Updated Dec. 21, 2020.
Life sure has changed since 612 meeting planners took our 2020 Salary Survey, which shows how much event organizers were making before the coronavirus and its dire consequences hit the industry. Pre-Covid, meeting planners made an average of $87,251, but when event planning jobs become available again, candidates might see offerings more in the $60,000 to $70,000 range at first, says an industry hiring expert.
The State of Industry Employment
Economywide, total employment is down about 9.8 million jobs, according to Kiplinger, a publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice. But if the vaccines that currently are being distributed work, the forecasters expect the labor market to heal rapidly in 2021.
In the meetings industry, where events came to a halt and many event professionals had to find new ways to make money, Dawn Penfold, founder and president of MeetingJobs, wonders if a layer of seasoned professionals are gone for good. "I fear the industry has lost a lot of brain power this year," says Penfold, whose firm is now owned by Cadre, a virtual-marketplace company that provides meetings industry freelancers with an efficient process to contract gig work. "They've gone on to other things."
She added, "Candidates will need to be flexible when the hiring starts again. Companies will be rebuilding, and those that are hiring will have the upper hand, seeing more candidates than jobs. They might not be offering the six-figure jobs anymore and instead might be paying $60,000-$70,000, instead."
Webcast: Digital Meetings
All the digital gatherings that have taken place in 2020 have required meeting planners to upskill, adding new expertise to their résumés. Those abilities still will be needed post-recovery. "It is not a fad — it is now a fact," says Penfold. "Seasoned planners will need digital-meetings experience as the employment market opens back up."
Industry conjecture predicts an explosion of corporate, association and trade show events once the Covid vaccine has been administered to a healthy majority of people. A corresponding explosion of meetings industry employment opportunities will be slower to come, according to Penfold. "Initially, I think it will be a buyers' market for employers when people can go back to work," she says. "But we've proved that a home office can work in this industry, and the market for an open position will be much wider because planners will be able to work from anywhere, and the competition for jobs will become more intense." She also predicts employers will bring in contracted help before they hire people permanently.
Planner Salary Research
In M&C's 2020 Salary Survey, comparing 2019 salaries with 2017, the average increased by a healthy 7.5 percent since the biennial study was last conducted in 2018. Overall, in 2019 planners earned an average base salary of $87,251. Use our exclusive biennial research on salaries and job satisfaction for meeting planners as a benchmark for going forward in the new year.
The gender pay gap is still wide, and it opened up again somewhat: While female meeting planners earned 89 cents on the male dollar in 2017, in 2019 it was 84 cents on the dollar, but still better than the national average of 79 cents to the male dollar. In the 2018 survey, planners in the Northeast United States made the most money; this year, the Pacific Northwest took that crown.
To gather the data, M&C conducted an online survey in January and February with help from members of Meetingjobs.com, compiling statistics from corporate, association and third-party/independent planners.
To access a complete PDF of the 2020 Salary Survey, click here.