Optimize Your Event Staffing Process
4 Step Event Staffing Guide for Event & Production Teams
Events are about people — people who attend them, people who staff them, and people who manage it all. The event staffing component can be chaotic and particularly complex, because finding event staff and volunteers with the correct skills, and getting those people to the right place at the right time, is an enormous undertaking. The key to success, whether you’re managing a large event venue, planning a conference, or overseeing a festival, sporting event, or concert is strategic event staff scheduling and communication.
Proper event staffing is critical and includes:
- Matching the people with the right skills to the right tasks
- Seamless logistics planning and implementation
- Constant communication
–Meeting Professionals International Click to Tweet
Regardless of your specific situation, your event staff will be diverse and may include full-time, part-time, contingent, and volunteer workers. This is a complex event staffing scenario. Traditional event staff scheduling often relies on disjointed tools and manual efforts ranging from paper and pencil, whiteboards, and spreadsheets to sign-in sheets, email, and phone trees. These manual systems are inefficient and increase the chance for human error.
This How-to Guide will:
- Outline the four-step event staffing and coordination lifecycle
- Share tips and tricks for each step in the event planning process
- Show how event scheduling software can streamline your workflow and improve your event management
Guide: How to Optimize Your Event Staffing Process
How-To Event Staffing Guide
Employee scheduling software excels at making the scheduling process more efficient to manage. It can also help ensure compliance with the myriad rules and regulations that impact shift-based workplaces. Most software is cloud based and sold as a yearly or monthly subscription service. Consider the following capabilities when making your selection:
Creating a staff or volunteer schedule is an obvious component of festival and conference event management. However, the event staffing process involves a great deal more than just scheduling, and extends across four steps:
Recruitment & Onboarding
Scheduling & Facilitation
For each step, there are best practices relating to:
- Overall event management and coordination
- Visibility into event scheduling and planning
- Staff and volunteer management
- Event staff communication
By understanding and following the event staff scheduling best practices below, you can greatly improve not only your event planning process but the entire event itself. Event staff scheduling software is the “special sauce” that makes implementing these best practices efficient and engaging.
– U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Click to Tweet
You can’t have an event without a team, so event staff and volunteer recruitment and onboarding is a key first step in the event planning process. This step includes registering applicants, identifying their qualifications, conducting training, assigning teams, and establishing communication channels.
Here are some best practices you can follow to optimize your recruiting and onboarding:
Write out every step of the onboarding process
Capture every step, from staff and volunteers learning about the event to registration, training, and beyond. Then, evaluate those steps and look for ways to streamline the process for all parties involved.
Find the right people for the job
You’ll need total visibility into the skills people have and the requirements across a variety of roles. Making sure that people have the correct qualifications or that training is conducted for certain team members is vital to staffing certain positions.
Ask questions like:
- Which jobs need certain skills, training or certifications?
- Does the medical team need first-aid licenses on hand?
- What about your set-up crew? Do they need audio training or certain physical capabilities?
Once you’re clear on what needs to be accomplished and who has the skills to get it done, segment your event staff into teams or work groups to get the right people going to the right places at the right time.
Make everything as easy as possible for your event staff and volunteers
During the recruiting phase, review your current process and ask yourself things like:
- Do staff or volunteers have to email someone to register to work?
- Do applicants have to print a form, fill it out, and then send it back to you?
You might lose volunteers due to unforeseen obstacles in your current process. Consider what message you’re sending to potential staff or volunteers. Will this event be a hassle, or will it be easy and fun to participate in? Also, consider the time you’ll spend managing a clunky process.
Set up communication systems early and use them often
Arguably the single-most important tactic—successfully communicating with teams—leads to a well-informed and engaged workforce.
- Be proactive in communicating with your event staff and volunteers. Communicating information frequently helps teams work together and improves morale.
- Promote a variety of communication streams. Knowing which method to use for a given scenario supports better information distribution and higher read rates. Consider using an in-app bulletin board for general information,automatic email notifications for reminders, and broadcast SMS for time-sensitive alerts.
- In first step, be sure to communicate:
- Shift responsibilities
- Processes for vouchers, giveaways, or other rewards
Guide: How to Optimize Your Event Staffing Process
Event scheduling and facilitation is the step where your schedule begins to take shape. This step involves first gathering event requirements to frame out your schedule, followed by filling shifts. With proper communication and tools, you can empower staff and volunteers to sign up for their own shifts (known as “bottom-up scheduling”). Note that what your schedule looks like at this step often differs dramatically from the final version you’ll execute on the day of the event.
