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The Operations Team: Plans, Timelines, and Interrelationships

The past few months is what is called “season” here in Florida.There is a sense of anticipation in the air, “snowbirds” arrive from out of town, and the event schedule becomes crazed.There are events each night, and sometimes there are multiple functions on the same evening.It all leads to an energy and vibe that really transforms the area.Once “season” is over, that energy dissipates, and the area becomes very relaxed and transforms into a traditional tropical vacation paradise.

Of course, “season” a great time to visit and pitch in to help various festivals and events.This is a chance to walk around as an attendee, look at set ups, eat food from new vendors, discover unique activation ideas, shop through a variety of merchandise booths, and get ideas for future events.By being a part of the festivals and events industry, it is easy to understand the work that has gone in to make these events successful – whether it is from staff, volunteers, board members, and vendors.

There is one underlying aspect of each festival and event that is similar. It is the work that goes on behind the scenes… the world of event operations. Operations is the glue that keeps all the components moving and ties the interrelationship of all the various event aspects.

I was lucky to start in the event world with FORTUNE magazine in the conference division operations office.It was the hub of activity.At any part of the day, attendees would call in with transportation changes, packages and faxes (yes, showing my age as it was before email) would arrive, checked by security, and then distributed; the offices were set up for the conference and client staff with copiers, printers, and computers; transportation and office temp staff signed in and waited for tasks, and set ups and deliveries for the next function were in progress.The operations office dealt with emergencies and calls at that moment in time but then also worked on what was needed two and three hours down the line and making sure that things were in the rights place or delivered on time, especially for off-site functions.

Over time, and working on various events and festivals, I learned that for operations to be successful, it takes planning.The time up front is critical to success - to understand what will be needed and when it is needed.It is important to have a flow of events and time frames so that operations can make sure all the parts are moving.Operations must take the time to walk through the event ahead of time, set the layout, determine how attendees will access materials, and then map and plot it out.

Site plans and maps are important, but then so is a written flow of events.This has always been helpful, and it allows the entire team to figure out the time frames, items required, and who is assigned to a task.From this written flow, then items can be obtained, packaged together, and delivered to the site in a known place that can be accessed.These written flows are also good so that everyone can understand each person’s role and use it for reference, especially as the day goes on and staff might not remember things.It is scheduled by date and time so anyone can easily track the next item to be completed. Even after that first run through of the flow, we as the event staff would run through the site and written plan multiple times to add details, check to see what was missing, and think of every scenario possible.

A strong operations function and team is vital to the success of an event.Their tools of site plans, timelines, production schedules, and detailed planning before the event is critical to the smooth running of a festival.

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