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The Top 10 Books Every Event Manager Should Read

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Update 4/11/17: After a year and a half, we’ve updated our list of the top event management books to include the latest, best reads. This list now contains 11 instead of ten recommended event management books.

While I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed, I noticed an advertised shirt that said “Event Manager: Because ‘miracle worker’ doesn’t sound professional on a résumé.” Isn’t Facebook creepy that way?

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The shirt’s quote isn’t too far off. Event managers organize staff, decide on event management software, act as idea marketers, and bring guests together in a miraculous fashion. It is virtually impossible for any event manager to know everything about these responsibilities, therefore outside help is always welcome.

Personally, I’ve almost always found the answers to my questions in books. As for you event managers out there who share in this enthusiasm, I have built a list of books that all event managers ought to read. This list was curated out of the most frequently suggested event management books on Amazon and Goodreads.

Books are listed in alphabetical order.

1. The Accidental Creative: How to be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice

Author: Todd Henry

You can’t put a price on competence. The ability to problem solve and come up with new ideas on demand is developed over time and in the end is an invaluable skill for event planners. Todd Henry explores how to develop this skill without all of the stress that comes with on-the-spot planning.

Sample Review

“Today’s prospects and clients expect more from you than ever before. They want you to bring them ideas, insights and information that can help them achieve their objectives. Unfortunately, it’s darn near impossible to be “brilliant at a moment’s notice.”

According to author Todd Henry, “If you want to deliver the right idea at the right moment, you must begin the process far upstream from when you need the idea.”

In this excellent book, you’ll learn a process and tons of strategies to turn that into a reality at work — and also in your personal life. It’s well worth reading!”

2. Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements

Author: Robbin Phillips

No one wants to be just another number on a spreadsheet, yet to many people that is what marketing boils down to, even in event marketing.

“How many people are attending? What ages are they? How much can we charge them for X?”

Brains on Fire puts a human spin on marketing by focusing on relationships, interests, and desires in order to build effective word of mouth campaigns.

Sample Review

“A major thumbs up to the folks at Brains on Fire!! For those who are interested in understanding how to build a tribe of not just customers but true followers this is a “must read” book for your library. The crew at BOF understand that the new social media tools are powerful but they are in fact only tools. The secret is defining one’s message in a way that it empowers people to believe in your cause and want be a part of what you do. The case studies profiled in this book give wonderful insight on how to craft that message to build something remarkable (something everyone wants to remark about). Buy the book….you won’t be disappointed.”

3. The Business of Event Planning: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Success Special Events

Author: Judy Allen

It is hard to build a “best of” event management booklist without Judy Allen showing up at least once. The Business of Event Planning is the first of two Judy Allen books to make it on this list due to her vast experience as an event planner. Her guide on what goes on “behind the scenes” in event planning fleshes out the secrets of proposals, fees, safety issues and other less explored topics of event planning.

Sample Review

“Planning a corporate party or special event? Don’t lift a finger until you’ve read The Business of Event Planning. In this highly practical book, author Judy Allen covers every aspect of the process in exhaustive detail. Allen, an author, writer and experienced event planner, contends that events are more than just feel-good activities.”

4. Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, etc.

Author: Judy Allen

As promised, this is the second Judy Allen selection to take a spot on this list. Allen’s all-in-one guide to events covers so many topics that I actually had to cut the title short in order to conserve on space. If there is something you want to know about event management, from start to finish, this is the book to get your hands on.

Sample Review

“Having planned many events in the past six years, I already had a great “base” of experience. I was looking for a great guide to cover all the bases. This is it! Each chapter details all aspects of event planning and prompts you to think about how you can apply the suggestions to your own events.”

5. How to Win Friends & Influence People

Author: Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie’s flagship book is an influential piece for any leader in any industry. Key concepts in the book, such as ways to make people like you, techniques in handling groups of people, and methods on winning others over to your way of thinking, are all useful tools for event planning and management. When leading groups of people, such as event management teams, you need to know how to win over those groups to work effectively for you. This book will teach you the “how” for influencing others.

Sample Review

“Many people have heard of the book, but few have actually read this very entertaining and informative instruction manual on how to connect personally with people to have a positive impact on others.

It’s a short and practical “how to” become a leader, how to bring value into your relationships, told in a winsome way with plenty of colorful, if somewhat dated, illustrative stories. Fun to read and share with others.”

6. Into the Heart of Meetings: Basic Principles of Meeting Design

Author: Mike van der Vijver

Have you ever been stuck in a dull meeting that would never end? I’m sure we all have. There are few instances where the word “meeting” is associated with adjectives like “fun” or “intriguing.” The best meetings are ones that are organized, informative, and efficient in the time they take up. Into the Heart of Meetings will show you how to make the most of your meeting planning through organization and communication strategies.

Sample Review

“After having worked for many years successfully designing meetings (something which few people can claim), Mike and Eric have been kind enough to share with the rest of us all their knowledge and experience. This book will not only open your mind as to what really matters in a meeting (its content) but it will also give you practical tools and tons of actionable ideas to start putting it into practice. I’m fortunate enough to be working right now on my first meeting design assignment for a client and can’t put this book down!”

7. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Author: Chip Heath

Made to Stick was the book immediately handed to me on my first day at Capterra. Event planners, just like writers, are constantly on the lookout for fresh ideas and themes, but making those ideas stick is the real challenge. Made to Stick explores the theories and variables behind ideas that take hold so that your will know how to make your own grow.

Sample Review

“[Made to Stick] simplifies the concept of explaining or communicating anything! It changed how I express the technical aspect of my ideas and I learned to provide relatable images so other can understand and get onboard! Highly recommend it! You won’t regret reading this one!”

