How to Deal With 7 Curveballs Thrown at Event Organizers

Planning large conferences has gotten even more complicated. The pandemic and the subsequent Great Resignation have greatly reduced the number of skilled workers in hospitality and related industries. Here are seven areas to take into consideration.

Author: Dave Lutz, CMP       

man setting up exhibit

Almost every aspect of event setup takes longer on site as the business events industry moves forward with fewer workers — so organizers need to prepare their staff members for possible challenges. (Jacob Slaton Photography)

In our experience, nearly every meeting service provider is short-staffed and plagued by last-minute no-shows or insufficiently skilled workers. This is having a huge impact on event organizers and their teams during both the planning and execution phases of events. More than ever, we need to be running several steps ahead — checking, double-checking, and even pitching in to ensure the attendee and exhibitor experience doesn’t suffer. To best prepare you, here are seven kinds of curveballs we’ve seen thrown at event organizers of large conferences in 2022 — and how to deal with them.

Short-staffed

Plan to bring extra staff to pitch in where needed. Chances are high that 10 percent or so of your coworkers will either get COVID or need to quarantine because of potential exposure.

Space Conflicts

There were many re-bookings during the pandemic. Some of these groups have been squeezed in. The meeting rooms you contracted for may have been double booked. Be sure to reconfirm your meeting rooms by name as far in advance as you can.

First-time Exhibitors

The exhibiting company may not be new to your show, but in many cases the person placing booth orders is doing it for the first time. Be prepared for missed deadlines, late fees, and a lot more handholding.

Overloaded Account and Project Managers

Nearly every hotel, general service contractor, AV, and registration company had to lay off a significant number of client-facing team members. The timing of bringing back staff is tricky. Many former employees have retired or switched industries, and those left behind are carrying a huge workload. Be sure to get your requests for assignments — and ask a lot of questions about their workload and commitments — well in advance. They likely will be pressed to meet your deadlines.

Temps, Security, and Volunteers

No-show rates are running high in these three support areas. Ask your vendors what contingency plans they have to ensure full staffing. If you need 20 volunteers, get 25.

Main Room Gaffes

Lock in your run-of-show and rehearse more than ever before. In addition to the labor and skills shortage, even seasoned AV techs are a bit rusty.

Room Turnovers and Refreshes

Many hotels have not been able to replace their setup crews to provide the same service levels as they did pre-pandemic. Almost everything takes longer on site. Prepare your staff. They may need to straighten out seating, throw away trash, or be present to help supervise room setup turnovers and between cleaning.


More ‘Know Before You Go’

A good number of your attendees are just easing back into business travel. In addition to communicating health and safety protocols, you’ll need to provide them with details about what they can expect when they arrive at the hotel. Do your homework. Check on hotel services and hours of operation and ask these questions:

  • What is the hotel’s policy on housekeeping services? What options do attendees have?
  • Are masks required while using rideshare or public transportation?
  • Are the restaurants and bars closed on certain days? Is the menu limited to grab-and-go?
  • How can guests bypass the front desk and expedite check-in?

ON THE WEB

To better understand the impact on our industry, read Hospitality Net’s article, “The Great Resignation and the Hospitality Industry.”

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.