Strategies for staffing success at large events

View our webinar on staffing for large events

Large events – whether they're at stadiums, arenas, convention centers, golf courses, or anywhere else – are among the most challenging undertakings for hospitality professionals. They require planning that starts months or even years in advance, but staffing needs to be fine-tuned within just weeks of each event. Getting the right balance of temporary and permanent workers on site and ready to perform is especially tough, even more so with non-profit volunteers and union contracts thrown into the mix.

The managers who handle these events have fine-tuned their strategies across years of experience, and we were fortunate to bring together three of them to explain their best practices in our monthly webinar:

  • Michelle Nezart, Employee Manager at Arena
  • Shrone Perry, Director of Human Resources for Levy Restaurants at Ford Field
  • Terry Salaices, Executive Director of Operations at the Venetian Resort Expo and Convention Center

Here are some highlights of the discussion:

Set expectations early

One of the most important strategies outlined by the panelists was generating expectations about staffing needs as early as possible. With recurring events like team sports, these may already be known to a large degree. But Michelle said she was always certain to have backup staff lined up in case of cancellations or last-minute changes. And for new events, like those that move from city to city, Terry said he tried to ensure he could attend the events in the year before he would have to host them.

For temporary workers, the panelists talked about the balance between booking too early and confirming workers in time for events. Terry said locking in staff was a priority particularly when other large events in his area were also looking for workers. But he also pointed out that workers booked more than a month in advance tended to cancel if they found more attractive options, making it harder to predict who would come in on the day.

The panelists also said that setting expectations was important for the workers. Shrone said experience had taught her to schedule her temporary professionals to come in 15-30 minutes before work was set to begin. When they arrive at her stadium, they have to get through crowds, change into their uniforms, and then orient themselves at their stations. She has also added buffer time after their work to allow time for clean-up and check-out.

Forming productive relationships

Michelle emphasized several times how crucial her temporary captains were for smooth operation of large events. Having her captains on a roster and bringing them back regularly for events meant she rarely had to spend time and effort on training. The panelists also spoke about the networks that arose between captains and other temporary workers, where they would work together at a string of events, sometimes at different venues. These networks helped to build trust and reliability as well.

Another key point that all the panelists mentioned was maintaining relationships with workers over the course of year, especially with captains and other highly skilled professionals. Terry said he liked to "cross-train" workers so that they could fill shifts at a variety of different events, ranging from corporate happenings to trade shows. This way they would stay engaged with his business as much as possible.

The combination of longer-term relationships and cross-training makes taking on new responsibilities much easier. Shrone said she had created new brand ambassador shifts for high-end services, and she could fill these shifts with hand-picked temporary workers because of their experience at the stadium across a wide range of other roles. This flexibility has been critical, she said, because she has been unable to fill all her available positions via job fairs and union labor.

The panelists took on several more topics critical to large events, and we hope you'll have a chance to watch the webinar and benefit further from their insights. Feel free to get in touch with us via if you have more questions after watching the video.

View our webinar on staffing for large events