Large-Scale Events: How to Conquer 3 Big Challenges

Four years ago, in July, a convention took place in a Renaissance hotel in Schaumburg, Illinois, for the first – and last – time. In fact, if you search this event, DashCon, on the internet, you’ll see its name linked to the words “disaster,” “chaos,” and others that are not as nice. The reasons are many.

The goal of DashCon was to bring together users of the blogging and social networking site, Tumblr. And it did, though only a small fraction of the coordinators’ vague projection of 3,000 to 7,000 showed up. Luckily, those in attendance wanted to see the event succeed. In fact, they went above and beyond when organizers were short $17,000 and asked for donations during the convention to keep it alive. Keep in mind crowdfunding helped bring the convention to life, even though badge prices rivaled San Diego’s Comic-Con International.

Still, attendees rose to the challenge – only for the event to fall apart anyway. The most notable moment was when the creators of popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale cancelled their appearance at the last minute. After all, there was no money to pay them. With attendees upset, event organizers sought to make it right by offering a free hour in a ball pit that fit a handful of people.

DashCon organizers noted the event’s shortcomings, but also their accomplishments. They cited among them “weeding out incompetent staff.” And, when two of three DashCon organizers set out to retry their hand at large-scale events, they intended to rely on “more experienced and well-rounded staff.” But, their new effort, Emoji-Con, never took off. (Unconfirmed reports say the organizers racked up loads of debt in Emoji-Con’s planning.) Yet, its organizers were right to place a critical focus on staffing, as event staff can make or break the success of any event. At the same time, it’s important to note, the success of event staff depends on how well the show is being run by those behind the scenes.

Event Staffing Challenges Due to Lack of Planning and Support Behind-the-Scenes

Large-scale event production comes with a variety of challenges. These start with choosing the location and date – the right time and place to entice a crowd that doesn’t conflict with other happenings. Then, you have to contend with reaching your target audience, selling them on the value of your event, and in some cases managing registrations. Meanwhile, you’ll likely work to attract sponsors and/or exhibitors. And, those companies’ marketing team will need ongoing communication and direction to ensure they can put their best face forward.

Yet, perhaps, your biggest challenge will come with event staffing. After all, your event may need dozens or even hundreds of event staff, which introduces more challenges.

1. Finding Event Staff with the Right Qualifications

Large-scale events not only need a high number of event staff, they may also call for individuals with diverse skills. A great example is Oculus Connect. The annual event – this year its fifth – draws media, virtual reality enthusiasts, entertainment and gaming executives, and more, all who want to see Oculus products in action. This means event staff must be friendly and engaging, as well as technology-savvy, to provide the best demos and consumer experience.

Events such as this, which require 100 qualified event staff or more, make staffing time-consuming. Event marketers and agencies must weed through applicants and conduct interviews to find the right people to interact with attendees. When executing multi-city or multi-market events, or when recruiting in another city, this process can become even harder.

2. Training Event Staff

Imagine an Oculus Connect event run by event staff with little to no – or poor – training. The experiences of attendees, who relate their experience on a worldwide level via social media, can have detrimental effects on the brand’s future. Yet, coordinating and conducting training for all these individuals can be daunting. This is especially true, again, when event staff are in another location or spread out across cities, states, or regions.

Still, consistent and clear training must take place to ensure event staff learn and retain key messages. And, in the case of technology or other demos, they must have a good handle on how to use the product and the knowledge to answer a variety of questions. If you’ll have event tech to capture leads, they’ll need to know how to use that, too.

3. Coordinating and Managing Event Staff

EA PLAY 2018, a three-day event, offered attendees hands-on gaming, product demos, live music, and networking, and gave press dedicated time for inquiries. In short, the occasion has many moving pieces with dozens of event staff on the move. Keeping up with them and getting to their questions or concerns poses a challenge for event marketers pulled in many directions. Yet, without the oversight, how can you be sure event staff are on task? Or, how will you address issues and mitigate risks beyond their control?

Experiential marketing tools allow for GPS tracking of event staff or to give answers to questions. Yet, there is no substitute for reliable on-site management when technology won’t do the job. Large-scale events will always need a project manager to oversee the big picture. This includes complex mobile marketing, such as Weber Barbecues’ roadshow in the UK, which ran five months and employed 75 event staff. Yet, other events will also need on-site coordinators – event staff capable of supervision. Finding this individual, or many for some events, adds another coal to the fire.

The Best Solutions for Staffing Large-Scale Events

These challenges not only affect brand activations. They also apply to conventions, trade shows, and other large-scale events. Consider DashCon. If its organizers indeed spent the time necessary to weed out “incompetent staff,” things might have worked out differently. When staffing is done correctly, Event marketers and agencies can keep the vital focus excelling in other areas, which is why so many partner with an event staffing agency.

An event staffing agency will have the resources and expertise to find the right event staff for your event. This is no matter how large your team or how diverse your needs. It will offer training services that also fit the situation and scale from location to location. These will range from in-person to online, to ensure your event staff know what to say and do. And, it will also provide project managers to oversee the team, making certain there are competent people on the ground to guide staff as needed.

Further, the right event staffing agency will add value to event planning and execution. For example, when designing a floor plan, such as placement of product demos, the right partner will know where you need event staff in relation to these demos. This may mean stationing individuals in other areas to drive traffic where you want it. In short, a premier agency works behind-the-scenes to ensure the success of your staff and the event itself.

Large-scale events not only need the right event staff, but expertise in planning and execution. At Elevate, we partner with our clients to meet the challenges and ensure the best possible outcome.

Author: Kelly Springs-Kelley

Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Marketing Director at Elevate Staffing. When she's not creating content or pondering the future of in-person consumer engagement, Kelly can be found hiking the mountains of Arizona with her 2 kids and 3 dogs.

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