All industries go through busy periods: tourism ramps up in the summer, retail peaks around the holidays, and educators are bustling at the beginning of the school year. But anyone working in events and hospitality will tell you that there’s not just one busy season — there’s a whole slew of them. There’s the wedding season, holiday season, graduation season… the list goes on.
With business still lagging due to COVID, it’s more important than ever to be at the top of your game during these peak periods, leaving little room for error. The good news is, though, that companies that build their reputations by wowing clients now will see it pay off in a big way once events truly pick back up again.
So how can you ensure a successful upcoming busy season? Try these tips.
1. Stock up on staff
Hiring in the current labor market is rough, especially in the hospitality industry, where workers have left in droves and jobs sit open for weeks (or more). And if that wasn’t enough, some companies are seeing serious attendance issues.
“We are seeing many staff not showing up at all,” said JoAnn Gregoli, owner of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. And “with so many rules changing about vaccinations for staff, we are finding more staff members who are not vaccinated can now no longer work in our industry.”
“It's a very strange time, and we have to over-prepare and have as many backup plans in place as we can,” she added.
Her advice: “Overbook your staffing.”
“Plan on hiring more people to cover the lost staffers” and “be sure to have another team ready to fill in,” Gregoli said.
Need help finding workers? Whether you’re looking in advance or at the last minute, you can use Instawork to connect with qualified professionals looking for shift work in your area. And with less than a 3% no-show rate, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more reliable source of staffers.
2. Communicate constantly
In the events industry, client satisfaction makes or breaks your business. But great customer service involves more than just making sure things go well on the day of the event itself — it also includes everything leading up to that. One of the best ways you can get in your clients’ good graces is to keep in close contact with them on a regular basis. Not only will this help you stay on top of any potential changes — it will also demonstrate your dedication to clients.
“Make sure you're reaching out at least once per week to make sure they know you are still ‘on it’ and making them a priority,” said Laura Maddox, owner of Magnolia Celebrates. “This can be as easy as checking in and asking what they thought of the latest proposal, or letting them know you're pulling one last quote and you'll be sending them something shortly.”
If you haven’t heard from a client in a while, don’t hesitate to send reminders.
“Items often slip through the cracks because we depend on the other person to respond to our email in order to keep it top of mind,” Maddox cautioned.
And make an effort to respond in a timely manner, especially when it comes to new inquiries.
“Evaluate how long it takes to respond to emails or return phone calls, and how long it takes to get a contract signed by a client,” advised Andrew Roby, owner of Andrew Roby Events. “Review these and implement a plan to reduce the turnaround time so you can quickly bring on new clients before they find someone else.”
3. Show staff your appreciation
No matter how great of a worker someone is, if they’re feeling exhausted and frustrated, it will show up on the job. Express gratitude, though — even through small gestures — and it’ll shine through in your team’s performance.
“The event industry has been put through the wringer the last few years… we are overworked and overwhelmed after getting through the biggest slowdown our industry has experienced for quite a while,” said Nora Sheils, CEO of events company Bridal Bliss and co-founder of Rock Paper Coin, an event planning platform. “No one wants to work at a job where they are not recognized or appreciated. Keep your staff happy, keep morale high, encourage camaraderie, foster your team culture, and go out of your way to spread the love.”
One of the best ways to do this is by making sure your team is fairly compensated.
“People who have worked within the industry had time during the lockdowns to think about their next steps. Many don't want to go back to the harsh working conditions of the events industry,” explained Yordi Smit of event venue booking platform Spacehuntr. “Companies should take this into account and offer staff members better wages and benefits.”
While your costs might increase in the short term, you may actually save money down the line by reducing time-to-hire and turnover.
On a smaller scale, you could treat your team to a fun day out — at Instawork, for example, we’ve been inviting professionals who complete a certain number of shifts per week to baseball games.
If you’re really operating on a tight budget with no wiggle room, though, you can also consider sending them small but thoughtful gifts so they feel valued, Sheils said. Some options she recommended included Sugarwish, Cocktail Courier, and Crumbl Cookies.
4. Plan for the next big rush
Even at your busiest, odds are there’s another seasonal rush just around the corner. So even when you’re slammed, you should dedicate some time to planning for the future.
“Create a forecasting model so that you can predict the size and timeline for peak periods,” recommended Marie Kubin, CEO of RENT MY WEDDING.
“This could be as simple as exporting your order data into Excel from prior years, adding up the total number of orders per week across all prior years, and then looking for the peaks and valleys,” she added. “From there, you can determine approximate timelines for when to expect busy periods. You can also review the data for order volumes. This will help you plan accordingly for inventory and staffing during peak seasons.”
Don’t forget to kick off your marketing in a timely fashion too, Roby advised.
“When you decide to market your service during a busy season such as graduation, it's too late and no one will remember your ad for next year,” he shared.
“Prior to each season, event and wedding companies should be marketing their products or services 3-6 months before,” Roby explained. “Get in front of the season so that you can quickly bring on clients that will need your services in the future.”
And make sure to plan your staffing well ahead of the event. If you’re planning to book professionals on Instawork, post at least two weeks beforehand to maximize your budget and fill rate.
Busy seasons can be daunting, but they also provide a huge opportunity to regain momentum after an unsteady 18 months. Rather than stressing yourself out, channel that energy into hiring, clear communication, team appreciation, and planning to ensure a successful season.