Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How many people do I need to staff my event?

Obviously, that will depend on the specific needs of your event but there is a nice rule of thumb that you can use to get a rough idea of staffing levels needed. When we need to estimate staffing levels, we begin by using the “1 per 100” rule. This means that for every one hundred people attending (rounded off), we need one staff person. So, if there are 475 people attending, we expect to need about five staff. If there are 312 people attending, we’d need about three staff.

Now, as I said, this is where we begin. This rule of thumb is geared to determine how many people you will need at registration, so we also need to look at how simple or complex the event is and how many people will be present for any given piece of it before we can settle on a final number for the event as a whole. In most cases, the staff assisting with registration of attendees can also handle other duties at the event, especially at larger events, but we do need to make sure that no critical areas are left out.

Some of the factors that would cause us to lower the estimate are: very simplified check-in process, timing of registration, no breakout sessions, limited AV requirements, and so forth. For example: if our 475 attendees arrive over five days so that only 100 check in on any given day, then we’d probably only need one or two people to staff the registration desk instead of the five that the rule suggests.

Factors that may require more staff that the estimate suggests include: handling payments onsite, complex check-in process with many items or issues to resolve, large number of breakout sessions, etc. If payment for your event is being collected onsite, then you will probably need an extra body or two at registration in order to keep the line flowing smoothly.

If you have never staged the event before, use the “1 per 100” rule and you will have approximately the right number of people. Common sense will often dictate if and when you will need more or less than that.

Note: we rarely modify the estimate by more than one or two people and we never reduce it to zero. After all, someone still has to manage the event!

Also, bear in mind that the staffing estimate is about number of staff – not their skill set or knowledge base. While that can be just as or even more important as how many staff you need, it is a discussion for next week…

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises