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Live event days are often long and gruelling in terms of early starts and late finishes, as well as being both physically and mentally demanding. So how can you make it through to the other side with a smile on your face? Here is my survival guide!
On live event days every second really does count and it is important to conserve your mental and physical energy for where you need it most and to ensure that you can manage effectively (and safely) until the end. You need to be alert and ready to deal with any scenario effectively. If you haven’t experienced a 14 plus hour event day and the fatigue and aches this can bring you this post isn’t for you, but if this is familiar this post may help!
Recently we ran a new B2C exhibition, with a build day on the Friday and two live days across the weekend. Although it was a relatively small show of 4,000 square metres, with the seminar room and ancillary rooms located just across the Foyer and luxurious 7.30am starts rather than 5am set ups, it still took its toll on the whole team in terms of fatigue. I was the “lucky one” in so much that I was largely based in our Organizers Office rather than on my feet and walking the floor like many of the other members of the team but it got me thinking about my top tips for all event managers for surviving long live event days.
Try to stay over close to the venue the night before and/or the night after, don’t make an already early start even sillier or drive home tired after the event. For this exhibition we insisted on staying at the on-site hotel. Although it was marginally more expensive than some other hotels nearby the convenience of not having to walk or drive between hotel and venue each day was very much appreciated. It also meant that the team had time to eat breakfast before starting work and I could stand them down exactly when they were finished, rather than potentially having to wait around for other team members for lifts back to the accommodation.
It sounds elementary but make sure you are all set before lights off the night before. Polish your shoes, iron your clothes and lay them out ready, set your alarm clock (or clocks in my case!), have your badge or pass to hand. This will not only hopefully give you peace of mind to get some sleep but will save valuable time in the morning. Thinking “I’ll do it tomorrow” is dangerous territory on event days!
Hopefully the venue has been chosen carefully on its many merits, including the proximity of the rooms to each other and ideally all situated on one level. This not only helps with attendees movements but makes a huge difference to the mileage event planners clock up throughout the day.
Are there other merits too? For example can speakers presentations be loaded centrally and sent out to the relevant room via the network rather than manually being loaded on each computer?
Be Fit and Active
Nothing prepares you better for event days than being in peak physical condition beforehand. This is the most surefire way to ensure you are raring to go through until the very end and minimize all those aches and pains. If you have ever worn a pedometer or smart watch on event days you will know just how the miles can clock up!
During the Event
Dress the Part
Comfy shoes are a must for everyone on event days (male and female!). Comfort definitely has to come first ahead of fashion. In fact wear suitable, comfortable attire to suit all the demands you may experience throughout the event such as lifting, crouching, climbing and so forth. Be prepared for the varying temperatures of the event venue too, there is nothing worse than perspiring under hot stage lights or shivering under the air conditioning.
Radios are a lifesaver on event days as a fast and efficient way to communicate short messages and save your legs. Don’t forget your headsets too to ensure messages are not overheard!
Take Your Positions...
When planning your event staffing think about location and positioning. Try to locate staff in key places which can ensure quick and efficient messaging and changeovers between staff and minimize time spent walking between rooms
Use the Lift
In everyday life I am an advocate for using the stairs rather than the lift (at least if only walking a few levels) however on event days the lift wins out. The minute of stillness and calm are a winner in every way!
Public Address System
One of the key questions you should be checking with the venue before booking is whether you can make public announcements into the key areas, such as the refreshment areas and lounges. Whether you can make these announcements yourself or schedule or request them via the venue these are a great way to communicate with your participants en masse, rather than ineffectively passing messages and moving people one-to-one.
Make the Most of Technology
Technology should be your friend and make your life (job) easier on event days. When commissioning a new event technology think about the impact and ease of use. How can it save you work or simplify a process, as well as offering a valuable tool to your attendees?
For example can you schedule notifications when VIPs or speakers enter the room so you can ensure first hand they are being looked after and having a good time? Can your event app send push notifications that the next session is about to start? Can the interactive show plan map out the most efficient route to a specific exhibitor without the individual having to be shown the way?
On event days opportunities to sit down can often be few and far between so when you have the opportunity to sit down take it! Reserve a chair near the door - you can still be on your feet in seconds should any late comers arrive or anything needs your attention. Likewise if you are on microphone duty consider sitting down on a spare chair near the person commenting rather than hovering at the side of the room or crouching in the aisles.
Take a Break
Make sure you and your staff have a private area to switch off, even if only for a short time. It is great to have somewhere to close the door on the event for a second and freshen up or to grab a bite to eat away from your client and guests.
Always communicate to your team if you are going out of radio contact for a time and let them know when you are back. Ensure you have a deputy who can take the reins in your absence and of course a way to contact you via mobile in case of emergency.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
With the adrenaline of the event it can be easy to forget to eat or genuinely not fancy anything. Event days are about the only time I can go a whole day without even thinking about food! Even if this is the case though save some food for later and eat during a quieter time or perhaps even at the end of the event. Water, not coffee, should be your essential fuel as it is easy to become dehydrated.
At Your Fingertips
Think carefully about all the important information you may need to access quickly. A tablet device can be a fast and lightweight way to carry and check key information. I always like to have certain key documents such as the schedule printed out too so that I can quickly share with someone without having to power up any screen. Mobile numbers should be logged into your phone before the event too in case you need to contact someone urgently.
At every event we have at least one “Event Managers Box” containing all the essentials we could possibly need for every eventuality. At larger events we have a number of these, all containing the same equipment, and located in key places around the venue such as the registration desk, organizers office and exhibition area. If we need gaffa tape or a staple gun at least we know the closest place to go to. And ladies don’t forget lip balm, hair brush and deodorant to keep looking fresh!
Book Extra Staff or Volunteers
On event days there are always extra tasks that come to light and it is always a relief to have additional staff or volunteers available to help. Of course you will have planned out very specific roles and positions but extra hands are always handy, particularly runners. This also prevents stress if someone is unavailable to work at short notice.
On large or multi day events it is great to have different support staff for the build and break down and any ancillary events such as dinners and networking events. Even if you are still present it can be a good break to relinquish overall control of the event to someone else. At our recent exhibition finishing at 9pm on the Sunday evening, an hour earlier than expected, leaving our Health and Safety Manager in charge of the final hour of the break down was really appreciated.
One of the biggest things to help you on long event days is ensuring that the venue and your suppliers are on your side. If there is a spillage that needs immediate attention, if you need to change the room layout at short notice, if your speaker suddenly decides they want to play video in a room with no audio planned or if the toilets need replenishing you need to know that your commands are being dealt with quickly by an effective operations team or supplier.
After the Event
If it is a multi-day event the temptation can be to let your hair down each evening and then sorely regret it the next morning. Of course do what you need to unwind and be sociable but try to be sensible too, particularly if there are many more event days to follow!
Give Yourself a Pat on the Back
Have something to look forward to and reward yourself for all of the hard work after the event is over. It might be something simple like a hot bubble bath and early night or perhaps you can take a few days off work but having chance to pause is a great way to rejuvenate before you do it all over again!
Whether it is a single long event day or numerous gruelling days on site every little helps when it comes to surviving the live event period. Event planners everywhere will hopefully appreciate these top tips for conserving energy and keeping focused so you don’t run out of steam until the last attendee has departed and the very last box has been loaded.