Here are some best practices you can implement to optimize event scheduling and facilitation:
Be open to new ideas
Organizations that are open to change adopt better and more innovative ways to coordinate their events. Consider new workflows by asking:
- How can I make the process faster or more effective? Often, a new idea can spark positive change in unexpected places. For example, allowing volunteers to trade shifts among themselves can streamline a process that once needed oversight by coordinators or managers.
Know what is flexible and what is not
Well-prepared organizations plan for the unexpected by having good visibility into their negotiable versus non-negotiable requirements. Your staff and volunteer schedule will inevitably change, but you can plan for a margin of error if you know:
- Event staffing requirements
- The mix of roles and responsibilities
- The timing that makes up the architecture of your event
Empower your team to select their own shifts
Event staff and volunteers that have easy visibility into their schedules are more likely to show up. But filling shifts can require a lot of back and forth to gather everyone’s availability. Trying to fill shifts equitably is a burdensome task, especially with a manual scheduling process. Empower your team with systems that make it easy for them to sign up for shifts that suit their needs and trade shifts when needed.
This “bottom-up scheduling” process leads to a greater sense of confidence and commitment on the part of staff and volunteers, and greatly reduces the effort needed by coordinators to facilitate scheduling. Once staff and volunteers have chosen shifts, give them the ability to view their assignments in a way that works for them, for example by using a mobile app, printing a hard copy, or syncing with their personal online (Gmail, Outlook, etc.).
Stay in touch
Communication shouldn’t end after the onboarding process. During this phase, offer helpful information about:
- Location details
- How to check in
- Basic responsibilities related to their job or shift
Communicating important details now can help reduce last-minute requests for information and can positively impact the event overall.
CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: SIFF
Before implementing event staff scheduling software, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) sketched out their complex schedules on whiteboards. This manual method was not scalable and was prone to human error. SIFF transformed their event planning process by implementing scheduling software, which streamlined the process for event coordinators while empowering staff and volunteers to schedule their own shifts.
Gameday is by nature chaotic, and involves managing time and attendance, dealing with last-minute changes, and orchestrating vouchers or swag. Proper processes and tools can support agile gameday operations by giving you real-time information about what’s happening on the front lines.
Here are some best practices you can implement to optimize your gameday operations:
Optimize schedule planning
Make gameday run more smoothly by asking the right questions during planning questions during planning:
- Are the event managers and event coordinators assigned tasks that will take up their time on event day?
- Where can we combine tasks or otherwise improve efficiency?
- Where is the schedule too tight?
By off-loading management tasks through an improved process, combining tasks, and adjusting the schedule in advance, you reduce the risk of gameday event staffing issues.
For event managers, gameday is about troubleshooting the unexpected and answering myriad last-minute questions. By completing anticipated tasks in advance, event coordinators free up their own time to focus on handling the curveballs on gameday.
Provide real-time visibility
Gameday takes on a life of its own—keynote speakers arrive, vendors set up and provide services, and volunteers show up for shifts. Event coordinators need real-time visibility into what’s happening; for example:
- Seven no-shows across two locations
- A volunteer who checked in but asked to swap shifts
- Running low on XL T-shirts at the swag table
By using event staff scheduling software on a tablet or mobile device, managers can have real-time access to the information they need.
Last-minute schedule changes inevitably happen and can look like:
- Rerouting volunteers to new entrances
- Open shifts that need to be backfilled at the last minute
An attendance tracking system can improve your check-in process, and a mobile-friendly version of the event-day schedule enables team leads to know who is currently on duty and where to facilitate changes as necessary. Also, creating maps specific to each shift helps get people to the right place at the right time.
Volunteering often includes perks like free parking, food, T-shirts, and other incentives. Letting the staff and volunteers know where to pick up concession vouchers and swag giveaways is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of event staff communication. Be sure to communicate about how your voucher or incentive process works before the event, so that things are clear and run smoothly on gameday.
Manual processes make it nearly impossible to track and administer who has received what, but event scheduling software can streamline the process and free up your team for more important tasks.
Managers who incorporate feedback into their event planning process run better and more successful events. This step focuses on reviewing event reports, asking for feedback, sending follow-up communication, and acknowledging and celebrating the team’s efforts.
Here are some best practices you can implement to optimize your post-event activities:
Don’t wait to analyze results
You’re exhausted from the event, but just because gameday is done, event management isn’t over. Post-event analytics often get overlooked or delayed to the point of being combined into the next year’s first phase of recruiting and onboarding. But the sooner you analyze the actual event, the more actionable your analysis will be.
