Live Fundraising Events: Vendor Communication is Key!
There’s not much in the world that isn’t made better with good communication. Think about it. Whether it’s an event, a strategy, a relationship, even a feeling – pretty much ANYTHING – clear communication improves the experience for all involved. When communication is lacking, inconsistent or incomplete, you can count on problems, frustration and unnecessary stress. Exactly the opposite of what you want at your fundraising event. We’ve seen it happen. We don’t want to see it happen ever again!
Each of your vendors should have, at the very least, a general idea of what the others are doing. Our solution? A universal run-of-show (ROS) that you, your presenters and all of your vendors can refer to. Here’s why we’ve identified the need, as well as what can go wrong when your vendors aren’t in the loop.
Catering service is a major influencer of your ROS – quite possibly the very biggest influencer. Catering is a TOUGH job with a lot of moving parts, and we mean that quite literally! Sticking to a schedule when fundraising and hosting events is not just important, it’s essential. What time do the salads need to be on the table? Whatever time that is, know that they need to be off the table about ten minutes later. Because then it’s time for servers to collect them, so the main courses (that haven’t even been brought out yet) don’t get cold while people are picking at their salads. THEN it’s time for servers to drop the main course, while dodging their fellow servers who are collecting spent salads.
Depending on what content you have at the top of your event – speakers, awards, what have you – it’s okay to have catering staff circulating. But when it’s time for your keynote speaker and/or your special appeal speaker, servers need to pause and keep off the floor. You don’t want ANY distractions during the pinnacle of your event. (Post appeal, however, is just fine for servers to circulate.)
See why it’s imperative that the catering team pushes their staff out at the exact right times? And that everyone knows exactly when that right time is? Also, just think about how little space servers have when maneuvering between tables, at pretty much every venue you’ve ever been to.
Not all venues are created equal. Different venues have different equipment. Some (though very few) have all of the tech tools your AV vendor could possibly need – sound equipment, screens, lights, cables, etc. Most are more bare-bones and will require some supplementary gear. But if not, it’s a waste of energy for your AV team to bring in their own equipment if the venue has everything they need already in-house.
Now, envision this: You come up with a GREAT, out-of-the-box idea. Can you and your vendors pull it off? Maybe – but not without communication! It recently happened to our partners at Seamless Event Solutions:
“We were asked about having someone zip-line onto the stage. What prevented that from happening wasn’t physics, it was lack of communication.
They didn’t communicate that desire until so late in the game that we could not possibly coordinate it safely and with proper permissions. THAT is the part that takes some time. Communication is literally the difference between magic and mediocrity. The early bird catches the zip-line!”
–Laurel Miller, Seamless Event Solutions
Additionally, sound quality varies from venue to venue. Some rooms won’t require supplemental sound; they will make your event speakers sound crystal-clear, your music perfectly mixed, etc. But most venues require some AV help to make your show GREAT. If that’s the case, you need to know about it before event night, because your audio requirements just got a little more complicated.
AV + Sound
Sound is KING! Please keep your AV partners in the know about everywhere you need sound. Isn’t it so incredibly frustrating when you can’t hear something you know you should be hearing?! Like the important announcement from your auctioneer or emcee, that the online auction is about to close and this is your LAST CHANCE to bid on THAT THING you’ve had your eye (and thumbs) on. This is a common complaint, folks, and it has been for YEARS. Poor sound=poor donor experience. Poor donor experience=money left on the table. Your donors must hear and clearly understand the vital info coming from your auctioneer and/or emcee. People want to know how much time they have to browse your revenue streams, and catch up with friends. They need to know where the bars are, and if they have time to grab another drink or run to the loo before dinner.
Your AV team manages everything your guests see and hear in the venue, from the pre-show to the after-party. Anything that appears on the monitors – PowerPoint slides, videos, etc – will go through your AV pros. They will refer to the ROS to know when to advance the slides and when to play the videos. They’re also in charge of lighting, so they need to know when it’s time to dim the lights (before videos play) and when it’s time for spotlights (speakers). They can play with color and influence your guests’ emotions with it. No, really – there’s psychology behind it! So if you’re not giving much thought to lighting, here’s why you might want to. Great lighting is incredibly powerful.
In essence, your AV team is in charge of the entire visual and audio experience for your guests. And just like with catering, there are a lot of moving parts that go into it, so a universal ROS ensures things happen exactly when you want them to happen.
