewing floor plans and staging. (1)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compile and interpret numerical information including statistical data and demographic characteristics. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • Estimate attendance for licensing. (1)
  • Estimate supply requirements for various events, such as food and beverage requirements. (3)

Oral communication

  • Call suppliers regarding food, beverages and equipment rentals. (1)
  • Confer with security guards and insurance agents to plan for risks associated with specific events. (2)
  • Interact with entertainers, catering personnel, event committee members, volunteers and co-workers to plan events and co-ordinate activities. (2)
  • Address audiences via public address system when conducting promotions. (2)
  • Meet with clients to discuss the planning for upcoming events. (3)
  • Communicate with supervisors, clients and other public relations professionals to define the elements of marketing plans and the content of all marketing materials. (3)
  • Interact with volunteers to motivate, train and give recognition. (3)
  • Interact with audience to field questions or handle complaints. (3)
  • Conduct media interviews. (3)
  • Discuss event planning with clients and sponsors. (3)
  • Talk to very important persons (VIPs) to clarify roles. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Cope with delays and slipped deadlines. They must consult with stakeholders and determine what must be done to get the event back on track. (2)
  • May face budget shortfalls. They must reallocate resources to meet immediate needs. (2)
  • Settle disputes among staff members. They use conflict resolution strategies to defuse these volatile situations. (2)
  • May confront weather problems which lead to the cancellation of a planned event. They have to act quickly to limit losses and get information about the cancellation to the media or participants. (2)
  • May deal with suppliers who have broken contracts. They investigate measures to recover any financial losses and put them into action. (2)
  • May have to handle customer complaints and disgruntled participants. They investigate the problems and take steps to resolve it. (2)
  • May face shifting client priorities and the resulting requirement to renegotiate a client contract at the last minute. (3)

Decision Making

  • Choose between possible entertainers. (1)
  • Decide how to handle events when staff, volunteers, performers or suppliers do not show up on time. (2)
  • Decide on the selection and termination of staff and contractors. (3)
  • Decide what marketing and promotional strategies will be most effective for various events. (3)
  • Make budgetary decisions which will ensure accuracy and accountability in financial management. These decisions must be continually re-evaluated and new strategies developed. (3)
  • Make program-design decisions to ensure the smooth flowing of events. (3)

Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking information was not collected for this profile.

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Planning and organizing is at the center of the special events co-ordinators' and special events managers' job. They perform a wide variety of tasks, with a range of differing priorities. While some tasks are repetitive, many are unique to a particular event's planning. Shifting circumstances frequently lead to a need to reorganize and re-prioritize tasks. There are multiple sources of work assignments and a high degree of co-ordination required with the work of others. (4)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember ideas and information for their current project and remember the various tasks they are juggling that day.
  • Remember the names and faces of repeat clients and recall details of events in which co-ordination was flawed, to avoid similar situations in the future.
  • Remember logistics of particular event facilities and trade show set-ups.

Finding Information

  • Scan industry newsletters, electronic bulletin boards, and convention centre schedules to find out about other events that might conflict with an event they are planning, or provide opportunities to promote their event. (1)
  • Read mission statements, constitutions, annual reports and other foundation documents to find out about policies that affect particular events they are planning. (2)
  • Use business directories to research potential sponsors and partners for events. (2)
  • Refer to laws and regulations, such as labour laws and those concerning use of public property when planning events. (3)

Digital technology

  • They prepare reports and correspondence. (1)
  • They access the Internet and use e-mail. (1)
  • They produce table layout diagrams and floor plans. (2)
  • They manage mailing and contact lists. (2)
  • They prepare budgets and projections. (2)
  • They manage project funding, payroll and customer accounts. (2)
  • They may prepare floor plans and displays. (3)
  • Use other computer applications. For example, they use desktop publishing applications to prepare advertising layouts, notices and programs. They may use event planning software and critical path software. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Some of the time, special events co-ordinators and special events managers work alone. More often, however, they are working independently, co-ordinating activities with co-workers and outside resources. They may also work with a partner or as a member of a team.

Special events co-ordinators and special events managers work with staff and volunteers, supervisors, and boards and association members to discuss ways of improving work processes. They participate in formal group discussions with co-workers, supervisors and subordinates to discuss the allocation of responsibilities and appropriate work goals.

Continuous Learning

There is an ongoing requirement to learn while working as a special events co-ordinator and special events manager.

Special events co-ordinators and special events managers acquire new learning by attending industry meetings, seminars and workshops. They participate in professional development activities through the associations to which they belong. They review industry publications to acquire the latest thinking in the field.