8. Rework

Author: Jason Fried

Marketed as a book for “hardcore entrepreneurs, small-business owners, people stuck in day jobs they hate, victims of ‘downsizing,’ and artists who don’t want to starve anymore,” Rework is for anyone looking for a new way to run their industries and lives. This New York Times bestseller offers new and counterintuitive ideas to build productivity and build your brand, whatever it may be.

Sample Review

“I had to purchase this book twice. I purchased it the first time, read almost all the way through it on a flight from JFK to SFO. I ended up letting my coworker borrow the book before I could finish reading it and I never got it back, so here am on Amazon ordering it again. I finally finished it, and it’s a great read. Mostly common sense for someone who has already adopted most of the methodologies outlined in the book, but there are still thousands of businesses who need to embrace these practices, there’s something everyone can take away from ReWork. 37 Signals has created some very successful products, simple and powerful, and they’ve done it without the overhead of a huge staff or office… I like to call the strategies and practices discussed in Frieds’ books as ‘Business 2.0.’”

9. Special Events: A New Generation and the Next Frontier

Author: Joe Goldblatt

Goldblatt interviews event planners, invokes case studies, and provides lessons on how technology is impacting events and how you can harness this progress. Special Events is THE textbook on event planning and technology.

Sample Review

“This is a very thorough book. I purchased the book for an event planning class. At first, I thought it would not have been a good purchase. But after looking through it, it was a GREAT BUY! I highly recommend. This is a book that you want in your library.”

10. Sustainable Event Management: A Practical Guide

Author: Meegan Jones

No one wants to go to the exact same event every year. Keeping events fresh and growing at a sustainable rate is no easy feat, but Meegan Jones’ guide will show you the way. This guide uses real-life examples, such as Burning Man, Reading Festival, and numerous other events to demonstrate these tips and concepts.

Sample Review

“Sustainable Event Management is a ‘must’ acquisition for any professional business or general library strong in events planning. It covers all the basics of how to hold a ‘sustainable’ event, whether it be a festival or gathering, and offers event planners and students a step-by-step guide to staging and managing the impacts of all kinds of events. From transport to water safety issues, this covers it all!”

11. The Wedding Book: The Big Book for your Big Day

Author: Mindy Weiss

No one ever forgets their wedding day, whether it was big or small. Making sure your wedding or the wedding you are planning is one that you will remember fondly requires tons of preparation, organization, and management. The Wedding Book will prepare you for the dresses, flowers, guests, and more to come.

Sample Review

“I bought this book as a gift for my fiancé (mostly so she would stop bugging me to get it for her). I actually read some of it too and really found it helpful. The book even had some sections geared towards guys which I thought was kinda cool – especially the list of what to stock the bar with and the different types of suits to wear since that’s all I will get a say in anyway.”

More Books for Event Managers?

Ready to get your miracle work on? After reading these books, you’ll likely be one of the top event planners in your field… until everyone else reads them, of course.

Have you read any of these books? Are there books you feel as though I overlooked? Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for Event Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Event Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Nick Morpus

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Nick Morpus is a Content Writer for Capterra, a free resource that matches buyers and sellers of business software. He has a background in politics, economics, and journalism, which he dedicates his off-time to contributing his thoughts to other political sites. In his free-time he enjoys reading, playing guitar, writing, cooking, and dominating the world of video games.

Comments

Glad to see Judy Allen’s books in this list! She’s an author with awesome event planning and management chops…no wonder her work has been featured on numerous event industry portals. “The Accidental Creative” sounds like a good read, too.

All these books sound like good reads. Some of them I already have and have read. The others I will have to order… Thanks of the list

Great list, Nick! It works well for event tech people, too… definitely sharing this list.

Thanks for the tips. I read one.
I´m from Brazil, and I´d like to see some books in portuguese or spanish about events.

Interesting, but pretty typical list for “special” event planners. Want the latest and greatest book on creative thinking (those on your list are pretty old school thinking) that debunks the myths that surround creative thought process – How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery by Kevin Ashton. The 5 Event Planning books on the list are pretty good from an “operational” point of view and include a lot about the nuts and bolt of event production … what none of them really get into however is the “heart” of event management, an understanding of what is optimal or peak experience and how to go about the experience design aspects of creating it. Unfortunately, there is no specific book that completely addresses the concept of experience design. Events Design and Experience by Graham Berridge, in part II provides some good basic thought on understanding what experience design is about, but fails to relate it to optimal or peak experience. There are 2 classic books that can help event planners understand there is so much more than the WOW! factor. The first is In Tune with The World by Josef Piper – the first 4 chapters lay down a philosophical base for true liminal experience. The second is The Feast of Fools: A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy which provides the ingredients of festivity and fantasy in terms of juxtaposition. Bottom line, lots of event planers are good at creating events, not so many at creating optimal and peak experiences. You are right to encourage people to read – I have over 5 dozen event management books and copies of non-event books that also add to the mix (Future Shock – chapter 10 for example). I constantly hear that you get better at event management by doing it (true), but you get great at event management by reading and thing about it.

Thank you for thus great list, but I would like to add The Trade Show Chronicles.
I wrote this book specifically for people managing their participation in events & trade shows and packed it with loads of tips and applicable advice.
The little “extra” that makes it unique is that it is written like a novel, unlike most business books. That way, it is not only easier to read but the learning you get from it sticks much better and is easier to assimilate.
I’d love for you to review it and share your opinion!

Great to see more than one Judy Allen book on this list – thanks for sharing!

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