Event Survival Guide

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A busy events season is always right around the corner — are you ready?

Whether you’re a caterer, an independent event planner, or a venue coordinator, having a packed calendar means one thing: You’re crushing it. But a busy schedule can also be stressful (and even problematic) if you don’t have the right resources, staff, and support you need.

We’ve created this top-to-bottom Event Survival Guide to help you cover all your bases from planning and prep to staff and teardown. Read on for the steps, tips, and tools you need to pull off the perfect event every time.


1. Stay Organized with A Shareable Event Checklist

[Free Downloadable Template]

Whether you’re running an event for your own company or orchestrating one for a client, a comprehensive, shareable planning document will give your whole team — including anyone who joins the team on-demand — access to the details of the event.

A centralized document takes all of those details, logistics, and contact information out of your head and puts them down on paper (or online if you use Google Docs, Evernote, or another app).

Download this free checklist to get started.

2. Simplify How You Coordinate Event Staff, Vendors, and Partners

The more events you’re running, the more complicated filling and coordinating shifts can be. The last thing you want is to be short-staffed or run into last-minute gaps.

With Instawork, you can create a roster of qualified temporary event staff to have on call. You can also hire individuals ready to do the job within a window of a few hours — perfect for those times someone calls out sick or gets double-booked.

Instawork professionals are hospitality veterans you can trust, ready to help with everything from front-of-house, bartending, and serving to event check-ins, crowd control, and set-up/take-down. Instawork has a live support team ready to help with filling shifts, plus you get the convenience of built-in insurance, billing, and worker payments are taken care of to wipe the stress off your plate.

When every minute counts, the Instawork scheduler is a great tool to keep all of your event staff’s shifts in one place. Easily onboard and schedule your own staff (full-time, part-time, or on-call) and fill remaining shifts with professionals on Instawork. It also gives you a visual snapshot, making it easier to ensure coverage for every event, right down to the last teardown shift.

If it’s your first time using Instawork, schedule a 15-minute demo with an Instawork product specialist.

What about specialty vendors and partners? What else can you level up and outsource for your event? Do you need AV partners to handle all the audio/video equipment, floral design, or a videographer to document the day of?

Pro tip: Think big. Don’t turn down events because you don’t have people on hand to pull it off. Instawork can help you ramp up your capabilities as needed so you can take on more business as you grow.

3. Head Off Hiccups

There’s no such thing as a perfectly executed event, but you do have the ability to see around corners to predict (and plan for) the ‘what if’ moments that may arise. A solid game plan will help you roll with the punches. That means knowing venue safety protocols, planning for any liabilities, and having an emergency plan. Be sure to look into any security requirements, insurance, licenses or permits you might need.

Tick all the boxes and make sure you’ve planned for…

A staff shortage — or when someone on the team calls out. Run through your existing staffing plan. Ask yourself where there are gaps or where you’ll be hurting if someone calls out at the last minute. It’s always better to be overstaffed than understaffed.

Attendees with dietary restrictions. Remove the element of surprise here, if you can. If there’s an attendee email list, use this to reach out ahead of time with a poll/survey to see who may have dietary restrictions.

Technical difficulties. What happens if the WiFi goes down or the music cuts out? How will you communicate with your staff the day of? Do you have backup coolers if the power goes out and food needs to be kept cold?

Inclement weather. You know the drill when it comes to outdoor events and the weather. Extreme heat or cold, rain, and wind can make things tricky, so be sure to review your bad weather back-up plans before each event. Do you need tents, indoor shelters, umbrellas, fans or heaters?

An emergency. Emergencies happen, so it’s best to be prepared for anything so you can remain calm and composed. Know what to do in case of medical emergencies or evacuations.

4. Delegate, delegate, delegate!

As an event professional, you might be inclined to take every task by yourself. But when the busy season ramps up, that’s not sustainable. Be willing to delegate.

