You’re always looking at blogs and magazine spreads for ways to improve your business and find event planning inspiration. But sometimes it takes a deeper dive to level up in event planning, and that’s when the best event planning books come into play.
For bedtime reading, or during a rare break in your schedule, we recommend you crack open the books below. The event planning books cover everything from industry-wide topics to specialty planning niches, such as sustainability or event safety. Still others will inspire you to re-think what you thought you knew about event planning.
We’ve also included books not written for planners, but that address vital issues, such as creativity, attention to detail, interpersonal relations, burnout, and the business of running a company.
Look through the list and pick out books that address areas where you could use a boost of knowledge, inspiration, or creativity. Whether you’re a new or experienced pro, global or sustainable event designer, small business owner or Fortune 500 corporate planner—your next must-read is on here. Dive in!
Discover the Best Event Planning Books to Read This Year:
1. The Power of Participation: Creating Conferences That Deliver Learning, Connection, Engagement, and Action (2015)
Author: Adrian Segar
Focus area: Conferences
Who it’s for: Meeting planners who want to be on the cutting edge
Why it’s great: This book covers a lot of theoretical ground, but in a very practical way. It gives step-by-step instructions on improving meeting sessions so that passive ‘attendees’ become active ‘participants.’ Topics covered include watching for opportunities for genuine fun, and improving meeting engagement by promoting a sense of community.
An expert opinion: “This is a book that should be OPEN on every meeting planner’s or event marketer’s desk, and used every day.” — Paul Salinger, VP of Marketing, Oracle
Authors: Mike van der Vijver, Eric de Groot
Focus area: Meeting design
Who it’s for: Corporate event planners, meeting designers, new planners, experienced planners
Why it’s great: Though it contains actionable insights, this is a book that takes a bigger-picture approach. It’s less about refining your process and more about restructuring your established thinking about meetings. It positions meetings as forms of communication. The book includes a well-known section on international meetings, as well as informative and practical information on meeting design, facilitation, programs, venues, and technology.
An expert opinion: “Don’t read this book if you’re looking for checklists, menus, AV specifications, or room layout diagrams… Buy and read Into the Heart of Meetings IMMEDIATELY if you’re fascinated and sometimes baffled by the mysterious processes that make some conferences brilliant and inspirational, with powerful outcomes and the creation of new knowledge and business opportunities, but which can cause other events to fall flat on their face and fail to engage with delegates when the meeting designer gets things wrong.” — Martin Sirk, CEO ICCA (International Congress and Convention Association)
Author: Joe Goldblatt
Focus area: Event planning
Who it’s for: Students and professionals
Why it’s great: This event-industry standby is a fixture of academic programs, and it includes both theory and practice. Now in its 7th edition, the book has been updated with new segments on event sustainability, tech, security, globalization, and social media. Video interviews with thought leaders on those subjects are available online with QR codes in the book. You’ll find detailed case studies within, including ones about the music festival SXSW, the London Olympics, and a papal visit to Scotland, in addition to weddings, sports events, and meetings. Part of textbook company Wiley’s Event Management series, this overview is written by series editor Joe Goldblatt.
A peek inside: “Eventology is the study of planned events to promote social benefits. The term event is derived from the Latin word e-venire, which means outcome. Therefore, eventology is the scientific process through celebration to promote positive outcomes for all of society.
One of the most important outcomes is the opportunity to unite the global human society through events both large and small. Whether you produce events for associations, corporations, exhibitions, incentives, schools, sports, or even zoos, from A to Z, there are increasingly more opportunities than ever before to bring people together for mutual benefit.” — Special Events: Creating and Sustaining a New World for Celebration
Author: Atul Gawande
Focus area: Getting every detail right, every time
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants to get (and stay) organized
Why it’s great: You probably already write checklists, but Gawande offers a way of organizing them and thinking about them that prevents critical tasks from falling through the cracks—even when it’s life or death. (Gawande is a surgeon who discovered that using checklists in a specific way reliably prevented medical mistakes, complications, and even patient death.)
Gawande presents a watertight and engaging case for using checklists to manage creativity and discipline, solve problems through teamwork, and succeed at complex endeavors. (All of which are relevant to surgeons, event planners, and anyone doing a job with multiple moving parts.) You’ll find practical instructions for creating checklists that work for everyone, no matter the business at hand. Gawande’s book is the #1 bestseller in Hospital Administration on Amazon, and he also lands in the top 100 authors in the crowded Self-Help section.
An expert opinion: “I read The Checklist Manifesto in one sitting yesterday, which is an amazing tribute to the book that Gawande has crafted. Not only is the book loaded with fascinating stories, but it honestly changed the way I think about the world. It is the best book I’ve read in ages.” ― Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics
Author: Meegan Jones
Focus area: Sustainability
Who it’s for: Planners who prioritize social and environmental responsibility
Why it’s great: Sustainability is increasingly top-of-mind across the globe, and is a trend in the event industry specifically. This book provides some academic background and a lot of practical, step-by-step information on “using the event for good.” Topics include sustainability best practices in guest engagement and communication, transportation, and procurement.
