What is the difference between an event planner and an event coordinator?
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.
Event Planning – Creating the Big Picture
When it comes to event planning, you want to focus on the “planning” part. No big event happens without a plan. Whether it’s a charity gala, a corporate event, a wedding, or a convention, detailed plans are drawn up long before the event kicks off. These plans include finding the best dates and venues, deciding on a theme, and figuring out a budget.
An event planner works with clients from the beginning. They start with the original concept of the event. From there, they work out all the major details that need to be in place for the event to happen.
Event planning involves working with the client to understand how the client envisions the event. The event planner takes the client’s vision and works to make it a practical reality. The goal is to meet the client’s objectives for the event while ensuring all the pieces are in place so that the event can go off smoothly.
Think of the event planner as the “big picture” person. Their job is to design the event from beginning to end with the client’s goals in mind. This might include tasks such as:
- Coming up with ideas for the event’s theme
- Deciding on a color scheme and designing invitations
- Working with the client to create a budget
- Locating the best venue
- Planning the event’s entertainment
- Finding a caterer and deciding on a menu
- Negotiating contracts with hotels and vendors
The purpose of event planning is to get all the requirements in place for the event to happen. This doesn’t mean event planning stops when the event starts. It’s common for event planners to work during and after the event to wrap up any loose ends. The bulk of their work, however, happens before the event.
Coordinators, like planners are logic-focused but work with you within a shorter timeframe well into the planning process. They will confirm the contracts with each vendor, create timelines for the day of, insure payments and get guest counts in order once the event is approaching. As your main point of contact during the last few weeks leading up to your event, this person helps to tweak details and tie up loose ends to be fully prepared. The value of having an event coordinator is to ensure everything is on schedule, and to make sure everything is running smoothly. Usually this person will be there the day of the event to tend to detail, resolve issues that may arise and take control so you can enjoy your time with your guests.
So What’s the Difference?
Though many people don’t understand the difference between a planner and a coordinator, the difference is relatively simple: The event planner makes the critical decisions (the who, what, when, where and how) while the coordinator makes sure all details are executed and as seamlessly as possible.
More specifically, event planning is the creative, pre-event process. It consists of managing all activities before the actual event and helping the client to make such decisions as:
- Event colors and/or theme
- Menu and caterers
- Overall space design
- Table layouts
- Entertainment choice
Contrast this with the event coordinators, who are less involved in event décor and design and focus more on the actual scheduling and directing of event staff and management of volunteers—not only for the event itself but also for set up and take down/clean up. Coordination also includes scheduling and directing of vendors.
Coordinators handle event logistics, but that doesn’t mean coordinators never get creative. This role also includes finding solid, reliable vendors and firing them if their services aren’t up to par. Coordinators also must ensure that the event’s visual aspects are appealing.
While the role of an event planner and event coordinator are technically different, they are also extremely similar. Whether you’re planning an event that will take place in the future by carefully selecting colors, entertainment and a menu that will suit your client’s needs or coordinating every detail of that event in real time—each role requires that you think on your feet and survey your events. You must be ready to handle whatever crazy or unforeseen thing that comes your way, whether it’s a missing wedding dress, a downpour during an outside fundraiser, or a caterer that’s running behind.
Remember that becoming an event planner doesn’t happen overnight; it takes years of experience, including working as an event coordinator to become familiar, comfortable and well-versed in what it takes to make an event happen. Being an event planner carries a great deal of responsibility—it’s ultimately up to the planner to ensure that the client is happy by crafting and designing an event that fits his or her (or their) needs and expectations.