Excellent event staffing is the backbone of a smooth event. We sat down with two staffing experts who gave their tips on what you need to know about assembling the right event staff team.
Quality, consistency, good communication, professionalism, fast thinking on the fly. You want it from your event staff. You don’t always get it.
We picked the brains of Bobby Jain, CEO and founder of Waitron, and Steve Feder, founder of Check-In Tech, who each generously shared some wisdom from their years in the business on how to put together event staff that delivers results.
Where to find top-notch staff
Rely on locally available freelancers, and trust traditional word of mouth to vet them.
One of the benefits of relying on word of mouth is that you can more easily assemble teams that work well together. Bobby explains: “There’s an incentive for staff to work with friends and help them get work” which leads to event staff that’s already familiar with working together, and can work cohesively as a unit.
From the client perspective, Bobby points out a similar trend thanks to clients loving consistency, “clients will often suggest staff to us so that they can continue working with the same people time and again.”
As an alternate route, Steve suggests consulting your own networks: “If a freelancer is not an option, we use our friends to help find people through Facebook and LinkedIn, which has been a great success. When all else fails, reach out to the job boards at local universities and colleges, but be prepared to conduct interviews to make sure they will meet the professionalism required for most high end events.”
What qualities to look for in an event staff
Professionalism and communication are the primary qualities to a successful event staff.
For his own staff, Steve underscores the first point: “Punctuality, and acting and dressing professionally are very important to us. In general, our ideal staff are detailed oriented, ask a lot of questions, speak slowly, and are calm and courteous.”
To the second, Bobby explains the reasoning that’s helped him assemble successful event teams: “Other skills can be taught much more easily than communication; if event staff can communicate, you can get them up to speed quickly.”
How to match your staff with the event’s brand and feel
From the start, Steve suggests that it’s important to communicate with your clients not only about their vision for the event, but also about their preferences on how to run the event. For example, some clients want to hand over the guidelines and leave the rest up to you, while others need to remain in control of decisions and updates at all times.
In the first case, an event staff willing to take charge and problem solve on the fly would complement a client with passive preferences. For the latter, hiring laid back staff comfortable with immediately deferring problems to the planner or the client would be a better fit.
Also consider the size of the event: a larger event leaves more room for mistakes, but a smaller event necessitates a staff with attention to detail and spot-on personality dynamics.
When expectations align, and the “event staff can sell the service or product, then we let the quality speak for itself”, agrees Bobby.
The top mistakes to avoid when choosing staff
“Picking a staffing company that is not organized” is the top mistake Bobby sees. Above all else, event planners depend upon staying organized – and this should extend to the staff as well. And there are logistical options starting with the event planner that Bobby suggests, for those inclined to take the tech-forward approach: “Waitron has built a platform that simplifies the majority of the work down to an on-demand system.”
For Steve, it’s “Judging a book by its cover.” Looking and acting professional is important, but a nose ring or tattoo on an employee does not mean they can’t handle an assignment of a $5,000 per-plate dinner. He adds, “I’ve seen more staff you might mistake for models crash, burn, and walk during an event than those who may never be seen on the runway but are level headed and professional – and those are the ones the client ask for by name for their next event.”
The final word of advice
A unanimous point from both experts: Always treat the staff with respect.
To both Bobby and Steve, that includes paying them above the average rate. A staff that feels respected, appreciated, and included is more likely to feel invested in the success of the event and to serve a high-quality service. And as Bobby puts it from seeing it on the supply-side of staffing: “Always pay a fair wage and compete on quality of service. Your rates are competing with every other job for which the event staff qualifies. Negotiating down the rates to below market means you will likely receive a below market quality of service.”
And Steve best sums up where that respect needs to come from: “Respect them as we do by paying them above the average. Respect them by making them a part of the team. Respect them by rolling up your sleeves and chipping in to help even if it’s not your job to do so.”
That’s how you get real results from your event staff.