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From the Experts, Your Event Career

What You Need to Know About Event Planner Internships: Part II

Last week, QC tutor Heather Vickery took us through the basics of event planning internships. Today, she tells us what she looks for when she’s hiring her own interns for Greatest Expectations!

All photos in this post are from events produced by Greatest Expectations.

When we are hiring an intern we look for people who are “put together.” They present themselves well in appearance, are well-spoken and have a firm grasp on the written word. They are comfortable with direct client communications and make the company look great each time they interact with anyone on our behalf. Because the intern will be representing my company, it is important that they represent my brand and work well with my entire event team. They need to present confidence and grace and have the ability to take ownership of a situation.

I look for people who can walk into a room, assess the situation, see what needs to get done, and then do it without waiting for instruction. Are the menu cards out? Have we checked table counts? Can you see any table legs (if yes, get those tables reset pronto!). My interns need to interact well with clients and put them at ease and not be afraid of hard work.

One of Heather's team members in action. Photography by Husar Photography.

Photography by Husar Photography

Heather’s first intern

The very first intern I hired was put straight to the test on her very first event! We had a lot of furniture set up for this particular event and everything was white (the rental pieces, the floor, the walls) and we had a great deal of lighting. For reasons still unknown to me, the lighting company taped everything down with black tape. This was clearly unacceptable, so my brand- new intern went to the store, bought several rolls of white electric tape, and then proceeded to remove all of the black tape and re-do everything in white.

This may sound like a menial task, but it was hard work. She was bent over (yes, in a dress and heels) for nearly three hours re-taping those cords. Everything looked great in the end and I knew she was a keeper. Not a word of complaint from her—only pride in a job well done. She was able to stay on our team for several years and grew to be a very valuable member of our staff.

Heather arranging table linens for an event. Photography by Husar Photography.

Photography by Husar Photography

In many other cases, my interns have turned into full-time staff members. Some have even moved into their own role as an event manager or lead planner. It takes a lot of trust to allow another person to represent your company. I expect my team members to work hard to earn my trust, that of the clients, and also the other vendors on the creative team.

Event planning isn’t all glamour…

Internships are not necessarily glamorous work. There is a lot of grunt work involved but hey, we have all done our fair share of grunt work and you have to start somewhere! Every really great planner I know once did all of the dirty work him or herself. There are still times where I am required to take my heels off and move chairs.

This just happened with a destination wedding in Mexico last March. We were setting up the ceremony on the beach. I realized the chairs needed to be moved so that the aisle was directly lined up with the altar. This is, clearly, something that should have been done properly by the rental set-up team but there was no time to place blame or be upset—something needed to get done, so I did it.

Heather and a team member move chairs at an event. Photography by Husar Photography.

Photography by Husar Photography

My entire staff, including the interns, needs to be able to do that very same thing—day in and day out—for every single event, every client meeting, even office and computer work. A rising tide lifts all boats and we all have to be willing to pull our weight to make our clients’ dreams come true.

Finding your own event planning internship

Be sure to do your research before approaching any company for an internship. Spend plenty of time on their website and social media outlets. Learn the owner’s name (or if it is a larger company the person you would want to report to) and ensure your cover letters and all communications are personalized. Any email that starts “Dear Greatest Expectations” gets deleted before I read the first sentence. Employers are looking for interns who are willing to go the extra mile from the start, and that means knowing exactly who to communicate with.

Nearly all event-related companies hire interns. Don’t wait around for a job posting—go out and meet the people you are impressed with. Learn their work and ask them if you can work as an intern. Don’t sit back and wait for opportunities to present themselves—go out and create the opportunities that you need and want to get your career started. If you don’t do it, someone else will!

As Heather said, any event planner internship starts with good communication—so brush up your resume before you start applying!

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