Current crewing concerns for the live events industry
The week of the 16th May 2022 represented a “perfect storm” in relation to crewing live events across the country.
Neutrino Global prepared for weeks for a multi-day event hosting 350+ delegates. A company’s sales review conference, product launch and celebratory gala dinner awaited the lucky guests.
Preparations and liaisons with the events production company TMB Events progressed well; adjustments to initial plans to finesse the final production were integrated successfully.
Then, with only a couple of weeks to go, the event scope expanded significantly. For various reasons, the final gala dinner would now be held in a separate room to the main conference event.
This was all manageable from a kit and staging point of view. The biggest snag for us on this job was now crewing. We suddenly had to find more skilled crew with suitable availability at very short notice.
We’d tried a lot of our existing contacts and already booked several of them for the main room conference & product launch. We contacted more than 50 other potential AV freelancers over several days but without success. Some had left the industry, some had retired but the majority were simply not available for the dates needed. Many told us they could have booked themselves work for that week several times over.
Eventually, using all our available industry contacts including the ‘Freelance Job Swap’ group on Facebook where over 6,000 skilled freelance events professionals are members, we were able to book all AV technicians needed. Their experience and professionalism was exactly what we needed for the event to be successful.
Why the shortage?
So what were the factors that contributed to this apparent drought of available skilled crew for this week?
- Live events could only to run in full again, without Covid restrictions from early 2022. There were expectations across the industry that from early Q2 2022 onwards, live events would increase in number. People & businesses wanted to make the most of being able to reconnect in person after so long apart. It seems that these predictions were absolutely correct.
- A survey conducted by Plasa in Dec 2021 found that 69% of their respondents were already facing skills shortages. The vast majority of those shortages were for site & rigging crew, engineers and technicians. 74% of their respondents were also lacking in confidence about the improving in the following six months, up to mid-2022.
- College and university graduates have had their training courses heavily curtailed due to the Covid restrictions across the past two years. The opportunities for them for meaningful and relevant work experience were simply not there. This means that they are finishing their training courses this summer will little or no actual experience of live events. They may not yet be fully ready to take up roles in the live events industry.
How is this situation going to improve?
The live events industry is currently very much the place to be if you’re an experienced & capable events technician. Those freelancers who managed to survive the ‘famine’ of the last couple of years should now be able to make the most of the ‘feast’ of opportunities available to them.
Agencies, businesses and venues of all types must offer opportunities for apprenticeships and work experience in all types of roles. We need to bring more skills into the industry and share our experience with the next generation of audio visual enthusiasts. Organisations such as Event First Steps are essential if our industry is to fully flourish again in the future.
Events production companies such as ourselves need to be on the ball to make ourselves attractive to the freelancers available. We need to continue to make the industry a desirable place to work overall and to ensure we are an appealing prospect as an individual company.
Reliable arrangements such as offering a 20% upfront payment of freelancer’s fees once a job is confirmed will help to keep us at the front of the line when freelancers are choosing which company to share their skills with.
We paid in full in fewer than 5 working days all the freelancers who worked for us on the live event and linked gala dinner.
It’s great to be busy again
The gala dinner was a huge success and thoroughly enjoyed by all, thanks to our team. The 50+ freelancers we contacted but couldn’t use are now on our list of potential staff for future events. We’re now even better prepared to deliver further exciting and engaging live events.
It’s wonderful for the events industry as a whole to be back at full capacity – long live live events!
Photo credit: Marc Shulte