Getting Started in Event Planning, Experiential Marketing

Q.  I am interested in a career in event planning or event/experiential marketing. There is not much information on how to get a career started in event/experiential marketing and I was wondering how I could start my career in this? For example, do agencies have AEs that just do event planning or event planning?  Also, would it be best to start in a marketing agency like Jack Morton, a PR agency or general an event planning job?  -KJ

A.  While all major agencies provide event planning services, other firms have built specialized business models around event/experiential marketing.  They range from large firms that produce and support major sporting and entertainment events, to smaller agencies that handle openings for restaurants, stores and local entertainment events.   Some provide turn-key support for fund-raising events and others are provide arms and legs to companies and agencies that need help on an occasional basis.  

During my tenure at four corporations, I found in-house event/experiential marketing staffs to be small with little turnover.  Therefore, there are not as many opportunities on the corporate front.  Instead, your best bet is to search out such positions at firms that provide these services for major clients. 

While some AEs might from time to time be primarily focused on event work, most carry out a great deal of other general PR activities that, in my opinion, provide necessary balance for a career. 

You’re correct that Jack Morton is the type of firm that seeks out event marketing talent.  Another impressive firm is Relay Worldwide, a sizable sports marketing firm that supports many sporting events around the world.  Relay lists openings on a dedicated job site that currently has nine such openings.  Several boutique firms such as Margie Korshak in Chicago focus primarily on supporting marketing events. 

Hotels, cultural institutions, athletic teams and major cities have event marketing staffs, so cast your sights beyond traditional or boutique agencies. 

While some event marketing professionals have made wonderful long careers in this field of PR, many of these jobs are often not as glamorous as they initially appear.  The magic of helping stage an event for your favorite rock star eventually wears off after you’ve done the 24/7 advance work for a 33-city tour in as many grueling days.  Still, it provides great experience that I then encourage converting into a selling point to land a more traditional agency position.  There is an abundance of event and experiential opportunities in these more traditional positions, and the scope of work is usually broader.

6 thoughts on “Getting Started in Event Planning, Experiential Marketing

  1. Having been an event planner for fifteen years, and now the current owner of a website for people who want to break into the event planning business (just as this blog aims to give career advice for PR hopefuls), I can warn you to be very cautious of grouping PR and event planning together.

    There are a few areas, which Ron addressed, where PR and event planning do overlap; mainly sports marketing/events and fund-raising events for non-profits.

    However, there’s a whole world of events that is easy to get trapped into; where you might not find yourself putting your PR skills to full use. It is all too easy to get “sucked into” the world of corporate meetings as a planner; where your job becomes all about miniscule details and a never-ending life of “to do” lists.

    Basically, if you have a PR background but aren’t too set on securing a career in PR per se, then it might be a natural transition for you. However, if you have your heart set on working in PR, approach the arena of event planning with caution, as I personally don’t see it as a natural step in your career path!

    ~ Sirena

  2. Recently finished the program at University of Oregon, Festival and Event Management. At the time it was the only program out there for this particular career choice. Classes covered a wide range of subjects and were presented by some of the leaders in the field. Interestingly enough, people traveled from all over the world (Japan, Germany, Russia) to attend these classes. It was apparent that this is an emerging field.
    Since then, I have perused online and media classifieds to see where this career might take me. There are a variety of opportunities, although not all necessarily fit the corporate mold. One avenue that intrigues me is city government. There are a number of cities across the country that are looking to build a better “home field advantage” with the cost of travel soaring and destination travel within the United States becoming more attractive. From small to large, festivals are becoming a good market for event managers. PR is a huge part of that. You certainly have to know your market, demographics as well as be creative and have the detail oriented mind.
    It really is all about how to throw a great party and make your “guests” feel welcome and entertained while not blowing your budget and keeping your sanity.
    I highly recommend the UO program –

  3. I was in the same shoes just last year, wondering how to break into event planning with a PR perspective. I investigated several avenues – working for an event planning firm, working in hospitality, and working in-house for a nonprofit. I also asked one of my favorite event planner bloggers, Lara at, what her advice was. The entirety of her response is posted at She said to get involved with your local professional organization, like ISES.
    I ended up starting my career at a small nonprofit, which I love. I wear a lot of hats (writer, graphic designer, event planner, etc.) which means I don’t get bored. I have a lot of creative license. However, the downside is limited resources and no variety of clients. Find what fits you. I would recommend attending a chapter meeting of your local ISES chapter or similar group and see who’s there and talk to them if their job sounds interesting. Plus, it’s networking! Another company to investigate is Henry V Events in Portland. They have an excellent national reputation as a boutique-y agency devoted to events/experiential marketing. One last resource is Special Events magazine – it’s a free trade pub about the industry. After reading a few articles, you may get some better ideas about where to start. Good luck!

  4. One of my colleagues, Kelley Skoloda, has just publisehed a book called “Too Busy to Shop” She was not familiar with, but said the site perfectly demonstrates what she says in Chapter 14 of her book about “multi-minders becoming co-brand managers. If women, and especially moms, can’t find something in the marketplace, they are creating it themselves and Bizymoms is a spot-on example.”

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