Whether your venue is a large convention center or a neighborhood garden club, you can’t run everything on your own. I mean, you can try, but it’ll either make you nuts or earn you the reputation of a control freak. Now, we have nothing against control freaks, but we don’t want you going nuts, and volunteers are a great way to avoid that.
Certainly, there are volunteers who do many things behind the scenes from marketing to emailing to booking. And if you’re a larger venue, you’ll surely have paid event staffing. But once the event is here, you’ll need different volunteers for various tasks. Maybe you’ve thought of this and maybe you haven’t, but let’s take a crack at it, shall we?
How to Use Volunteers
Volunteers are worth their weight in gold (or a stack of garden books, which is kind of the same thing). Let them know their duties and hold an orientation for larger events so everyone is clear about expectations. Volunteers are perfect for:
- Setting up chairs/tables, and then putting them away afterwards
- Checking people in: Do they need a ticket? Do they have wristbands?
- Assisting the tech person: Or being the tech person to handle projectors, cables, pointers, microphones, laptops, WIFI connection, etc.
- Assisting the speaker: Have someone on hand if the speaker has a problem or needs help at the book-signing table (highly recommend that one).
- Working at an “Info” or “Help” booth/table to answer questions.
- Directing traffic: Are you in a small venue or at someone’s home? Have someone outside to direct people as they park and let them know where to enter.
- Arranging refreshments: Who’s in charge of sweet tea and the queso dip? Someone needs to be in charge of the sweet tea and queso dip, y’all.
- Setting up decorations: Seasonal décor, table décor, event-specific décor—you name it, someone’s in charge of it.
- Serving as runners: They’re on hand for anything. We love runners.
- Acting as greeters: Greet people as they come in, greet the speaker and help them with their things, and possibly to introduce the speaker (the program manager or club president is the likely candidate here).
Some Real-Life Situations Where a Volunteer Would’ve Really Helped
As a former speaker myself, I’ve both personally experienced and heard tales of hair-raising situations that either compromise the success of an event or left a very bad taste in the speaker’s mouth. And speakers (just like program managers) talk to each other and will not hesitate to let their colleagues know to not speak there under any circumstances.
These are things that are easily handled by a volunteer but weren’t—because nobody thought about it ahead of time. Things like:
- A speaker sitting by themselves or not invited to enjoy refreshments while everyone else eats.
- A speaker asked to move because a club member says, “that’s my chair.” Oh, yes, that happens. No, we’re not kidding.
- A speaker not being paid because “we forgot the checkbook.” Unacceptable. There’s not enough sweet tea and queso dip in the world to make up for this faux pas.
- Equipment that doesn’t work, so the speaker has to pantomime their presentation or gather 35 people around a 15” laptop screen. Look, sometimes that’s unavoidable, but it often is.
- Loud people in the kitchen/hallway/back of the room that are having their own party and disrupting everything.
- A speaker or participant not knowing where to go or what to do.
- Nobody on hand to introduce the speaker, so they have to introduce themselves.
- Not having any place for the speaker’s books.
It’s not rocket science, friends—it simply takes some organizing, making sure everyone knows their job, and ensuring they do it. Now, we want to hear from you—do you have a volunteer task that we haven’t thought of? Any unique or genius ways to use volunteers? We’d love to hear!