Hiring Event Staff

It’s easy to spot an establishment that is understaffed, isn’t it? The signs are usually glaringly obvious; the checkout lanes at the market are few and far between and the tables at your favorite cafe haven’t been bussed. As you pass by the overflowing trash receptacles, grumbling patrons can be overheard saying “it sure is hard to get good service these days.”

And they aren’t wrong.

How do you avoid the same pitfall when it comes to staffing your trade show? The answer seems clear; you simply hire more staff.

Sigh. If only it was that simple. Hiring people is easy, but hiring the right people? Not as much.

The What

We recognize that being understaffed can be problematic because we have all experienced it. What we don’t always know are what areas need the most help and that depends entirely on your specific needs.  

The first question you need to ask yourself is: Do you need staff for the pre-show, the event itself or both? Who you hire is contingent upon the answer.

Here are some areas that are commonly understaffed that may need some attention…

Exhibitor booth sales– This can be taken two ways: A show that needs to attract more exhibitors for their show and exhibitors that need more people to help staff their booth during the event and make sales.

For a show to be successful you need to have exhibitors and attracting quality vendors will require salesmanship. A busy show coordinator of a lesser known event might not have the time to woo companies and it can become necessary to have the extra help to sell more exhibitor booths at your event.

When it comes to exhibitors having enough staff of their own to make sure attendees are receiving the attention they need, you can leave it up to their discretion or you can set a minimum number of people that need to staff the booth during the show.

On-site floor management– Since you can’t be everywhere at once you might need to hire more floor management so that when you aren’t available, the job still gets done (and problems addressed). An on-site floor manager can also help make sure your exhibitors are adhering to the rules and regulations of the show. Additionally, they can be a point person for any questions about display and exhibit regulations.

Clean up crew- The venue usually has their own staff that will be on hand to keep things such as restrooms clean, etc, but you might need (depending on the size of the venue and number of attendees) to hire more staff to help keep empty containers off the floor and maintain a tidy event. Your first look should be to your OSC (Official Service Contractor), who will typically have additional staff present to make sure your exhibit hall floors are vacuumed and your trash receptacles are emptied. However, if your show requires an extra white glove, make sure you discuss it with your OSC, as they may have the additional help you need for your specific cleaning tasks.

Registration- It’s important to make sure that your registration counters are properly staffed to reduce the waiting time for your attendees. The extra staff can help answer questions and assist with any special needs guests.

Post-show evacuation- Make sure you have enough staff to help aid in the move out process for exhibitors to ensure a smoother and faster exit.

Note: There are other staff hires that might need to be made that have nothing to do with staffing issues but with making the event experience the best it can be for attendees. This can include educational speakers and entertainment.

The Who

Being a member of an organization like IAEE or PMCA can really work to your advantage when it comes to hiring experienced and vetted candidates.  

The connections you have made through your industry associations can help lead you to people that are looking for part-time show work. You can also post your job positions through their website job boards.

If you aren’t a member or just need more avenues, ask your service partners for leads. They often have connections and know of someone on their team that could fulfill those duties.  

A staffing agency is always another possibility for hiring staff to fill the day of service only needs.

Regardless of the source (for finding staff), the most important thing is to make sure that their qualifications meet your expectations. Event work is demanding and it takes experienced people who are familiar with the industry to stay committed to the process.

The Now

A well-run show takes extra feet on the ground who have the experience necessary to leave your attendees feeling satisfied. Having the right proportion of staff can be the crucial difference between having a good show versus having a great one.