An expert opinion: “Sustainability is more than just green operations, and Meegan Jones makes it clear that it involves multiple stakeholders, a comprehensive vision, and detailed planning and evaluation systems. You need a guide to continuous improvement, and this book provides the tools.” ― Donald Getz, Professor Emeritus, the University of Calgary, Canada
Author: Ilana Griffo
Focus area: Building a small business
Who it’s for: Event planners ready to launch a new business
Why it’s great: This is a workbook for people interested in starting any type of creative business—including an event planning company. It encourages you to think of the “whys” of your dream business, and then walks you step-by-step through the “hows” of making it a reality. The tone is encouraging and friendly, and there are many attractive, fun pages to fill out on business planning, client experience, brand strategy, marketing, budget-setting, and more. Published earlier this year, this guide is up-to-date with information about online platforms, tips to help customers find your website when they search, and social media best practices.
An expert opinion: “This book will inspire and educate, and it uniquely pairs actual exercises and assignments so that you are present and interacting. Instead of simply telling you what to do, Ilana has curated moments throughout the book to help you put pen-to-paper to actually develop your idea. You’ll answer questions such as, “Why do you want to start a business?” You’ll understand what obstacles are in your way, and how to surpass them. She’ll help you figure out when to start, what pages should be on your website, and how to find your community.” — Sonja Rasula, Founder and CEO of Unique Markets
7. Return on Investment in Meetings and Events: Tools and Techniques to Measure the Success of All Types of Meetings and Events (2008)
Authors: Jack J. Phillips, M. Theresa Breining, Patricia Pulliam Phillips
Focus area: Event ROI
Who it’s for: Event marketers, corporate event planners, meeting planners
Why it’s great: Success in event planning for businesses, means demonstrating the event ROI. For anyone who needs to improve their efforts and results in this area, this book is a must-read. Topics include the “what,” the “why,” and especially the “how” of measuring inputs, perceived value, learning, implementation, and monetary ROI. This book was published in 2008, so it isn’t up-to-the-minute with event-related social media metrics and tools. But it provides a clear pathway towards understanding the fundamentals of event ROI and making changes that show returns quickly.
An expert opinion: “[This book] is organized in an easy-to-understand, step-by-step process… [it does] an excellent job in presenting a complex subject in simple terms. MPI is pleased to support this book as a continuing effort to make our members more successful business partners within their organizations.” — Bruce M. MacMillan, President/CEO, Meeting Professionals International
8. Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and Other Special Events (2009, 2nd Edition)
Author: Judy Allen
Focus area: Event planning
Who it’s for: Early-career planners, corporate planners, fundraisers, and professionals in PR, hospitality, and entertainment.
Why it’s great: It’s the inimitable Judy Allen. If you’re looking at a list of event planning books, you’re going to see her name. This classic, comprehensive volume is most useful for early-career event planners. Topics include how to determine your event goals, budget, venue sourcing, and guest arrival. Keep an eye out Confessions of an Event Planner, another book penned by Allen and released in 2009. It’s a collection of fictionalized case studies that is entertaining and illuminating, giving a behind the curtain peek at the many details and disasters of event planning.
An expert opinion: “Event Planning will save beginning event planners from plenty of heartbreak and headaches.” — Lisa Hurley, Editor, Special Events Magazine
9. The Event Safety Guide: A Guide to Health, Safety and Welfare at Live Entertainment Events in the United States (2014)
Author: The Event Safety Alliance, Edited by Donald C. Cooper
Focus area: Event safety
Who it’s for: Planners of every experience level
Why it’s great: Crowd management, venue safety, and emergency procedures are complex, but they don’t have to be overwhelming. This book draws attention to major safety concerns common to all events, and how to protect event guests and workers. Topics also include safety concerns at specific events, such as conventions and trade shows, large events, and small events—and how to prioritize safety at each event.
A peek inside: “We intend for this Guide to help industry professionals know what safe workplace practices might be, to heighten their understanding of the importance of safety in everything we do, and to engage in these best practices in their daily work. Doing the right thing is the best risk management we know.” — The Event Safety Guide
Author: Andrea Driessen
Focus area: Events of all types
Who it’s for: A fantastic wealth of information for occasional planners. Interesting points and some new ideas for experienced planners as well.
Why it’s great: This book is an easy read that’s focused on helping planners create innovative, inspiring and memorable events. In the first chapter, the author lays out four questions that help her make events ROAR. (She created the acronym from “Return On Attendee Relevance,” but Driessen explains she really likes ROAR because it rhymes with “bore” while being the opposite.) This author is on a mission to help everyone’s events ROAR. And check out that publication date—this book is up to the minute.
From an expert: “Yes, Andrea’s approach is untraditional. No Question. She pushes us to think differently about what’s possible. She challenges us to reconsider everything about event planning–from speakers and catering, to locations and themes.
