published on Jun 15, '16
If you’re responsible for planning a big event for your organization, you know that coordinating all the details is sometimes too much work for one person. You’re managing vendor contracts and payments, promoting the event and keeping tabs on attendees. That means the number of spreadsheets open on your desktop at any given time is enough to make any savvy planner want to clock out before five. Often, the best solution seems to be hiring someone to help out as a temp in the weeks or months leading up to the event. An extra set of hands will mean less work, less stress and more time to focus on big-picture event management, right?
The good news is, the answer can be “Yes!” Unfortunately, hiring a temp can just as easily turn into a supervisory nightmare, causing more stress and decreasing efficiency as you navigate through correcting their mistakes from unclear expectations or misunderstandings. Here are some tips to make hiring a temp a great experience for everyone involved:
It’s usually too late to bring on a temp after you’re in the thick of planning your event and panicking about the number of hours a day you’ll need to do everything. If you try, you’re bound to feel disappointed. Rushed hiring processes can lead to a candidate who initially seems organized – until you find out they have no basic Excel skills once they start tackling your to-do list. Even if you find the right candidate, it requires more time to hand off tasks that someone’s already started than to keep one person in charge of certain tasks from the beginning.
Plan to spend at least two months in the hiring process. Writing up a job description, promoting the position, reviewing applications and interviewing candidates all take time, which is something you don’t have in the busy months before the big event.
One of the most challenging aspects of planning and promoting an event is keeping track of all of the constantly changing details. Adding another person to the mix can mean catastrophe if you don’t stay on the same page by using shared trackers, databases and other organization systems like Excel or Google Docs.
For example, let’s say you and your temp are both working to promote the event online. Agree to track your media contacts, event-coverage requests and status updates in one spreadsheet to avoid reaching out to the same person twice or following up for an update when the outlet has already sent you a link to cover your event. Two heads are only better than one when they share information effectively! Also, if a last-minute emergency causes you or the temp to be away from the office before your event, the show can go on if you’ve documented and organized your work.
Temps often do the grunt work that full-time employees want to get off their plates. While it’s advantageous to you to reduce the work on your plate, you may actually be missing out on your temp’s talents that can take your event to another level. Spend time finding out what excites a temp about event planning or your organization in general. Then encourage them to make some elements of the event their own as long as they complete their primary responsibilities. For example, does the temp have a portfolio full of impressive writing clips? Encourage them to write a series of guest posts on your organization’s blog promoting the event.
Also encourage your temp to involve their own networks when relevant to publicize the event. Since they’re not a full-time employee at your organization, their contacts are likely to be significantly different from yours. Are you hoping more youth will come to diversify your non-profit gala? Perhaps the temp can brainstorm some creative ways to reach out to the alumni from their university or acquaintances from their volunteer network.
With stress building as the event nears, it’s easy to get caught up in deadlines, registration numbers, budgets and other important details. You forget to slow down and put people first, including your temp. Your emails may be terse, or frustration shows on your face when the temp pops in your office to ask another question you thought they should be able to answer on their own. While a temp’s spelling mistake in an outreach email may seem disastrous, it can also be an excellent learning moment that better prepares them for proofreading future promotional materials.
A temp may not always do things exactly as you would, but remember that you hired them because you couldn’t do everything on your own. If you want a temp to provide meaningful assistance, you’ll have to invest some of your own time into being a responsible supervisor. If they make a mistake, then have a conversation to discuss how they might approach it better next time. Most importantly, take time to offer them praise and acknowledgment in group settings.
You’ll never know what your temp is capable of unless you give them the opportunity to surprise you! A temporary gig can feel demotivating for some, and productivity can decline as temps often have no financial incentive to go above and beyond. Still, the money you pay them will certainly be a wise investment if you don’t rush the process. Get the most value out of your temp by providing systems for organization, giving space for creativity and showing appreciation for the temp’s hard work.
(Photo Credit: WOCinTech Chat)