Confessions of an Event Volunteer
In this series we present real-life confessions from people working in the event industry. These uncensored, frank insights tell it “like it really is”. Some details have been changed to respect the anonymity of the confessor and ensure maximum honesty can be upheld.
As a serial event volunteer, here is my confession.
I first started volunteering when I was studying at college, to get some work experience under my belt, and I really enjoyed it on the whole, so I ‘got the bug’. I am lucky enough to live in a big city with a lot of events happening and plenty of opportunities to get involved. I have now worked on 13 different events in a volunteer capacity, with another coming up in a couple weekends time and a festival later on in the month.
Everyone Loves a Volunteer
Initially I responded to a few requests for volunteers that came in via the college job service to work on large local events. These were great fun as they had a team of volunteers to help out and there were lots of people to meet. Even when doing tedious jobs (such as packing ten thousand goodie bags!) it was quite jolly with music playing in the background and chit chat. On the first event I worked on I actually met a couple of friends that I have stayed in contact with and now we sometimes volunteer and work on events together.
After I got a bit of confidence and felt that I understood events a little better I started to be more proactive and contact the organizers of cool events coming up that matched my interests to see if they were looking for anyone to help. Event planners on the whole have been quite receptive to my approach. Even if they hadn’t been thinking of having volunteers they sometimes agree that it might be useful and find a role for me. I now know three main event organizers in the city who are always keen to hear from me.
I also discovered that all of the major music festivals are desperate for volunteers and in return for working a set number of hours a day you get time to enjoy the festival in return – without having to pay for a ticket! Now that I know this I am going to do this even more next Summer as there is no other way I would get to go along to multiple festivals.
I really appreciate it when I get a detailed information pack before the event explaining about the event and what I will be doing. It really helps to have a good walk round and briefing at the event too before the public arrive. People often see a volunteer in a t-shirt and ask all sorts of questions so it can be embarrassing if you don’t know the answer and don’t have a radio to check with someone.
The Best Times Volunteering
Through volunteering I have worked on a lots of exhibitions, festivals, some large conferences and even an awards evening reception. Without being a volunteer I would never have got to attend these events as the ticket price was out of my budget and sometimes the event was a complete sell out anyway.
The roles that I have enjoyed the most is when I get to see what happens backstage. For instance, I loved helping out with the VIP area (and spotting some low level celebrities and influencers!). I also enjoyed helping with the catwalk shows, steaming and preparing all the outfits ready for the quick changes and helping the models get ready.
Little Things That Mean A Lot to a Volunteer
Some events that I have worked on have supplied t-shirts for volunteers, which is a nice keepsake after the event. Quite often the volunteers get given a goody bag with some cool freebies, which is always exciting. For me though what I have valued the most is a letter explaining the role that I played as a volunteer at the event, branded with the company or event logo. I have quite a good collection now in my portfolio, which is useful to take along for interviews.
Feed and Water Me!
One thing that I would ask of all event planners is to provide some food and water, or a voucher to exchange on site. Food at festivals and exhibitions can be really pricey so this means a lot to volunteers to be looked after. 95% of the time I have always had something provided for me, but once or twice I have had to purchase my own food, which seems a bit unfair when I am not getting paid to be there!
The Worst Times Volunteering
Of course, many times volunteers get given the worst and most boring jobs. Sometimes there isn’t enough work to be done and so there is a lot of hanging around and you get bored of nagging the event organizer for some opportunity to help. One time I was stationed outside the press room for over three hours and no one even came to use the room. It was away from the main event down a corridor too, so there was nothing to see, and that really dragged!
There are lots of opportunities out there for volunteering in the event industry and I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to break into the event industry. It can be really good fun and get access into events you wouldn’t have been able to go to otherwise. Most importantly though, through volunteering I am building up my skills and experiences, and having fun at the same time.
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