Here's something you'll learn the hard way: delegating responsibilities is just half of the job. Apart from assigning tasks to other people, you have to know how to communicate these responsibilities correctly.
So if you don't want to mess it up, pay special attention to the way you manage the work of the volunteers who will assist you during the event. The help of volunteers is essential, especially when running big events with hundreds of guests.
As Joe Goldblatt, professor at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, remarks, "Volunteers are the lifeblood of many events." Goldblatt adds, "Recruiting, training, coordinating, and rewarding volunteers is a vital part of many Event Management operations."
Yet, whenever you recruit volunteers for your event, you also run the risk to end up in big trouble. Think about that: volunteers aren't part of your usual team, so you have little or no experience in working together. This can lead to miscommunications or misunderstandings, which will negatively influence the running of your event.
So excluding those few moments when you end up working with truly incompetent people, the performance of the volunteers depends entirely on how well you communicate and instruct them. In other words, if your event fails, don’t blame the volunteers; ultimately, you are the one who is responsible. To avoid this from happening, check out the following tips on how to correctly instruct your volunteers.
Tip #1. Discuss everything in advance
There's nothing more irresponsible than asking the volunteers to show up in the morning of the event without giving them any previous instructions. If you think you'll have time to assign the tasks a few minutes before the event begins, you are terribly wrong. The only thing you’ll do is create confusion and leave no space for discussing the details, doubts, or questions your volunteers may have.
So the best thing you can do is schedule a meeting with the volunteers a few days before the event. This way, you’ll meet them in a calmer environment.
During the meeting, discuss every single detail related to each assignment. As Judy Allen suggests in her book on event planning, "Let them know what will be expected from them (dress code, protocol, hours)." By doing so, you'll avoid any unnecessary stress the morning of the event. You'll be 100% sure that your volunteers are prepared and have the information they need to accomplish their assigned tasks.
Tip #2. Write it down
To make your instructions clearer and easier to check, create a document that includes the time framework and the responsibilities of each volunteer. Make copies of this document and make sure each volunteer has one. Use the written instructions as a roadmap when explaining the tasks. Also, don’t forget to send an email with the document attached, in case the volunteers lose the copy.
Tip #3. Offer personalized instructions
Explain to each volunteer the tasks he or she needs to accomplish during the event. To make it easier, work with smaller groups. For example, you can have a group of volunteers responsible for the check-in process only. Other volunteers could be responsible for the translation equipment distribution.
Discuss the assignment details with each group. Walk them throughout each step they must take to successfully accomplish their tasks. Also, highlight any possible issues they may encounter and how they can solve these problems.
Tip #4. Delegate a responsible colleague to serve as a point of contact
Ask someone from your team to directly coordinate the activity of the volunteers. As Judy Allen notes, "Make sure that you have assigned a member of the event planning committee to review their responsibilities with them and oversee the volunteers during your event. They will need to have someone they can report to exclusively." This way, your volunteers will know with whom to contact in case something unexpected occurs.
Tip #5. Provide instant communication options
Create an online chat for your team members and volunteers to communicate any issues or incidents during the event. However, set strict parameters for communication. No sharing cute cat pics via this channel. When running an event, you can’t distract yourself with useless information or jokes. Everyone needs to maintain their focus. Ask the volunteers to use the online chat for urgent issues only.
Call to action
One of the best things about being an event manager is working with different people toward the accomplishment of a specific goal. So if you are in the position of recruiting volunteers for your event, make an extra effort to align their actions and efforts.
First of all, schedule a meeting before the event to explain tasks and assignments. Don’t forget to offer the volunteers copies of the instructions with the most important details related to what they have to do. Secondly, assign a responsible member from your team to guide the volunteers and assess their performance. Thirdly, enable an online communication channel that everyone can access in case unexpected incidents occur.
Don’t forget, the successful running of your event depends on how well you organize and manage the team of volunteers. Good luck!