Most events - large or small - require multiple people to pull it together, especially on-site during the event itself. The event planner in charge is responsible for orchestrating lots of moving pieces, as well as people - vendors, suppliers, attendees, and of course, staff or volunteers. Here are my suggestions for managing that team on-site.
5 - Have clearly defined roles. If you do one thing on this list, this is it. Every single person - from volunteers and interns all the way up to senior level staff involved with the event - needs to have a role (or roles). I suggest having a detailed staffing plan for each event, outlining who should be where and when, and making sure expectations are clearly set for that role. What you never want is someone showing up to work at an event and saying, “So I’m here. What do I do now?” Ideally, everyone knows well before the event what is expected of them (and other details, such as what to wear). For larger events, I usually assign staff captains for different pieces of the event. For example, if we need four people to run registration, one of them is assigned as the registration captain, with more authority to solve problems.
4 - Have floaters. If your staffing plan allows, add in some flexibility by assigning some staff as floaters, meaning they don’t necessarily have just one role, but can fill in as needed. These people can keep a bird’s eye view on various parts of the event to make sure everything is running smoothly. If the event is particularly complex, assign floaters to specific locations.
3 - Allow for breaks and meals. Depending on the length of your event, you will need to think about breaks for your staff. Even if an event is only a few hours long, you need to be able to cover certain roles for staff to use the restroom. For longer events, make sure you’re thinking about specific break times. We event planners tend to book long hours on our feet with smiles on our faces, but not all the people working an event may be up for that. You may want to have specific times for people to take breaks.
Meals are important, too. Your team has got to eat. If possible, arrange for a break room or staff office where meals can be taken. Even better - provide those meals and keep the office stocked with snacks and bottled water (and maybe coffee!). Also, think about the type of work people are assigned. Is there anything particularly taxing? Maybe add in relievers or rotate those roles so people don’t burn out.
2 - Have a chain of command.
Everyone working an event should know the answers to frequently asked questions, but if there is something someone can’t answer, she should know exactly who to ask. This might be a team captain, or it might be the event planner. Everyone should know who to ask or notify if there is a problem. Even better - empower your staff to solve minor problems themselves!
1 - Decide how communication will happen. Some teams swear by walkies, others use cell phones for calls or texts. No matter what you decide, make sure everyone is aware how to contact one another. And always be sure to test your communication plan prior to the start of an event. You don’t want a lack of cell service to curtail your plans!
Those are just a few ideas that can be applied to any event - large or small. What tips do you have for managing teams on-site? And for more ideas about managing teams of event planners, read my previous post.