Live Musicians + Artists + Entertainers
Are you planning on having a band? They’ll need to be set up and ready to rock by the time your doors open. Exactly how long will that take? Some bands need a lot of setup time – hauling equipment, setting up their own amplifiers, testing mics, etc. Will your band need to set up their own gear, or is the venue set up to accommodate them? Maybe you don’t have a full band, but a few musicians who’ll bring their own instruments. You DO NOT want them showing up after the doors open! Even if they don’t have to haul a bunch of gear, they’ll want to warm up and make sure their sound is perfect. A universal ROS ensures all these questions are answered, well before your live entertainment ever takes the stage.
And what about after your live auction and live program are complete? Dance party, anyone?! Your band will know pretty precisely how long to break, if they’re working off of a universal ROS.
An important role you’ll want to assign to someone on your team is that of Stage Manager. Think of your stage manager as a living, breathing ROS. They’re responsible for getting on-stage folks where they need to be, when they need to be there, all while keeping the program moving along smoothly. They’re a lifeline, keeping the lines of communication open to everyone involved: Your auction team, your registration teams, your AV tech crew – pretty much all the teams that you need to pull off a live fundraising event. To that end, they’ll keep a firm grip on their universal ROS all night long! Who’s speaking first? Will catering be ready to pause service, in time for the appeal video to play, or appeal speaker to take the stage? By the way, where IS our speaker? Is it time to grab them? In order to do this job well, a universal ROS that everyone is working off of makes EVERYONE’S job much MUCH smoother, even when things don’t go as planned.
Registration Team + Event Software Experts
Let’s circle back to the pre-show and talk about registration. Ideally, everyone in attendance is checked in, registered and ready to go by the end of your social hour. If they’re not, donors have a real excuse not to bid or give. Software support folks are equally important to the registration process – if folks aren’t properly registered, with credit cards swiped and vaulted, they certainly won’t be bidding. So make sure all these folks know precisely when to be where.
Another thing that can make everything fall apart? The Unexpected. The Unplanned. Have you ever been to an event where one of your speakers went off script and started rambling? Or maybe one of your org’s representatives has an off-the-cuff “brilliant” idea, to bring this person up to the stage, to do something unexpected. Our partner with EventSavvy, Kristin Smith, has seen it firsthand. Several times.
“If someone brings up someone unplanned, it can take a hard turn. Sometimes it’s magical, but more often than not it takes a hard turn south!” – Kristin Smith, Founder/Co-Owner, EventSavvy
A universal ROS can serve as a safeguard against The Unexpected. If it’s not in the run-of-show, it doesn’t happen. If you’re a parent, have you ever been advised to blame something other than yourself, when enforcing the rules for your young child? “Oh, nooo, Clock, why are you showing 7:30pm? Don’t you know that’s bedtime? Darn it, Clock!” Your child gets mad at the clock, not you. You event planners can blame the ROS for someone’s “brilliant” idea getting nixed. It’s not foolproof, of course. But if you’ve hired a Dynamic Duo – a professional auctioneer and emcee – they are trained to stop the madness gracefully and get you back on track. Trust us. They’ve seen it ALL.
On Event Night, your auction committee members, along with your auctioneer and emcee, are the captains of the event ship. Communication flows through all of you. Think pertinent announcements all night long. Because something pretty much always comes up, warranting further announcements. Even if nothing unusual comes up, you and your guests will still hear them. They’re letting guests know important things like how long they have to mingle, where the bars and bathrooms are, what time the wine wall closes, and how much time they have to participate in any other revenue streams.
Revenue Streams Lead
Whoever is heading up your revenue streams needs a firm sense of the timing of the evening’s activities. They need to know when to wrap up their wares and when to get the auction team the salient information necessary for the live program. You don’t want people digging for diamonds during your special appeal, do you? Or, say you have extra raffle tickets to sell. Your revenue streams lead keeps careful track of that. So if they’re not selling well, they can alert your auctioneer, who then makes an announcement encouraging folks to buy those tickets before it’s too late.
A quick word on accountability – your ROS automatically bestows it upon everyone who’s working the event. No one can say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to do that,” or “I thought YOU were going to do that.” A universal ROS is the ultimate CYA document.
You’ve heard that expression, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” Unfortunately, it becomes an apt description of your event when your vendors aren’t communicating with each other. Not everyone knows what YOU do on event night, but they should! That way, your clerk doesn’t get asked to turn the sound up… your registration team isn’t receiving requests to dim the lights… you get the picture. When everyone knows what everyone else’s roles are, you’ll enjoy a smoother event – not just for yourself, but for your guests, your vendors, and perhaps most importantly, your donors! Contact us for more tips on how we can help you keep everyone involved in your event on the same page.