Conference and Exhibition Organiser

The Job and What's Involved

Conference and exhibition organisers plan and run events such as trade shows, exhibitions and conferences. These can range from major events such as the Ideal Home Exhibition or party political conferences, to smaller local events.

In this job you would deal with three main areas of work – marketing, operations and sales. You might specialise in one of these, or you might deal with all three aspects.

In marketing, your work might include:

  • Researching the level of interest in an event.
  • Publicising events.
  • Finding suitable venues and dates.
  • Overseeing the design and printing of tickets, posters and promotional items.

Operations work involves making sure that everything runs smoothly on the day. Working in operations can include:

  • Planning timetables.
  • Booking venues.
  • Supervising and paying contractors and suppliers such as exhibition designers and caterers.
  • Working closely with venue staff during events.
  • Handling enquiries from exhibitors, speakers, sponsors and visitors.
  • Supervising health and safety issues and ensuring venues are cleared safely.

Your work in sales would involve selling stand space to exhibitors by telephone or face-to-face, and arranging sponsorship for events.

You would be mainly office-based and spend a lot of time on the telephone. You would also travel to meet potential sponsors and exhibitors, and to visit venues and contractors.

Just before and during an event, you would work long hours and have strict deadlines, particularly on the operations side.

Starting salaries can be around £17,000 to £21,000 a year.
With experience, earnings can reach £25,000 to £40,000.

Managers and exhibition directors can earn up to £50,000 to £70,000 a year.

Salaries often include bonuses and commission, particularly in exhibition sales jobs.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

You could come to conference and exhibition organising from a range of backgrounds. Experience from hotel conference and banqueting, travel, sales, marketing, PR or fund raising can be especially useful.

Employers will look for relevant experience or strong transferable skills such as organising, budget management and sales.

You could work for exhibition management or event management companies, major exhibition venues, or in-house marketing departments in large organisations such as universities.

Jobs may be advertised in the local, national and events industry press, and specialist recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

Taking a qualification in events management or hospitality management may give you an advantage. This is not essential if you can get relevant work experience, but courses at degree, foundation degree or HNC/HND level often include work placements and so can be useful for building practical experience and contacts. Visit the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) website to search for courses at this level.

Shorter part-time courses in event planning may also be available at local colleges, which may be helpful for building useful experience if you're new to the industry. Qualifications include:

EDI Level 2 Certificate in Event Planning

NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Event Planning

You could also start as an administrator or assistant in an event management company or marketing department, possibly through temporary work ('temping'). You could then progress to organising your own events as your experience grows.

Whatever your qualifications and background, you will find it useful to have practical experience of organising large events, for example as part of a previous job, from voluntary work or in your social life. Paid or unpaid work as a steward at large events or exhibitions can also be a good way of building contacts in the industry.

You may be able to get into the industry through an apprenticeship scheme in events or hospitality. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You would do most of your training on the job. Some employers may give you the opportunity to attend short in-house or external training courses if necessary.

You could also choose to study for part-time qualifications in event planning and management whilst you're working in the industry. Qualifications include:

- EDI Level 2 Certificate in Event Planning
- EDI Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Event Management
- NCFE Level 2 Certificate in Event Planning
- Organisation for Tourism & Hospitality Management (OTHM)
- Level 4 Certificate in Conferences and Event Management
- BTEC HNC in Event Management.

You may find it useful to join a professional organisation such as the Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO) or the Association for Conferences and Events (ACE), for training and networking opportunities. See their websites for more details.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A conference and exhibition organiser needs:

  • Excellent organisational skills and 'multi-tasking' ability.
  • Good communication and 'people skills'.
  • The ability to build good working relationships with all kinds of people from clients to contractors.
  • Creative problem-solving ability.
  • A high degree of attention to detail.
  • The ability to work under pressure and meet tight deadlines.
  • Good negotiation, sales and marketing skills.
  • Budget awareness.
  • Administrative and IT skills.
  • The ability to work as part of a team and also on your own initiative.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience and a good track record, you could progress to management within a company, or you could choose to work freelance or set up your own business.

Get Further Information

Association for Conferences and Events (ACE),
Riverside House, High Street, Huntingdon,
Cambridgeshire PE18 6SG
Tel: 01480 457595

Association of British Professional
Conference Organisers (ABPCO),
Wellington Park, Belfast BT9 6DJ
Tel: 028 9038 7475

Association of Exhibition Organisers,
119 High Street, Berkhamstead,
Hertfordshire HP4 2DJ
Tel: 01442 285810

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM),
Moor Hall, Cookham, Maidenhead, Berkshire SL6 9QH
Tel: 01628 427500

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