Convention planners encounter a variety of challenges when putting together the perfect conference or trade show. Logistics, attendee concerns, meeting and schedule planning, and of course, labor. Oftentimes, the labor force that is hired becomes the attendees’ first impression of the convention as a whole. As a result, choosing the right convention staffing solution is critical to the success of the event as a whole.
The 10 biggest benefits of hiring a convention staffing agency
Convention staffing agencies save you time
Sourcing, interviewing, and hiring candidates takes a long time. If you are in need of more than a few people, this work can seriously distract you from your other responsibilities. A convention staffing agency can handle finding a large portion of the staff you need to hire onsite.
Delivers a professional look
Convention staff often manage registration, badge pickup, and other front-of-house responsibilities at a convention. These staff become your conference’s first impression and human touch. Are the staff in uniform? Are they friendly and presentable, and representative of the event overall? Managing and meeting these staff expectations is the responsibility of a quality convention staffing agency.
Convention staffing agencies have a huge advantage over the DIY staffing method. Staffing agencies come back to the staff on their roster again and again. In a nutshell, the agencies provide more incentive for ongoing work than the individual planner. This results in a more reliable workforce. The staff are more likely to make timeliness and attendance a priority since they trust the process and payments from an agency. In addition, a good staffing agency and coordinator includes back up staff in their staffing plan to account for unexpected absences.
Onsite staff management
Convention Staffing agencies provide their own onsite management and administrative personnel for their staff. An onsite manager’s job is to make sure that everyone is on time, in uniform, and ready to work. The onsite supervisor would also be responsible for facilitating breaks for the staff and reviewing their performance after the event. Having an onsite manager is key to ensure that a convention runs smoothly.
Compliance, management of insurance, taxes, breaks, overtime, and payroll.
There’s a lot more that goes into hiring than finding a good candidate. Every state has its own unique labor regulations, and it is important to make sure that you are in compliance with these regulations for the state in which the convention is being held. This includes administrative things like overtime pay, state and local taxes, insurance, and payroll administration. A convention staffing agency handles all of this for you, so you can rest easy.
A convention staffing agency provides flexibility
Even the best laid plans for staffing needs at your conference can require changes as it approaches. Maybe attendance is now going to be much higher than expected, or perhaps there is a new process involved for attendees to check in that will require additional staff. You want to have the ability to make adjustments to your needs without stressing about the additional work those changes might cause. Having a good staffing agency on your team will allow you to do just that.
The right convention staffing agency makes and expert and reliable partner
Corporate event planners know that there’s much more to convention staffing than just delivering the labor. A good convention staffing agency understands that break scheduling, check-in/check-out, detailed instructions and other planning details make a big difference in determining the success of a convention. Oftentimes the agency can make suggestions that will reduce costs or ensure staff attendance.
A good convention staffing agency can provide training to staff in advance.
In addition to having a professional look and friendly demeanor, you want your staff to be knowledgeable and competent. A convention staffing agency will help you meet this need by providing staff that have experience in a convention setting and with the specific job duties assigned. To provide the staff with specific knowledge of your convention or process, an agency is able to distribute training materials to the staff ahead of time. You may also look to your staffing agency to coordinate a virtual training session for the staff, if desired.
Technology and tracking
In order to effectively manage a large number of staff, it is crucial to have an efficient and organized system. A convention staffing agency will have their own tools for scheduling, reviewing and communicating with staff, etc. Many convention staffing agencies will even provide their employees with a smartphone app to use for clocking in/out, confirming shifts, and communicating with management.
The right convention staffing agency builds a roster of qualified personnel.
One of the biggest advantages of using a staffing agency is that they have a roster of local staff that they already know and trust. By hiring their staff as W-2 employees, they can use them regularly and build a stronger relationship with them. This results in a higher quality of staff who are motivated to do good work.
What convention staffing agency can (and should) do
- Have a local roster of reliable staff available in the local market
In most cases, you will not have a lot of local knowledge or resources for securing a reliable team on your own when you are staffing for a convention. A convention staffing agency with a local presence will not only have a reliable group of staff at their disposal, they will also be able to guide you through the intricacies of staffing and the logistics to consider in that particular market.
