Event and Exhibition Organiser

The Job and What's Involved

Event and exhibition organisers are responsible for planning events and ensuring that they run as smoothly as possible. They work on:

  • Public events, such as the Ideal Home Exhibition or Chelsea Flower Show.
  • Trade and industry exhibitions.
  • Product launches.
  • Special company events such as team away days or annual general meetings (AGM's).
  • Private events such as parties and weddings.

The organiser's exact role depends on the type of event and the organisation they are working for. Dedicated event or exhibition management companies and in-house teams often offer a complete service, while smaller venues and agencies may sub-contract much of the work.

The work may include:

  • Liaising closely with clients.
  • Finding and booking venues.
  • Planning room layouts, timetables, workshops and special demonstrations.
  • Selling stands and exhibition space to exhibitors.
  • Arranging other facilities, e.g. catering, entertainment, toilets, security and insurance cover.
  • Publicising the event, liaising with the press and organising promotional material, e.g. flyers, posters and programmes.
  • Finding accommodation for delegates and exhibitors.
  • Ensuring health and safety requirements are met.
  • Managing sub-contractors.
  • Dealing with queries from exhibitors and visitors.
  • Ensuring that the event is concluded and the venue cleared on time.
  • Post-event evaluation with the client.

Event and exhibition organisers usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, in preparation for, and during an event, they need to be flexible and often work long, unsociable hours, including evenings and weekends.

Depending on their exact role, organisers divide their time between working in an office, visiting venues (both to assess new facilities and attend actual events) and meeting clients. This may result in lengthy periods away from home, and foreign travel is sometimes required. A driving licence is an advantage.

Organisers work indoors and outdoors in all weather conditions. Most major indoor exhibition venues are modern, light and well-ventilated. Smaller exhibitions are held in hotels, halls or in venues such as museums. Outdoor venues range from show grounds and racecourses with permanent facilities, to fields, parks and seafronts.

The starting salary for an event and exhibition organiser may be around £16,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

This is a growing industry, with an increasing number of cities in the UK developing and upgrading venues to stage events, exhibitions and conferences.

The key employers are:

Venues - such as purpose-built conference and exhibition centres, hotel groups, universities and historic properties.

Specialist Events Agencies - most of which employ less than 20 people.

Large Businesses - with their own in-house teams.

The largest venues and events agencies are in major cities such as London, Glasgow and Manchester, although venues may be found throughout the country.

There is a high demand for people to work in this field, but there is also strong competition, with more applicants than vacancies. There are opportunities to work on a freelance basis.

Event and exhibition organisers sometimes find work through word of mouth or by personal recommendation. Jobs may also be advertised in local and national newspapers, and in trade magazines such as Event and Exhibition Bulletin.

The Association of Event Organisers (AEO) website, www.aeo.org.uk, has a careers section including job vacancies, as does the monthly newsletter of the Association for Conferences and Events (ACE).

Education and Training

Although there are no set entry requirements for event and exhibition organisers, many have a degree or an HND. Knowledge of foreign languages is also useful.

Equally important is experience of organising events, whether this is gained through voluntary work or work experience.

There are a number of relevant qualifications available, at a variety of levels. These include:

Degrees in subjects such as event management, marketing and events management, conference and exhibition management, and events and conference management - the usual entry requirements are a minimum of five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A levels/three H grades or equivalent.

Foundation Degree in Hospitality and Events Management - the usual entry requirements are a minimum of one A level/two H grades, or a BTEC national certificate/diploma in a relevant subject.

HND in Event Management - minimum entry qualifications are the same as for a Foundation degree.

Entry requirements may vary, so candidates should check with individual colleges or universities.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

There are a large number of training courses available, covering all aspects of the events industry, from sponsorship to crowd safety. Many are run by professional organisations such as ACE and AEO, while the Society of Event Organisers (SEO) runs a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme.

A number of private companies run industry specific training courses - a list is available from the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD).

It may be possible to study towards NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Events or Events - Temporary Structures. Event and exhibition organisers also gain additional skills and knowledge on the job and by working alongside more experienced colleagues.

Postgraduate qualifications in subjects such as conference management are also available.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

An event and exhibition organiser should:

  • Be well-organised and efficient.
  • Pay close attention to detail.
  • Have excellent communication skills.
  • Be imaginative and creative.
  • Be able to cope with pressure and tight deadlines.
  • Be customer-focused.
  • Work with diplomacy and tact.
  • Have a sense of humour.
  • Have good business, marketing, negotiating and selling skills.
  • Be able to multi-task.
  • Be able to lead a team, supervise and delegate tasks.
  • Have good project-management and problem-solving skills.
  • Be flexible and able to deal with last-minute changes or problems.
  • Have IT and numeracy skills.
  • Have stamina.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no clear promotion route for event and exhibition organisers. Experience is vital and can lead to opportunities to manage larger events, bigger budgets and higher profile clients. It is common to move between agencies to progress.

It may be possible for organisers to move into a role such as team leader, or event or exhibition manager, or take on wider management responsibilities.

Freelance organisers establish themselves by organising events or exhibitions successfully and to a consistently high standard. Some organisers, with the right experience and contacts, may set up their own agencies.

There may be job opportunities overseas, especially if working for international exhibition or event management companies.

Get Further Information

Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO),
6th Floor, Charles House, 148-149 Great Charles Street,
Queensway, Birmingham B3 3HT
Tel: 0121 212 1400
Website: www.abpco.org

Association for Conferences and Events (ACE),
Riverside House, High Street, Huntingdon,
Cambridgeshire PE18 6SG
Tel: 01480 457595
Website: www.ace-international.co.uk/

Association of Event Organisers (AEO),
119 High Street, Berkhamsted,
Hertfordshire HP4 2DJ
Tel: 01442 285810
Website: www.aeo.org.uk

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead,
Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500
Website: www.cim.co.uk

People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Website: www.people1st.co.uk

Society of Event Organisers (SEO),
29A Market Square, Biggleswade,
Bedfordshire SG18 8AQ
Tel: 01767 316255
Website: www.seoevent.co.uk

The Springboard Charity & Springboard UK Ltd, Coopers' Hall,
13 Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4TH
Tel: 020 7497 8654
Website: www.springboarduk.net

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