How many of your own event team, temps and/or volunteers?

Welcome, How many of your own event team, temps and/or volunteers will you need to schedule onsite? I wish there were an easy answer to this question, but the good news is that there is a base line you can use for a starting point.  From there you will go up or down on the number of staff you will need onsite based on the size and type of your meeting or event.

There is no secret formula, but a standard rule-of-thumb would be 1 professional event planning staff member per 50 guests for events under 500.  If you are using volunteer or temporary personnel, the number of staff would be increased because volunteers and temps will be less experienced and will do better if assignments are limited to only one area of responsibility rather than several.  They will also require more direction and oversight from experienced staff members which will, in turn, take time away from the staff member’s own responsibilities.

The safest approach for planning staff requirements for your meeting or event is to calculate the most staff for the best experience, then evaluate all elements of the program, assign your A-Team members first for a solid foundation, then build the rest of your overall staffing plan to support them.  You will find that you do not need “the most for the best” for many events that are less sophisticated or demanding than others and you can scale back the number of staff needed.  Schedule at least one or two extra staff to be available onsite as a backup to handle the unexpected.  Expect the unexpected – it will almost always occur.

Examples of variables that could affect your staffing requirements  –

  1. You might be comfortable reducing the ratio to 1 professional staff member per 75 attendees if you have an A-Team that is experienced enough to handle complete oversight of the different elements of your program such as one to oversee registration, one for speakers and audio visual, one for meeting or function room setup and food functions, etc.  This would reduce the number of staff, volunteers or temp personnel needed to assist with those elements.
  2. If multiple activities are offered at the same time giving guests a choice of which to attend, you should increase the number of professional staff to oversee each activity.  Additional support personnel may be needed to assist them per activity if the type of activity warrants it, such as a golf tournament.  A professional meeting staff person should always be available on call at the “home base” or onsite office of the event while other activities are going on elsewhere.
  3. The ratio of professional staff per attendee could be increased to as much as 1 per 20 if the event is complex with sophisticated audio visual or multiple breakouts, or if the attendees are VIP’s such as an incentive group or dignitaries.
  4. When scheduling volunteers, it is always best to overbook the number needed by as much as 30% to account for those who won’t show up (Yes! It happens – often!) or who do not perform well.  Many volunteers are conscientious and have volunteered because they want to learn from the experience or contribute something to the event or the community, and they take their volunteer responsibilities seriously.  But there are also many who volunteer (or are asked to volunteer by a supervisor) for their own personal visibility or to create visibility for their own organizations.  Understand this and plan accordingly. 
  5. If scheduling temporary personnel from an agency, it is a good idea to also schedule one or two experienced staff members as a backup in case there is a problem with temp performance.  Unlike volunteers, temps are paid so you don’t want to overbook more than you need.  There is less risk of them not showing up, but if they do cancel at the last minute their agency may not be able to find a replacement in time or a replacement may arrive late and unprepared.
  6. Trip Directors (also known as Travel Directors or TD’s) are sometimes used onsite in place of the professional staff that planned the meeting or event.  A reputable TD can do a good job but they are also pricey.  This may be the best way to go if it would be more costly for your organization to be without you and your staff during the event, but there are also significant risks to be considered that would be handled better by someone on staff who is loyal to and more knowledgeable about your company, your guests, and the objectives of your meeting or event.
  7. The layout of the venue may require additional staffing to help with such things as directionals and other signage if the meeting room layout is confusing, or to work the registration line if space in the registration area is limited and the number of alphabetical stations that can be set up to separate the line and speed the process have to be reduced.

Many more variables can apply depending on the type of group attending and the unique needs and objectives of the planned program.  Break down all the elements, review and evaluate them, then proceed with plans for staffing from an educated viewpoint rather than relying on past experience alone.  Rarely can you rely on two meetings or events being exactly the same!   

About the Author

Susan has managed high-profile events for IBM, GE, and other Fortune 500 companies. She has organized fundraisers, large festivals, and promotional events. Now, she is a blogger and speaks about event planning topics

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