This isn’t just about lightening your load; delegating smaller tasks allows you to focus more on the creative, high-value aspects of your job. This can allow you to get more conceptual and creative, and come up with those elements that really “wow” clients.

A few tips to delegate in an organized way:

  • Always have trusted, reliable professionals on your team the day-of. As the lead, you’ll always be touching all aspects of your event, but make sure you’re not short-staffed and stuck bussing tables when you could be overseeing more important parts of the day. An easy way to do that is to over-schedule and utilize temporary staffing services such as Instawork.
  • Create a task matrix. Break down the tasks and steps needed to pull off every part of the event, right down to things like check-in, breakdown, bussing and washing dishes. Make sure someone is assigned to each task so they’re not all up to you. This will keep you from getting pulled in different directions on the day of the event.
  • Share your event checklist or run of show with all of the above so everyone’s on the same page, and accountable.

Pro tip: On Instawork, you can book VIP Event Captains for your upcoming event. Instawork VIPs are veteran shift leaders who are qualified, vetted and have years of experience in the events industry. They can help assist you with event check in, on-site management and have proven skills in staffing management.

5. Take care of your team — and yourself

You’ve heard this and you’ve probably said it to your team, but it bears repeating: Take care of yourself, not just others. You are one of your business’s greatest assets, so it’s important that you stay healthy. This means delegating when you can, taking time off, and having everything you need to stay comfortable, fed, and ready. Think: A back-up change of clothes, water, business cards, snacks, and shoes in your car.

You can also create emergency kits for you and your team to cut down on fire drills the day-of. These can include snacks, water, Advil, pens, scissors, tape (multiple types for big and small jobs), Post-Its, sewing kits, stain sticks, back-up phone chargers, batteries, and thumb drives.

For your food and beverage pros, bring back-up hair-ties, hair nets, extra bowties or ties for uniformed servers, gloves for food prep and plating, and must-have utensils like knife sets.

Pro tip: Make it easy on you and your team by having a folding cart/trolley you can use to easily haul larger things around.

6. Recap Your Event and Follow-Up On Your Success

Now that your event is over, you’re wiped out and want to shut out the world for a few days. But there are a few things you can do while you recharge that will help set you up for success and when you come back to reality. Writing up a detailed recap while the event is still fresh in your mind is invaluable, and can help you to estimate out future budgets or demonstrate the success and ROI of an event to clients.

  • Send out daily recap forms to gather information from your team. Or, if it’s just you, make sure you send yourself a nightly recap for multiple-day events. This will remind you to put everything down in words while it’s still fresh.
  • Debrief as a group. Get together with your team to hear a front-line perspective of what went well and what didn’t.
  • Ask the attendees how they felt about the event. Have attendee contact info? Send out an email survey to hear their feedback so you can continually improve.

7. Show Gratitude for a Job Well Done

Gratitude is important. You know that it takes a village to produce great events, so nurturing great relationships with staff and partners can make it more likely they’ll want to work with you in the future.

Take some time to send thank you notes (snail mail or online) to the people and partners who helped to produce your event.

Pro tip: Reward while you recharge. Grab a glass of wine while you’re unwinding and crank out those thank-you notes.

8. Remember: Don’t Overcommit Yourself

It goes without saying, but accepting every opportunity that comes your way can sometimes do more harm than good. It’s always hard to turn down last-minute business requests, especially when it’s coming from your top clients or clients you’d love to work with in the future. But over-committing yourself and your business can spread you too thin.

And when that happens, even the most organized event planner can struggle to deliver a high-quality event.

Keep an eye on your calendar when you accept last-minute requests. Make sure you’ve got buffer time between events, and that you’re also giving yourself some downtime here and there.

Pro tip: Remember this mantra: “Under-promise and over-deliver,” and always know when to say “No.”

That’s it — you’re ready to roll. Charge up your devices, download our checklist, create an account on Instawork and you’re all set to wow your clients this season.

Written by

Sarah Edelman

Sr. Marketing Manager — Instawork