- Be properly insured and compliant in accordance with state and city requirements
In the event that something goes wrong at your conference, you want to be sure that you are covered. Partnering with a convention staffing agency that has the correct general liability and workers compensation coverages will ensure that staff are properly insured and compliant for the work they are performing. If you need to be named as additionally insured, the agency should be able to provide you with that documentation as well.
- Be familiar with the location and logistics of the surrounding area.
Particularly in larger markets and larger convention centers, knowing the logistics to consider can be the difference of success or failure. A good convention staffing agency will have experience at your venue or in your market and can alert you to things like mass transportation options, parking expenses that might be incurred, time it might take to get from point A to B, security measures a venue enforces and other important considerations that you should take into account when deciding on timing, quantity of staff needed and roles to be filled.
- Deliver costs savings and advice on labor management
Conference and event planners generally build labor needs in a particular role which can sometimes result in redundant workers. A good agency can often offer advice on how to reduce overall spending by combining shifts or avoiding overtime costs for longer shifts. They can encourage carpooling to reduce parking expenses and they will understand local pay rates to help stretch budgets.
- Be available for pre event meetings and conference calls prior to the event
It’s important for the convention staffing agency to have a clear understanding of your specific needs. A good staffing agency will want to schedule conference calls with your company before the event to clarify things like job duties, dress codes, etc. As things change throughout your planning process, it’s crucial that the staffing agency responds to any updates in a timely manner.
- Adjust to changes, with the ability to move, add, or subtract staff as needed
When planning any event, there are inevitably going to be changes along the way. For example, the expected attendance for your convention could drastically shift as you get closer to the date. A good convention staffing agency will be able to increase or decrease the number of staff as your needs change.
Choosing the right convention staffing agency
- Evaluate conference staffing agency capabilities and staff offerings
There are a variety of roles needed at the typical convention. Make sure you know what each staffing vendor is capable of doing. For example, security teams and registration staffing are typically different agencies. Look for a staffing agency that specializes in this type of staffing work.
- Understand backup policies, onsite management and staff check-in process
Top agencies build backup plans into larger contracts. Additionally, it’s important to know how staff are managed onsite and how check in and check out procedures are handled.
- Look for conference staffing agency experience in the local market
Local market experience means a convention staffing agency is engaging staff they have worked with, not just hiring new faces. Understanding public transportation, parking and logistics is also important local market knowledge a good agency should have.
- Ask for references of similar sized conferences.
If you are staffing a convention, conference or trade show, ask for references of similar sized programs in that local market when you choose your agency. This is important because the dynamics of different sized events vary widely. Additionally, this will help you understand the local reach of the convention staffing agency.
- Understand in-office support team
Do you have dedicated office support for changes and planning? How responsive are the people you have talked to thus far? This will help you understand if the staffing agency can meet your needs.
- Ensure your agency is compliant and properly designates their employees
Recent rulings, such as AB5 in California and others in states like New York, Washington, and Illinois have emphasized the importance of properly classifying staff at your convention. W-2 employees are the gold standard for employment. Only a very small percentage of agencies follow these state laws. Using an ‘under the table’ staffing agency can expose you and your client to liability and risk.
- Understand cancellation and change policies
Since staffing is typically secured prior to final convention attendee counts, changes are inevitable. Make sure to check the change and cancellation policy of the convention staffing agency you choose.
- Understand shift tracking and settling up event hours, payment terms
One often overlooked area is understanding how shifts are tracked during an event and how shifts are reconciled after an event. Having a loose system can cost a client thousands of dollars. Only pay for the labor you use by understanding the staffing agencies methods for tracking hours.
- Get a quote for services.
Finally, get a quote from the convention staffing agency and review the terms. Once you are ready to move forward, work with that company’s account manager to ensure your convention staffing experience is a success!
Fast Convention Staffing Facts
- A convention staffing agency is a company that provides temporary workers to help with the set-up, tear-down, and running of conventions and other events.
- Convention staffing agencies typically have a database of workers with a variety of skillsets and experience levels.
- Workers can be hired for a variety of tasks, including set-up and tear-down of equipment, registration, hospitality, customer service, and more.
- Convention staffing agencies typically have a team of account managers who work with clients to determine their staffing needs and then find the right workers to fill those needs.
- The account managers also work with the workers to ensure they are a good fit for the job and that they understand the client’s expectations.
- Convention staffing agencies typically have a contract with the client that outlines the scope of work, the pay, and the length of the assignment.