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August 19, 2007

THE RIGHT SET UP: Why crewing services are vital to a successful event

The conference delegate, exhibition visitor or exhibitor, or member of the press at a product launch is often so involved in taking part in an event that they don’t think about what’s gone into producing the live experience. Probably furthest from their minds are the people who set everything up before they’ve even arrived – the event crew. However, anyone involved in organising an event, particularly those of a significant size, will know all about how important the crew is to its overall success. 

These days most event organisers use external crews, but what are the benefits of hiring a crewing agency over building an in-house team?

“For an event company to be successful it needs to show versatility and creativity within its offering so that clients can repeatedly come back to them,” answers Philip Atkins of hospitality support company Off To Work. “To achieve this it needs to be able to adjust quickly and efficiently to the needs of each event and see every occasion as unique. By working with external crews, it allows a company to bring in specialist talents for any event, and not be weighed down by large fixed-wage overheads. Using crewing companies is all about allowing individuals to concentrate on their own expertise creating enormous synergies which the end client and guests benefit from.”

Roy Wallace at technical event solutions company Barracuda agrees, adding: “External crewing charges are much easier to define to our clients in budgetary terms, and it saves a lot of admin time after the event in calculating costs, such as overtime, etc, because with external crews you have a fixed call charge – four hours, eight hours, or whatever is required. This also makes it much easier to work out the set-up and de-rig costs.”

More than you bargained for…
So you can get far more that just the obvious expert help in setting up from crewing agencies.

“We find external crews can also speed up the installation and taking down for us in a big way,” says Wallace. “And, as some venues require the space soon after an event is finished for other functions, it works out to be much cheaper for the client to have external crews on site, as it saves on extra venue charges, which can be expensive.”

Crewing agencies also allow Barracuda to take on more and bigger work.

“This was perfectly illustrated recently,” explains Wallace, “when we did the Eye for Travel European Summit in May at the Business Design Centre, London, with more than 75 exhibition stands, one main conference room/auditorium, six breakout conference rooms and more. Had we not had this external crew facility available, we could not have handled this particular project.”

Barracuda was also involved in organising a World Cup event last year at the Harney Nichols restaurant in Kensington, London. “With the venue being a public restaurant, we had hardly any time to set up for this function, which included installing a big screen,” Wallace continues, “and without external crews, we could not have not have contemplated doing the job without involving huge logistics and expenses!”

Understanding counts
As well as saving time and money, crewing companies can provide additional support services. In fact, experienced freelance technical event director Matthew Abercrombie calls them his “comfort gap”.

“The right crewing company will give you moral support and act as an emotional buffer,” he says. “They’ll do stuff that I don’t know about, and it just gets done – often they don’t need instruction.”

This level of understanding can be invaluable, and only comes from vast experience over a broad variety of events.

“A lot of the success for any crewing company comes from not knowing simply what the client wants, but having a real understanding of what the objective of the event is and what the guest at the event is hoping to experience,” says Off To Work’s Atkins. “With this understanding, the best crewing companies will work with their clients within the creative and logistical brief to ensure an event is successful. Furthermore, if they are good and in it for the long term they will look to work with their clients to actually save labour costs rather than over-exaggerate the levels of staffing they need. A customer who knows they have had value for money and that there is no more effective way of getting the event done will return time and time again.”

Choosing wisely
So crucial are crewing services to the overall success of an event that it pays to make sure the company you choose has all the necessary attributes and experience.

“Try to always go with a recommendation from someone you know and trust,” advises Atkins. “If no one suitable, it is always worth seeing who has won any industry accolades. Events associations like the International Special Events Society are also a useful source of recommendations as their members are in general clued up on the requirements of the events industry.”

To get the most out of a crewing company once you’ve chosen one to work with, a thorough briefing is essential, not only on the project in hand, but also on your visions and values and on the kind and level of service that you – and more importantly your clients – expect.

“We take all our potential crewing partners through an exhaustive vetting process,” says Jackie Broughton, head of sales, conference and banqueting at Wembley Stadium for Delaware North. “It is essential that all our team members deliver levels of service consistent to our rather stringent standards. Using crewing services means that, besides our core team, we have a workforce that is constantly evolving. This only adds to the challenge of managing our teams and ensuring that our associates understand Delaware North’s core principles and deliver an outstanding service experience to our customers.”

Get the crewing element right, and you’ve laid the groundwork to a successful event.

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