Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Who Staffs Your Event?

Last week, I shared the “1 per 100” rule, a method for estimating how many staff you should plan to have to handle the registration desk and, by extension, how many staff you will need to manage your event. So, now that you have decided how many people you will need to have helping you, “who” are they?

To begin with, you need to decide what jobs need to be done while you are onsite for your event. Each of those jobs will need a different type and level of expertise. Some jobs, such as passing out nametags, can be done by folks with little training and knowledge of meeting planning. Others, such as audio-visual sets, require specialized knowledge that not everyone possesses. And, of course, there are also those jobs that require a lot of knowledge about your event and all of the details that went into putting it together. Make sure you have people with the skills to handle the jobs you are assigning to them and your event will go much smoother.

When were planning staffing levels for events we produce for clients, we start with the “1 per 100” rule and then look at the tasks that need to be handled. The numbers and assignments will be different for each event, but here is one example…

We once did a conference for 900 people that covered two days and had eight concurrent breakouts happening at different times throughout the conference. Registration/check-in opened the day before the conference began (they had pre-conference sessions), so about 200 people would arrive that day. Approximately forty speakers would take part in the program over the course of the conference and we needed to collect presentations from all of them. The program also included an exhibit hall and a high-tech “show” to open the conference.

The “1 per 100” rule would suggest nine staff, but the complexity of the program indicates a need for a couple more than that. But did all of the staff need to be trained meeting planners? Nope. For this event, we scheduled 2 meeting planners and needed 9 other positions to cover the conference. We filled the non-planner positions with temps hired though the local CVB and with trained support staff. Here’s how it broke down:

1 Lead Planner (this person is the one who planned the event – they know everything! – they work with the client and handle any tasks they do not specifically assign elsewhere, such as the caterer)
1 Meeting Planner (to process onsite registrations and collect fees – this involves handling money and requires a higher level of responsibility)
1 Trained Staff (to interface with speakers and the AV company)
1 Trained Staff (to interface with exhibitors and the drayage company)
1 Trained Staff (to oversee the registration area staff)
6 Temps (to hand out conference materials and welcome people to the event – they only stayed until noon the first day. Once the majority of registrants showed up, we were able to manage from that point on without them.)

Now, this doesn’t cover every single job that needed to be done during the conference, but should serve to illustrate the types of jobs handled and what level of training or knowledge is needed for each one. We also had volunteers for the conference, but they were on board specifically to monitor the workshops and take care of any issues that came up during sessions, so I’ve left them out of my counts above (though we did train them!). If we’d been responsible for monitoring the sessions, we’d have had to provide the staff to do that as well.

This subject is too complex and varied to effectively cover in the short amount of space I have here to deal with it but I hope this brief overview is enough to get you started. Just remember the “1 per 100” rule and you won’t be too far off.

- Karl Baur, CMP • Project Director, RDL enterprises