The Right Stuff: Building Top Notch Event Management Teams

 
By Selena Chavis 
 
“Organization of the team surrounding an event is very important,” said Michael Coco, senior director of operations with Red Frog Events. “You have to consider each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, and try to plug in individuals that will work well together and overcome the specific challenges of the event. Every event is unique, so every team needs to be unique as well.”
 
Jim Heim, senior vice president of event development and production for New York Road Runners (NYRR) and technical director of the TCS New York City Marathon, said that larger events especially demand a culture of teamwork, communication and trust as tasks are more widely dispersed.
 
“Design of the team depends on the type of event being organized,” he said. “At NYRR, we produce large-scale events but do not own our venues, so a great deal of our work is in conceptualization, agency and land-owner approvals, and then building our venue. … In our work, we need logistical thinkers who can take an event from concept to reality, building strong relationships along the way.”
 
 

Event Team Design Considerations 

Foundationally, any event team should consider basic functions such as communications, safety, command and control, and contingency planning, Heim said. “These functions are part of everyone’s role. On larger teams, there are personnel dedicated to these functions,” he said.
 
In addition, Coco added, event teams need to address resources for operations, logistics, event experience, marketing, customer service and finances. “Most are self-explanatory and can be adapted to work for almost any size event but larger events will require a more in-depth look and further breakdown at each area,” he said.
 
Sid Greenfeig, vice president of arena booking for MGM Resorts International, said, “The team needs to fully understand the client’s needs and have the ability to fulfill the client’s definition of success and overall expectations.”
 
Personalities play an important role in team cohesiveness, Greenfeig added, noting that he looks beyond a specific skillset for an event to the broader scope of experience, industry expertise and personality. “They all need to mesh properly in order to be successful,” he said.
 
Heim agreed, noting that technical skills can be taught. Traits such as leadership, passion, drive, attitude, respect and willingness to be a team player form the basis of a high-performing team member. “I look for the type of person first and foremost,” he said.
 
Coco said team members who don’t take themselves too seriously and don’t mind getting dirty are good candidates for Red Frog Events, the producers of offerings such as Warrior Dash, Firefly Music Festival, Shamrock Fest and the Chicago Beer Classic. “Like-minded people tend to work well together but we aren’t afraid to throw conflicting personalities together in order to get the best results,” Coco said. “We view debate as a good thing as long as everyone on the team has mutual respect for each other’s thoughts and ideas. It usually makes for a better overall event.”


Growing & Improving

 
As events experience success and mature, Heim said that event teams will experience natural growing pains. One challenge he pointed to entails balancing what needs to get done with how it’s accomplished. “Specialization in roles can lead to narrowing the scope of the employee’s experience. It’s important to create an environment where your team can continue to learn and grow and broaden their experience wherever possible,” he said.

Heim also suggested that event teams never settle and always challenge the status quo. “Plan, brief, execute, debrief,” he said. “The debrief is often the overlooked step in the process but you learn just as much looking back as you do moving forward. It’s important to capture those recap notes from all members in your team shortly after the event while it’s still fresh in their memory.”

Greenfeig pointed to the importance of communication and shared responsibility. “One thing I’ve witnessed from outside my current position is a situation where everyone thinks another team member should do the job instead of someone taking the initiative and just getting it done,” he said.
 
Coco agreed, pointing to the need for a “people first” mentality: “It is hard to list specific best practices because every event is so unique. … Your event is only as good as the people you have executing it. Your team is only as happy and productive as you allow them to be.”
 
To read more articles from the June 2017 issue of SportsEvents Magazine, click here