Love parties? An event planner tells us what her job is really like

If you love parties and you love to travel, you might want to consider a career in international event planning.

Anita Engebretsen, 28, is the Senior Global Events Manager for emc³ in London. The company has offices around the world and organises extravagant parties, conferences and incentive trips for some major corporate bigwigs like LinkedIn as well as private clients.

Aside from travelling the world to manage events, Anita works hard to make sure each one runs smoothly and the guests are well taken care of.

We spoke with her about the perks of such a high pressure job and how your career path may lead you to places you never expected.


Image: Anita Engebretsen (left)

1. How did you get started in event planning? Was it something you always wanted to do? 

No, I wanted to get into politics. Truthfully it was a complete fluke. In 2010 I was studying at King’s College London and applied for work experience at political think tank Demos as an events intern. I interned there and my heart was set – I had to be in events.

I remember being asked the question “what do you want to do?” and being equally frustrated that I didn’t know the answer. I also didn’t see the answer to that question as a straight up “I want to be a doctor”or “I want to be a scientist”. I’ve always felt like I could be good at anything if I concentrated on it enough and I think a lot of young women can relate to that.

2. What does a typical day at work look like for you? Walk us through it…

Agency work is different every day. You might have a concise plan mapped out in the morning, but chances are something swings in that needs your urgent attention. My office times are technically 10am to 6PM, but that’s not usually the case – I tend to work longer than that, picking up calls from the US if we are planning an event there, or waking up earlier to speak to Dubai if I need to. Sometimes we have events at night and you’re the first one to arrive, and the last one to leave. That’s very typical of this job. It is definitely not a desk job with regular hours, but if you like the challenge….


Image: Anita Engebretsen

3. What are some of the perks of the job?

International travel. I particularly like the creativity of events and the daily challenges it brings. Also our company is really into creating an environment you want to spend time in, so we have lunch on Friday’s where we order out and eat together family-style. We work on high desks with high chairs and have a next door office with comfortable cushions and table tennis. We play beer pong on Friday at 5PM, the senior staff have flexible working hours and we also do special prizes for people who display team effort. Also our Christmas party is great – we spend the evening at The Grove and then have the next night out.

4. What’s been your proudest career moment so far?

I have many, but I would say working on huge events with short timeframes is always very challenging and exciting. Some career highlights have been a private party for 300+ guests at the Opera Garnier in Paris with over 200 entertainers, working on talent at a 14,000 person conference in Boston, and our annual conference for LinkedIn, Talent Connect.

5. What’s the most challenging part of the job?

Dealing with difficult people.

6. What would be your dream event to plan?

I’ve done some fantastic ‘dream’ events. But I think my dream events are when the client has a vision of making an impact. I’ve worked with some fantastic clients but I really have a lot of respect for those that think beyond ‘corporate goals’ and benchmarks. That’s when attendees make long-lasting memories, or are jolted into action, and make changes in their personal and/or work lives.

7. What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do? What do you wish you had known before you started?

Be prepared for anything to go wrong. Run fail scenarios in your head – what you would do if someone has an allergic reaction, is choking, if there is a fire threat, a speaker doesn’t show up, if a VIP spills red wine on their shirt – anything and everything. When you expect something to fail, you will be prepared.

Also, don’t be disappointed and don’t take it personally. It’s just business.


The emc3 girls in Paris. Image: Anita Engebretsen

8. What are your life goals? What’s next for you? 

Striking a good work/ life balance – I’m currently really bad at that. To keep on learning and work on bigger and greater events. To surround myself with positive people with ‘can-do’ attitudes.

Now what?