Event Management or Event Planning: What’s the Difference?

Many people use the terms “event planner” and “event manager” interchangeably when these two are actually different roles. An event planner handles the preparation of an event, while event managers coordinate all aspects of implementing the event. Learn more about the differences between event planning and event management and how to hire the best role for your events. 


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What is event planning?

Event planning is the process of putting together an event. This is typically a step in the event management process. It starts with brainstorming an event and its purpose, then determining a location and date for it. An event planner works closely with their client or company hosting the event to establish their goals and budget. They’ll then work to plan all aspects of the event and will complete all the action items needed for it to be ready by the start date.

Common responsibilities the event planner handles include: 

  • Choosing the event’s theme and decorations
  • Finding and reserving a venue
  • Creating the menu, hiring the caterer and gathering refreshments 
  • Booking travel arrangements for speakers and possibly attendees 
  • Preparing audio and visual equipment for presenters 
  • Making event invitations 
  • Locating and hiring outside vendors 

Once the event planner handles all the necessary arrangements, they usually don’t attend the event. They’ll then receive compensation for the completed project if they’re an independent contractor.

Related: How to Hire an Event Planner


What is event management?

Event management consists of several stages that go into successfully implementing an event, including planning, marketing and registering guests. A team of people, sometimes including event coordinators, are needed to manage the event to ensure it’s running smoothly and entertaining guests. 

Companies usually need event managers if they have limited time and resources to handle all aspects of implementing the event themselves. Event managers usually take care of larger events like conferences and conventions and have a team of employees to handle different parts of the event management process, like event coordinating and planning. Most of their responsibilities include:

  • Marketing and promoting the event 
  • Creating sign-up forms for the event and posting them online 
  • Building parking plans 
  • Attending the event to ensure everything goes smoothly and to resolve unexpected issues
  • Developing contingency plans in case of emergencies
  • Managing employees in charge of each part of the event management process
  • Handling tickets and registration processes 

Related: 5 Event Coordinator Interview Questions and Answers


How to hire an event planner or manager

Before building your job description and interviewing candidates, identify your event goals to help decide if you’re searching for an event planner or event manager. Follow these steps to hire an event planner or event manager according to your company’s event needs:


1. Determine your business’ event goals

Sit down with your team to determine what type of events you’d like to host. If you’d like to throw smaller events like happy hours, office holiday parties or client appreciation parties, you may only need an event planner to handle smaller tasks like booking locations and decorating. For large-scale events, like award ceremonies, fundraising events or conferences, an event manager is the ideal choice. 

Examine everyone you have on your team when making this decision as well. If you have enough employees with time and resources available to handle other parts of the event management process, like marketing and promoting, building the registration sheet or handling ticket collection, then you may only need an event planner to prepare for the event itself. 


2. Build your company’s budget 

Who you hire to handle your events often depends on the financial status of your company. If you don’t have enough funds to cover a full-time employee to handle your events, consider hiring an independent contractor or a freelancing event planner. If you’re only able to hire one full-time employee, onboard an event planner. 

For larger budgets, you may have to hire an event manager, along with additional event management team members to handle all parts of your event. You may also have the option to hire a full-time event manager, who then hires freelancers to delegate their event management tasks to. 


3. Create a job description that lists your company’s needs 

Once you’ve established the event goals and objectives for your company, build your job description for the role. Highlight the event goals your company hopes to accomplish and detail every task you’d like the employee to complete to give them a clear idea of what’s expected of them. Include your employee value proposition and any benefits you offer to make your business look valuable and enticing to candidates.


4. Put together a list of questions asking how the candidate will handle your event 

When you’re ready to interview quality candidates, have pre-made questions ready to ask them. Provide different situational and behavioral interview questions that help you better picture their event planning process and understand how they’ll handle certain event management challenges that arise. 

Possible questions to ask include: 

  • Do you use any event or task management software tools to help you organize tasks and stay efficient?
  • What’s your strategy for event marketing and promotion?
  • How have you measured your event’s success? 
  • Tell me about a time when an unexpected issue occurred at one of your events. How did you resolve it?
  • What would you do if one of your speakers canceled three days before the event? 


5. Make sure the candidate you hire understands your industry and company goals

After you select the best fit for the role, begin training them on how your industry operates. They must have extensive knowledge of your company and industry to host events catered toward your audience and current customers. Try showing them plans for previous events you hosted or take them to industry events similar to ones you’d like to throw. This gives them a better idea of what you expect from them in the role.

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