It’s a Team Thing

Event production expert John Radford on the importance of teamwork in the ever changing world of outdoor events.

Family at Womad Festival
Photo: Getty Images

Wow, we are already at the end of summer 2018 and what a year it’s been. After the poor summer weather in 2017, the start of this year’s summer saw a rather warmer and more enjoyable set of conditions; it wasn’t a perfect year with some events having to be cancelled or curtailed later in the period but it was certainly a step up. This year we were looking after crews and customers alike with extra water and shade whereas just 12 months ago it was shelter from the rain and hot drinks all round! There’s nothing like the weather to keep you on your toes.

I can’t complain though, these ever-changing needs are what I love so much about our event industry. It’s always a set of evolving requirements and needs, and there are always new challenges to overcome. Our role – event managing, designing sites, producing or providing safety solutions – drives us to meet new challenges and create solutions that provide great experiences for our guests and customers alike and is what makes this industry so unique in my mind.

It’s also really inspiring looking at how fellow event suppliers and teams develop solutions and systems to get the best out of a situation. Listening and learning from all those teams of suppliers, contractors, freelancers and promoters can really help and inform our own decision making.

Facing challenges together

This summer has presented JR Event Services with many challenges. One that stands out for us is the work we undertook to assist one of our clients move their project to a new home. Due to external factors we had to create an event space for 10,000 in a little over two months from scratch. The big asset here though – and the one that stands out for me – is that it was achievable because of the team that worked together to achieve the outcome. From landowner, to promoter, to contractors, suppliers and staff – it needed a team to create the right outcome.

The reason I am talking about this is simple – we, you, I, we all need a team to achieve our goals and ultimately our events. Yes, we can go it alone and struggle to build the knowledge, experience and skills that are needed, or we can develop a team that brings all those constituent parts together to ensure that the boxes are more than just ticked. Be it ensuring the fence lines are appropriate or the stages the right size or the toilets being the right quantity and style – the knowledge that is needed to bring an event together is critical to a successful outcome.

Many of our projects are complex and multi-faceted, and to pretend that we have all the answers is unwise to say the least and possibly fool hardy in the extreme. Bringing a team together to work alongside you provides that wide spectrum of knowledge that can make all the difference.

Over the years, as a small business in the events industry, we have worked hard to develop long lasting relationships and team-working solutions with suppliers, freelancers and contractors who have the same ethos as us. More importantly though, is the need to develop those relationships for the long term. We make sure that the right team works on the right project and look carefully at what each part needs or requires, in order for it to be a success. It can’t just be a case of “one size fits all”. That philosophy ultimately leads to compromises across the board and isn’t, in our view, sustainable. It’s about working alongside similar minded individuals to ensure that the end product is the best it possibly can be and ideally meet the unique requirements of that given project.

Sometimes we are the creators of the team and at other times we are just a small part of that family trying our best to make the overall event machine work at its optimum effectiveness. It’s that “hands on” philosophy of helping each other out and not being too precious about only doing what your primary role is. Going that extra mile makes the difference to the end result – it might simply be picking up some litter on the way through the event site or being able to radically redesign the main arena, but both can enhance the visitor experience and make the event or project memorable for all the right reasons.

Crowd at festival by a castle

Creating the team

How do we go about creating those teams? For us as a business it’s about talking with others in the event industry, developing relationships and networking with freelancers and contractors, slowly building that digital “little black book” of contacts and people that can bring their skills and expertise to a project. Who can slot into a role quickly and ensure that the end client, be they the landowner, the promoter or corporate body, has the best team around them to take their vision and turn it into a reality.

These business and personal relationships can take years to develop and you may not always get them right but without them projects can be harder to successfully complete and the outcomes not as envisaged.

Getting out and about

This time of year is also the ideal time to get out and about, talking with potential new suppliers at various industry events such as the Showman’s Show, FestOut and the Glamping Show to name just three. My recommendation would be to get out there and talk to the suppliers and contractors about your project. There will always be someone willing to talk to you and hopefully provide you with the solutions you are looking for.

The classic skill of networking, although not everybody’s cup of tea, can be central to developing those contacts and introductions. Take that time out to meet for a coffee and chat. Initial introductions over email or phone are fine as a first step but you really need to talk to someone face to face to understand if they will fit in with your project.

As a supplier we always want to meet our clients first as well before committing – we want to ensure that we can meet their expectations and requirements and that they understand what we can bring to their project. It’s a two-way thing where both parties need to be working in synergy from the start. Listen for recommendations and personal introductions as well, as they can prove incredibly useful where the introduction has come from an already trusted member of your team.

The potential fly in the ointment here is that those constituent elements of your team may not always be the cheapest! It may be that your preferred supplier is just that little bit more than the cheapest provider you have found. But look at it in terms of this: is there a case for worthwhile investment in creating the right solution rather than just a tick box for the provision of the service you need? The budget clearly needs to be balanced but those relationships as part of a team can help with that by working in collaboration to find the most effective solutions to a given problem. In the long term will that extra investment provide you with the right team player that aligns with your vision the best?

So, what are you waiting for? If you are new to the event world get out there and meet those potential new suppliers and team members who can work alongside you to fulfil your vision. Put that investment in time and effort to create that close working, collaborative team that will hopefully serve you well for many years. Or, if like me you’ve been around for a few years, take care of those team members that have helped you across the years and projects. That investment in time is so worthwhile and can only be of benefit.



John RadfordJohn Radford runs JR Event Services and has worked in the event industry for over 20 years. He provides event management and event safety consultancy services for a broad spectrum of events from single day and city centre cultural events to week long music and dance festivals. Visit or call 01275 406760 for an informal chat.



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