Post-event statistics like total attendance, net revenue, or the sheer size of the volunteer force can be used for:
- Marketing content to tell a great story and promote next year’s event
- Improving sponsorship meetings or other efforts to secure partners and funding
- Planning next year’s event and recruiting efforts
Use post-event reports to find insights
Even a handful of post-event reports can greatly improve planning for the following year. For example, a Volunteer Schedule Adherence report can show how many shifts you may need next year. Take time shortly after the event to find insights contained in the post-event reports.
Solicit feedback from everyone
Some of the best post-event insights are collected through grassroots efforts, and some of your best ideas may come from the staff or volunteers who were on the front lines. Use scheduling software to enable your workforce to record observations or feedback during or shortly after the event. You can spark feedback by asking things like:
- What processes can be improved?
- What happened during the event that could have been better facilitated or managed earlier?
- What problems did you run into? What went well?
Collecting gameday experiences when they are fresh fuels storytelling, which enhances post-event reporting. If you take the time to train your teamt on what to look for, you’ll be showered with new ideas to make your next event even better.
Close the loop
An important post-event task is closing the communication loop with staff and volunteers. Remember to celebrate and acknowledge the team’s efforts. This creates a sense of connection and appreciation between the managers, coordinators, staff, and volunteers. It not only recognizes their efforts and interaction with the event, but it encourages them to repeat that experience next year. You could also direct them to some of the follow-up items or post-event activities available to them.
CUSTOMER SPOTLIGHT: MAKER FAIRE
Maker Faire draws more than a half million people over a two-week period. Orchestrating this massive event involves filling 950 shifts with 4,000 volunteers. Previously, Maker Faire organizers relied on spreadsheets for scheduling, but Shiftboard enables them to quickly and easily upload 200 shifts to the calendar, putting them two weeks ahead in their planning schedule. Shiftboard also enables them to split their workforce into teams, get the right updates to the right people, and easily manage and communicate event details like schedules, transportation, and meals.
The Role of Technology
Each step in the event planning process flows into the next, and event scheduling software is one of the best ways to unite them. Consider the following capabilities when choosing your event scheduling software:
From basic contact information to details about their qualifications and skills, you need to know your staff and volunteers. Shiftboard makes it easy to gather and track every detail, triage registrants based on your onboarding process, and clarify whether a volunteer completed important steps like orientation, training, and credential verification.
Crew and Team Segmentation
When dealing with hundreds or thousands of staff and volunteers, you may need to break them into smaller teams. You can segment by job or role (e.g., ticket takers, set-up crews, concessions, emergency healthcare staff), by specific venues, or locations. However you divide your workforce, Shiftboard helps you group the right people and schedule, communicate, and report accordingly.
Shift Sign-Up and Assignment
Manually matching people with positions is difficult and time-consuming. With Shiftboard, staff and volunteers can pick up shifts and keep track of their assignments. Shiftboard’s intuitive design ensures easy adoptability regardless of technical abilities.
Life is chaotic, schedules change, and no-shows happen. Shiftboard provides real-time access to volunteer and staff schedules. Remove the burden of managers facilitating shift trades by allowing your volunteers and staff to trade directly with one another, while allowing manager oversight if needed.
Maps and Locations
Where do I park? Where is the entry gate? Where do I sign in? With interactive Google Maps, staff and volunteers can easily pinpoint locations and access the address, directions, and details they need.
A thoughtful check-in process means people know where to sign in and how to get to work. It also means event managers can see who is currently checked in and who is not. Shiftboard has robust time-clock methods, including mobile check-in, QR Passport, and coordinator role call. Managers can receive automatic alerts notifying them of potential tardiness or absence, eliminating the need to manually monitor attendance.
Staff and volunteers receiving vouchers want to grab and go without waiting in long lines. Shiftboard’s QR Passport uses unique bar codes to streamline on-site voucher redemption, clocking in and out, identity verification, and access control.
Whether notifying a specific crew that their check-in location has changed, or sending a post-event thank-you message to the entire team, communicating to all or part of your workforce streamlines event operations. Shiftboard’s automated communication tool removes the need for manually notifying and alerting your team of changes and updates.
Get smarter event staff scheduling with Shiftboard. Try a free custom demo today.
Thank you for reading this guide. We hope you found some helpful insights and best practices to apply to scheduling staff and volunteers for your own events.