Differences Between Event Planning and Coordinating

Event space before the event

Belathée Photography  

There are several loosely-defined terms in the event industry. That is, words that can be interpreted in different ways. The word "event" by itself could mean anything from a birthday party to a benefit concert. This use of different terms can lead to confusion and misunderstandings, specifically around job titles. One of the biggest areas of confusion concerns event planners vs. event coordinators.

Event Planners vs. Event Coordinators

Outside the industry, many people do not understand the difference between an event planner and an event coordinator. Generally speaking, the planner makes critical decisions regarding what, when, who, and how. An event coordinator, on the other hand, is responsible for making sure all the details are executed and that each vendor shows up on time and performs appropriately.

Responsibilities of an Event Planner

An event planner works directly with the client to determine the customer's vision, needs, and budget. For example, if it's a wedding, the event planner may discuss the couple's intended tone, the level of formality, and the size of the guest list.

From there, the event planner designs an event to wow the client. They will choose a venue and type of entertainment, then work with the client to determine a menu. They focus on the big-picture items that make an event memorable.

Becoming an event planner takes years of experience. A planner carries a lot of responsibility ensuring the client is happy and designing an event that fits the customer's needs and expectations.

Before becoming a planner, several years of working as an event coordinator is often necessary. It's an important stepping stone to a career in events.

Responsibilities of an Event Coordinator

An event coordinator does not get involved with the design of the event, itself. Instead, they are in charge of managing the individual components to ensure the event goes smoothly.

Once the planner has determined the vision for the event, the coordinator assists the planner in making that a reality. They may look at vendors, organize delivery dates, and handle logistical tasks.

Larger organizations may have two coordinators for every planner, while smaller operations might only have one coordinator who serves the needs of all executive decision-makers. Either way, there is typically a direct line of supervision over the coordinator position. That doesn't mean event coordinators have it easy. Most of them have the difficult task of organizing everything on-site with only a few hours before the event begins. This, of course, is when most problems occur, which is why a good coordinator is focused, organized, and resourceful.

This is a great position for those looking to start a career in event planning. Working as a coordinator gives you a strong foundation to move on to an event planner role later in your career. A strong coordinator is worth their weight in gold to any planner, and job security (if you're good at your job) is virtually guaranteed.

To break into a career in event coordination, getting an internship or volunteering with a non-profit to help them plan their fundraising events can be advantageous. You'll get hands-on experience in coordinating a real event and build your professional network at the same time.