Yet fascinating events don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. From a modest gathering in a fluorescent-lit conference room, to a wildly extravagant celebration in Iceland, any event can become irresistibly engaging. This book will show you you.” — Sally Hogshead, New York Times bestselling author and CEO of How to Fascinate.
Author: Todd Henry
Focus area: Creativity
Who it’s for: Event planners who feel burnt out, overscheduled, and/or tapped out
Why it’s great: While feelings of “overscheduled burnout” are nearly universal among planners, we certainly aren’t the only professionals who feel that way. This book is written for all types of creatives, not just planners, and it’s immensely popular because of its helpful strategies for balancing life and work across fields.
From an expert: “Invaluable for anyone who thinks for a living.” — Seth Godin, author of Linchpin
12. The Art of Saying NO: How to Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted (Without Feeling Guilty!) (2017)
Author: Damon Zahariades
Focus area: Setting boundaries
Who it’s for: Planners who need to set boundaries with confidence
Why it’s great: Event planners see the advice all the time: Set boundaries with a client early on. But for people-pleasers, setting and sticking to boundaries may feel downright impossible. This book is for planners who would like to change that feeling, keeping both their clients and their sanity in the process. Lots of people are interested in this topic—the title is the #1 Kindle bestseller in Occupational & Organizational Psychology.
A peek inside: “[This book] provides a step-by-step, strategic guide for setting boundaries and developing the assertiveness you need to maintain them. You’ll learn how to say no in every situation, at home and in the workplace, according to your convictions. And best of all, you’ll discover how to get your friends, family members, bosses, coworkers, and neighbors to respect your boundaries and recognize your personal authority.” —The Art of Saying NO
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13. Event Planning Made Easy: 7 Simple Steps to Making Your Business or Private Event a Huge Success from the Industry’s Top Event Planners (2005)
Author: Paulette Wolf and Jodi Wolf
Focus area: Corporate events
Who it’s for: Early-career planners, corporate event planners
Why it’s great: This book contains proven tips from experienced professionals who have planned for McDonalds, Disney, American Red Cross, Cirque Du Soleil, VH1, and USA Today. Outstanding planners are always looking for ways to improve; it doesn’t get better than learning from experts like these authors.
A peek inside: “Putting together a fabulous event is a creative process with a distinct practical foundation. Who, what, when, where, why, and how? In journalism, writers are taught to include the most important information in the first paragraph of their story. Thus, when you read an article in the newspaper, you’ll get the five Ws and sometimes how right at the start.
Special events work in the same way. Before it’s time to put together and produce an event, we need to contemplate the five ws and how.” — Event Planning Made Easy
Author: Dale Carnegie
Focus area: Interpersonal relations
Who it’s for: Planners interested in improving relationships with existing clients, networking with prospective clients, and growing business relationships with vendors
Why it’s great: Interpersonal relationships are an event planner’s bread and butter, whether they are dealing with clients, vendors, or team members. This is basically a manual teaching you to improve your interpersonal skill set. In this book you’ll find the principles behind what has been going smoothly in your business relationships, and ways to improve those relationships ever further. How to Win Friends and Influence People has been in publication since 1936, and it’s one of the best selling nonfiction books of all time. Here it’s updated for the digital age. Note: Read a snippet of this and the prior version before purchasing—some people find the writing in this version needlessly complex.
A peek inside: “By applying the principles you will not only become a more compelling person with more influence in others’ lives; you will fulfill a philanthropic purpose every day. Imagine this effect compounded over the dozens of daily interactions the digital age affords you. Imagine the effect if dozens of people throughout an organization followed suit. Winning friends and influencing people today is no small matter. On the continuum of opportunities, it is your greatest and most constant occasion to make sustainable progress with others. And what success does not begin with relationships?” — How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age
Authors: Mary Ann Anderson, Dr. Edward Anderson, Dr. Geoffrey Parker
Focus area: Running a business
Who it’s for: Planners without a business background
Why it’s great: Sometimes event planners are highly organized on the creative, planning side, but less so on the management side. This book is a highly accessible way to fill in the gaps and meet the challenges of operations management. The “For Dummies” series is known for taking complex topics and making the essentials understandable and useful.
A peek inside: “Successful operations management leaders tend to be the well-organized and systematic types of the world. They fuss and arrange and then ponder and tweak. They see the wrinkles and iron them out to ensure that their companies make the most of what they’ve got. And many people think operations managers thrive on bringing order to chaos, but this shouldn’t be the case! In this book we show you how to plan operations and implement those plans so that your company operations run smoothly—chaos-free.” — Operations Management for Dummies
Get Started with your Favorite Event Planning Book!
Books are fantastic resources for quality, lasting information. The format means that there’s plenty of room for depth, plenty of time to take the ideas at your own pace, and it’s easy to come back to the same valuable info whenever you like. There’s nothing like diving into a helpful book.
Of course, publication schedules mean that books can’t always keep you abreast of fast-moving trends in critical areas like event technology and social media. For up-to-date event trends and at-your-fingertips event inspiration, check out magazines and other resources on our event planning blog.