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Whether you work for a big corporation or have your own business, there may come a time when you need to hire temporary staff. This may include servers for a special event, a street team to hand out marketing material or promotional models to pre-qualify leads for your sales reps.

Whatever the case, it's important to have an understanding of what you want (or need) before you reach out to prospective agencies. What exactly should this include? More often than not, clients can be segmented into one of the two following categories:

The Blank Slate

You need an agency that can plan and staff a turnkey solution for you. In this case, the best place to start is with a budget – or a range of budgets such as $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000. You wouldn't go to a contractor and ask them to build you a house without knowing what you can afford and where you want to live. How big you can build it – and where – will depend on your budget. Events are no different.

Specific requests

The second – and more common situation (at least for us) – are customers who have an event, or series of events coming up, and require support to execute them. They may know exactly what they need – or may require help to figure it out. We actually prefer the latter to ensure we can support the event properly – and successfully. For example, the number of flyers you need to hand out along with the location and time of distribution will dictate the number of support staff you will require.

An agency can only know as much as a customer is willing to tell it. If you have a specific request or plan in place, it's unlikely an agency will question how you came to those conclusions – but there could be consequences if they haven't been thought out properly.

For example, a client came to us asking for four staff to stuff "a few items into some bags" for a trade show for eight hours a day for two days. Well, this turned out to be, not 2-3 items per bag but 30 – and there were 10,000 bags to fill. This took at least a minute per person, per bag – rather than 4-5 bags per minute.

After the first shift, it was apparent that four people could not complete the task in the time-frame provided. We had to send in nearly triple the amount of staff on rush notice, to ensure the bags were stuffed in time for the start of the show. The good news is that the task was completed – but what if it hadn't been possible?

As an agency, you want to go above and beyond for your customers, but the reality is that event staffing agencies are in the business of people, not products. Any change, no matter how small can create a ripple effect and issues may subsequently arise. Most event staffing agencies earn their income with a marginal increase on top of what they compensate their staff along with a small agency fee. Providing a schedule in bits and pieces or changing it multiple times increases planning time and again, can cause confusion with talent.

In 2012, we were hired by a spirits distributor to execute 100 in-store tastings in British Columbia over one month. Instead of getting the entire schedule as required, the client sent two to three bookings at a time, sometimes several times in one day over a period of six months. By the time the project was complete, there were 39 versions of the schedule and nearly double the volume of staff to cover the extended time frame of the project. We'd never dealt with such an extreme instance of client disorganization. Since then, we've added clauses to our contract to cover unforeseen situations.

When hiring temporary staff, keep in mind when you're dealing with people, namely staff, it's important to think of the big picture when making requests. Try to be clear and concise about what you need – and if you don't know, just ask. The best agencies will be able to give you the support and guidance to see your vision through successfully.

Serena Schwab is the President and CEO of Tigris Inc.

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