Online Event Planning Course
February 23, 2016 3:29 PM   Subscribe

I am an experienced event planner for conferences, charity and corporate events but everything I know has been learned through decades of on the job experience. I'd like to take an online events planning course, but they all sound so creepy and/or scammy. Help? Recommendations? Warnings?

As a bit of background, I have historically done event planning as a part of a larger professional role: non-profit development, community management, start-up launching, and corporate roles. I am interested in transitioning this background to a dedicated event planning business because I enjoy this work enormously. But I think I would benefit from a course that provides more of a framework than the one I've made up in my head and to increase my confidence that I know what I need to know to do this, so I've been looking at online courses.

I am specifically looking for:

* A course with practical content of use, not just a mill for a "certificate" or "diploma"
* An online course that is not delivered primarily by video (because I can't learn that way.)
* A course from somewhere that would not be embarrassing to put in a bio on a website, which eliminates IAP Career College, the International Institute of Event Management, and their friends.

I was seriously considering the New York Institute of Art and Design because I really, really like the course outline and it sounds like a real thing, but I rang today to clarify payment discounts and it took them 6 minutes to answer my simple question; the guy would just not stop trying to sell me a course I was 100% ready to pay for.. On further investigation, the "online brochure" has even less information than the website. I don't feel warm and happy about this place now, and would love to know if anyone has other suggestions. (They're charging $846 and that would be the absolute outside of my budget.)
posted by DarlingBri to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe one of these programs, approved by ISES?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 4:04 PM on February 23, 2016

I looked at a bunch of these event planner workshops and programs, and they do all look a little scammy. They also look like they are geared towards novices, which you certainly are not. I came in to say that I think you might be better served by reaching out to a mentor in the field, possibly through They're free. You can go over your strategies and get solid guidance, plus you'll have someone who is already in the field as an ally and sanity-checker when you transition to being a full time event planner.

Honestly, as an experienced event producer myself, I can say without hesitation that actual experience trumps classes every time. I totally get that you want some validation and a double-check for the skills you've learned, but I would be very hesitant to recommend that you take a course. Most of these 'certifications' are just profit generators, even for accredited schools -- they don't actually carry any weight in the industry. Maybe other people have had different experiences, but I have never met an event planner (and I know LOTS) who has been certified -- they all followed a similar path to your where they did it as part of a larger job and then transitioned to it full time, or they just decided that's what they wanted to do and jumped in.

Also keep in mind that if you aren't planning on working for an existing event planning company, what you are looking to learn is not just how to become a better event planner, but also how to become a self-employed small business owner, which is its own set of skills, challenges and learning experiences. Best of luck, it's a really fun job! Feel free to PM me about this if you like.
posted by ananci at 4:05 PM on February 23, 2016 [5 favorites]

I hope this is helpful -- I don't have specific courses to recommend, but rather a way to find them. Take a look at good books about event planning. Then look at the credentials/training of the authors. Do they teach or did they take classes anywhere? They might even list training resources. (Though some of those authors seem a bit sketchy themselves, so tread carefully.)

You might also look at folks who are already professional event planners, and see if they have credentials or coursework that they tout.

As an aside, browsing a couple of books, either on Amazon or at your local book store, may help you realize you don't really need a course at all. The books might give you the structure you feel you need and/or might help you realize you know a whole bunch already.

I suspect you will be quite disappointed by any entry-level class you take in this area. Have you thought about looking at project management classes instead?
posted by bluedaisy at 4:07 PM on February 23, 2016

In the profession I practiced back in the day, the need you describe was met by a professional organization that had lunch meetings with a speaker once a month. You got to meet with others who do what you do, and hear talks by people who did something interesting and related.

The contacts were worth much more than a certificate.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:32 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can search California colleges online at These are real colleges in the state of California, not degree mills. I used to use this all time when I was trying to finish my bachelor's.

I was mostly taking online classes. There are a bunch of things available online in California.
posted by Michele in California at 5:07 PM on February 23, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks so much for the reality check. Reading through them helped me clarify my thinking on this, and I realised that in the market in which I live and work, a certification has value, even though it may reflect no accreditation or actual standard. I also realise that you are all right, and that I'm unlikely to glean much from an introductory class.

But I still want the probably-useless class (I like structure!) and the undoubtedly-useless piece of paper (I like paper!), so I am somewhere between smug and mortified to reveal that I have resolved this for now with a I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING HERE $5 course I found on Groupon (shutupIsaved95%). Honestly, the checklists from the syllabus are worth the $5 to me, so no harm no foul if it's utter rubbish.

I will likely go back to the excellent suggestion of the California courses after test-driving this.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:04 PM on February 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

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