Event Management VS Project Management: Same, Same But Different


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All thumbs are fingers, but not all fingers are thumbs. In that same way, all event planners and managers are project managers, but not all project managers could coordinate a wedding, or a corporate conference.


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What we’re trying to say is that The Aleit Academy’s National Diploma in Event Coordination prepares our students for far more than just event planning and management. Rather, our focus is on teaching transferable project management skills that equip our students for long-term success not only in the event and hospitality industries, but also in more corporate settings.

Our graduates have gone on to become successful account and project managers for various entities including brand management companies, web development & other creative agencies; and their background in event management has given them a unique perspective and an edge on their classically trained project manager counterparts.

So, in what ways are event management and project management the same?

And, what are the relative benefits of approaching the study of project management from an event management perspective? Keep reading and find out!

They’re both phasic

Both project management and event management make use of a project framework or event timeline to ensure things are progressing smoothly.

This means that both project managers and event coordinators measure a project’s progress in phases.

Tasks need to happen in a specific order and time frame in both cases, and both PMs and event coordinators use milestones to track progress.

Milestones are predetermined phases of a project that need to be completed before a specific deadline, and before the subsequent milestone can be reached.

For example, in planning and managing a date must be set, and then a wedding venue must be booked and paid for before individual suppliers can be booked, etc.

In a corporate project management role, the milestones may look different, for example, project briefing, web domain purchase and registration, site design, etc.

However, all projects, including events can be simplified into the following basic phases:

Research, Discovery & Preparation

When planning and managing an event, this phase typically involves consulting the client, researching potential venues and other service providers, etc. and preparing or finalising the event budget.

The same activities are typical of project management across fields.

Managing a building project, for example, would also require the budget to be fixed at this stage, and research to be done on potential building materials suppliers, etc.

Project Initiation

Whether the project is an event or encompasses the development of a tangible deliverable, project initiation begins as soon as the research, discovery and preparation phase has been completed.

In the case of an event, project initiation involves taking active steps to retain/ book service providers, for example; whereas, in the event of the development of a website, for example, project initiation may involve the gathering of tangible resources, such as web-copy and imagery.

Project Execution

Project execution should be the culmination of the work completed in phases 1 and 2 and would, if we stick with our previous examples, involve the execution of the aforementioned wedding or the development of the website, for example.

Project Monitoring & Control

The project monitoring and control phase is perhaps the phase that differs the most between traditional project management and event management, simply by virtue of duration of the phase and the project itself.

In the event of a more traditional project being managed, say, for example, a building project; the project execution phase is protracted, leading to a protracted project monitoring and control process, and leaving room for mid-project adjustments and ongoing assessment and course-correction over time.

In the case of an event being managed, the project execution phase is typically no longer than a weekend, and the event itself often lasts mere hours, leaving little time for mid-project adjustment and requiring event managers to either pre-empt and address potential issues and concerns in the earlier phases of their planning already, or to be able to think on their feet and pivot quickly in order to solve problems.

Event managers must therefore be agile thinkers and problem solvers, while project managers can afford to be less agile and more methodical in their approach to project monitoring and control.

While project managers are also typically less involved in the day-to-day elements of project execution, event managers are crucial role-players in the execution of their projects/ events on the day.

Therefore, event managers are actively involved in the execution, monitoring and control of the project simultaneously and in equal measure.

In contrast, project managers may have little or nothing to do with the practical execution of their projects beyond remote monitoring and assessment over a longer period of time.

That being said, both event and project management require the manager to be actively involved in monitoring the progress of the project and troubleshooting as required to ensure that the project execution aligns with objectives and meets relevant goals and targets in a timely fashion.

Project Review and Debriefing

No matter the nature of the project at hand, there is always work to be done once the real work is over.

If you’ve been managing an event, there’s the inevitable clean up, payment of vendors and feedback from the client.

If you’ve been managing a website development project on the other hand, there’s rendering the site live and troubleshooting any bugs that have crept in between development and the live site.

All project managers, including event coordinators have systems in place to ensure that projects wrap up successfully once the real work has been completed.

From invoicing clients and accepting final payments to filing documents and receipts for future reference (and, perhaps, tax purposes); the work of project and event management alike do not end once the project has been executed.

They’re both task-orientated at meta-project/ micro-level

We have established that both events management and coordination and project management in general are phasic and that PMs track the progress of their projects against a predetermined set of milestones.

Each of these milestones, however, encompass extensive checklists of smaller tasks of their own.

And, this is the case whether you’re managing a conference, wedding or other event as a project, or whether you’re managing a project of another nature.

For example, while both event and project managers will have checklists for the execution phase of their project, the contents of these lists will differ completely from one another, and be dictated by the nature of the project, the project budget, the clients’ goals and objectives, etc.

This means that, while their individual checklists’ contents differ, both event planners and PMs need to be organised, level-headed, and administratively minded people, dedicated to checking items off their lists methodically.

They both require teamwork & collaboration

It’s like high school group projects all over again – but unfortunately, you cannot successfully manage a project, whether it’s an event or not, without working with and collaborating with other people.

From external service providers to internal team members, subordinates, or superiors to whom you must report; project and event managers are both required to communicate and coordinate in order to get the job done.

While event planners may work closely with external vendors, third-party suppliers and hired help, and agency project managers may work more closely with different agency departments, for example finance.

Both positions require a certain modicum of management of human resources, and so, good people skills and the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is critical to success in both event and project management roles.

Why, then, are event managers often superior project managers?

Well, when the event managers in question are Aleit Academy graduates, it’s because they have the theoretical education with the practical experience to back it up!

By the time students of The Aleit Academy graduate, they have had real-world experience managing large, complex projects with many moving parts, fixed budgets, and hard deadlines.

Courses with similar theoretical foundations, but that offer a qualification in project management typically lack a practical component and leave their students with a gap between knowledge and application.

Ultimately, event coordination graduates from The Aleit Academy enter the workforce with the same theoretical knowledge and education as project managers, but with 3 years’ worth of hands-on, practical project management experience, encompassing exposure to and collaboration with third-party vendors and suppliers, as well as internal departments such as finance and marketing.

The course also facilitates the direction you would like to take on in the events and hospitality industry should it be floral design, social media marketing, photography of weddings and events, corporate events, venue management, wedding coordination, and many more.

This gives you such a broad overview of the world out there and you are able to do anything and everything you set your mind to.

Are you ready to take the next step in your project management and event coordination career?

Reach out to us today to find out more about our National Diploma in Event Coordination syllabus, and how The Aleit Academy can help you prepare for a future in project management.

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