In events, almost every failure can be traced back to one of these two mistakes:
1. Someone not taking enough responsibility
2. Someone taking too much responsibility
The first issue of someone not taking enough responsibility involves a failure to allocate work to specialists combined with a failure to follow up on that work. In this instance, event staff are assigned general tasks rather than specific responsibilities and as a result, perform those specific tasks perfectly. The problem is that most of the roles required by events staff are far more detailed than a specific task. For example, asking bar staff to serve drinks will mean that competent staff will do exactly that – serve drinks to attendees. The failure is that the person who assigned the task has failed to communicate the importance of the type of communication, which drinks should be prioritised and the manner in which bar staff should present themselves. We have all experienced an event where the event staff simply do not fit with the “feel” of the event; a slightly scruffy brand ambassador at a formal event, or a promotional team member that acts with almost pretentious politeness at a casual party. All of this can be rectified by ensuring specific event staff have responsibility for more than just minor tasks. Supervisors who have an awareness of what is expected of their team at a more fundamental level can rectify issues in presentation, communication and methodology. Without that level of responsibility, there is no system or procedure for rectifying ad-hoc problems.
The other issue of event staff taking too much responsibility involves event managers, supervisors or individual contributors stressing themselves out by trying to achieve everything themselves without allowing other people to take any responsibility for the event beyond the most basic assignments. The most common occurrence is when supervisors are tasked with, “managing” staff, but that management ends with checking their start times, telling them when they can take a break and asking the event manager to sign their timesheet at the end of the event. This type of robotic behaviour creates a flow on effect to other members of event staff, who behave in an equally robotic fashion. The event becomes less enjoyable for the event staff, which in turn reduces the enjoyment for the attendees. The event manager uses solid project management techniques to make sure that everything happens on time, but timeliness is only a small portion of creating an event that engages clients or prospects and gets people talking. With too much responsibility being taken by the event manager, those responsible for direct interaction with attendees cannot use their own skillset and intuition to adapt to circumstances as they arise. A member of waitstaff wants to engage with attendees at a more meaningful level, but it has been communicated, through clear and functionary directives, that this is just a job, not an opportunity to shine. Had the event manager allowed responsibility to filter down and created an environment where individual team members could use their own initiative to spot opportunities and be proactive in improving the event, the performance of the event would exponentially increase without any additional work having to be done by the event manager. Sadly, in these circumstances, the event manager has confused working hard with creating an effective event.
The sensible allocation of responsibility involves an awareness of where proactivity is useful and an understanding of where it is not. Good event managers should seek to understand the link between effective task allocation, communicating the importance of productivity and bring it together with the recruitment of event staff that have the relevant skillsets.