First Time’s the Charm: How an Event Novice Took the Lead

Posted on June 21, 2024

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By Jesse McDaniel  

For many professionals in our industry, the difference between our day-to-day tasks and our duties while on event can be a world apart. Regular operations may see you managing city permits and creating routes, while the big day itself might call on you to work with volunteers, partner with vendors, set up signage, or supervise the registration tent. We all wear many different hats, and particularly when you’re working on an event series taking place in different cities across the country at the same time, there may come a time when you’re called on to tackle your biggest role yet — event lead.  

During my tenure with Event 360 I’ve had to master several positions while working events. Security details, swag inventory, talent coordination, and other responsibilities had all come up on my event day to-do list at one point or another. But, if I’m being honest, when I was called on to be an event lead, it stopped me in my tracks. I was nervous! There’s a vast chasm between being responsible for your one piece of the puzzle and having to see all one hundred segments that paint the full picture. So, if you’re anything like me, read on to learn about the five tips that helped me conquer my impostor syndrome and sail a ship through unchartered waters. 

Read the background information. It’s likely that your organization has a decent amount of resources to help you acclimate to your new role. Yes, certain things require practical application but, in the meantime, take advantage of the theoretical. I spent hours studying an event book that covered everything from our emergency response plan (a MUST read) and the overall schedule to vendor contacts and special circumstances. This manual started as an invaluable tool but quickly became a sacred text that didn’t leave my side until I was on the train ride back home. If you familiarize yourself with the many parts currently, or potentially, in motion, you allow yourself to settle into a more detailed point of view. And, trust me, that can be a lifesaver. 

Trust your history. Prior to this, I hadn’t had any experience as the main point of contact for an event. But I did have experience contributing to load in/load out. I did have experience ensuring safety standards were met. And I did have experience with site layouts. I like to think of an event lead role as the culmination of every other role on the staff. You may not be directly responsible for the volunteers, but if you know what that feels like, then that can help inform how you direct and support your collaborators.  

Rely on your team. Speaking of collaborators — lean on them! If you think of the event lead as someone who’s solely responsible for every single aspect of the event, then you’re sure to drop the ball and burn yourself out in the process. I’m someone who loves asking for help, so being able to turn to my team or volunteers to assist with projects big or small was an absolute must. Think less “do-it-yourself” and more “D-E-L-E-G-A-T-E”. Live events are not a one-person job. 

Triple-check everything. This one goes without the need for explanation, but it’s a helpful reminder; check everything. Each detail, including phone numbers, locations, timelines, etc. are integral to your event. This isn’t a foolproof way to keep all surprises at bay, but dotting every i and crossing every t can help mitigate some of those unforeseen scenarios. 

Check the forecast. On any Event 360 event, multiple people are going to be obsessively tracking the weather. On the surface this may seem like something that you only need to give glancing attention to, but having been on event with winds so strong that tents have blown across fields, or a nor’easter appearing in the midnight hour, I can’t understate how important it is to be aware of your surroundings — both in their current state and what is coming around the corner. As an event lead, I knew that tracking the forecast was nonnegotiable. Elements like cold, wind, rain or high heat can not only factor into how you manage your overall logistics, but also impact morale. Being able to brace yourself for the storm (sometimes literally), is an integral part of preparation. And of course, it prepares you to bring the proper clothing and supplies needed to handle anything Mother Nature brings your way. 

Being called on to steer the ship is a major undertaking. Instead of dealing with what’s on your one plate, you’re expected to oversee multiple plates… that are all spinning. But fear not! Odds are your entire event career thus far has been preparing you for this moment. Although you may be expected to hold the reins, you’re not alone. Do what you can to ready yourself and lead the charge with teamwork at the forefront. While running the show can feel daunting, at the end of the day, your job is to facilitate a memorable experience for people joining together to do good. So, for every proactive action, make sure to remember compassion. Each time you’re putting out a fire, large or small, don’t overlook the unique skill sets that you bring to the table. When connecting with your constituents, hold positivity at your core. Stick to the script, prepare for the unexpected, and you’ll stick the landing. 

Jesse McDaniel

Jesse joined the Event 360 team in 2021 following a career in the worlds of editing, development, and fundraising. As Creative Services Coordinator he tackles everything from communications trafficking and project management to copywriting and overseeing niche deliverables. A jack of all trades, master of none (…ok, maybe two or three), his favorite experiences allow him to wordsmith or make meaningful connections with our amazing participants. When he’s not city-hopping during event season, he enjoys composing music, penning nonfiction, traveling, and spending time with a good book.

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