Top 6 Challenges for Event Offices in 2019
October 24, 2018
IFEA CONFERENCE WRAP UP
In early October, our team attended the 63rd International Festival & Event Convention in San Diego, California. The event provided some great insights into the event industry, event tourism, new event technology, and some great discussions with industry representatives.
We thought we’d share with you the top challenges we heard from municipal Event Offices, many of which we anticipate will still be relevant in the year ahead (listed in no particular order).
1 Insufficient municipal support
Event Offices expressed that they are often understaffed, under resourced and struggling to keep up with the growing demands of both producing events and permitting third-party event applications. The consensus amongst attendees is that the number of events continue to increase, events are growing in attendance, and there seems to be less and less funding to support this growth.
TIP: Streamlining your event application process by providing a “one-stop-shop” experience for event organizers can greatly reduce red tape, shorten processing times, and reduce the amount of administration required to review and approve each application.
2 An ineffective Special Events Policy
Several Event Offices are still operating without a special events policy. These communities are unsure where to begin and can’t find the bandwidth to start the process of researching and drafting a new policy. Communities with policies expressed that they fail to reflect current needs and event best practices (e.g. green waste management), and can be cumbersome and confusing to event organizers. Event Office representatives also noted internal struggles between different departments, including parks and recreation. For example, fees collected from park and venue bookings are usually apportioned to operational and maintenance programs for parks and other municipal infrastructure rather than supporting municipal event expenses. With an effective special events policy and fee schedule, Event Office staff felt they would be better equipped to support their departments’ needs.
TIP: If you’re developing or updating your Special Event Policy, consider delegating permit approval authority to your Event Office or Corporate Officer. You may also want to pursue delegating authority to staff for street closures, park use, and other event-specific permits. This will reduce approval times by skipping the additional step of seeking Council approval. Also, check out our next IFEA IE Magazine article (January 2019) when we’ll be discussing what you should be including in an effective Special Event Policy.
3 Poor fee administration
With the number of events increasing in most communities, covering the cost of event permitting and oversight costs is critical. This is especially important for Event Offices that are tasked with producing community events. Unfortunately, most events are produced by non-profit groups and rely heavily on volunteerism, donations, and sponsorship funding. For this reason, many communities avoid charging or increasing their permit fees because they worry they may discourage events.
TIP: There can be an upside to charging reasonable fees for events. Fees can cover some or most of the cost of administration and, in turn, encourage ongoing support for events at the municipal level. By covering the cost of issuing permits to third party events, there is less tax burden on the Event Office when producing in-house events. A community can also attract experienced event producers and encourage recurring events by adopting a well thought-out permitting process that is easy to navigate, streamlined to avoid unnecessary red tape (ideally coupled with a succinct Special Event Policy), and supports online invoicing and payment.
4 Risk management overload
Even though communities recognize the important role of their Event Office in ensuring the safety of events, they are feeling the burden associated with risk management overload. Traffic control, security plans, emergency management, operational site planning requirements, environmental/waste management requirements, and more, are all contributing to an ever-growing, complicated event application process. Event Offices are also struggling more and more with the impact of municipal maintenance and capital construction projects on events.
TIP: Develop a flowchart to conceptualize all the required steps in acquiring an event permit. Review the flow of approvals and challenge yourself to reduce steps, streamline approvals, and share your improved process chart on your website. Transparency and clarity about your process will go a long way in helping event organizers understand the permitting process, and help other departments understand the impact of their decisions on events.
5 Limited external funding opportunities
Unfortunately, Event Offices often find themselves underfunded and susceptible to budget cuts; this is more common with non-mandated government services (e.g. filming, arts, culture and heritage services) compared with mandated services such as recreation and parks. It’s also difficult to generate non-taxpayer funding with complex municipal legislation or internal political struggles. Sponsorship, crowd-funding, and redirecting in-kind or cash contributions provided by property developers (referred to as Community Amenity Contributions in Canada) may be permitted in some municipalities, but uptake is slow or non-existent in most Event Offices.
TIP: Do your homework to first determine what external funding options are permissible in your community. If you are successful in securing additional funding, look for ways to measure the impact of events (e.g. hosting economic impact surveys during events) to demonstrate value back to elected officials. If your Event Office is also responsible for film permitting, you could also consider revenue sharing with events, diverting some of your film permit fees towards hosting community events that help offset the impact of filming on residents.
6 Insufficient event infrastructure and spaces
Lastly, but not least important, is the challenge of providing the necessary spaces needed to host events. Event Offices expressed that prime locations (such as large, green central spaces) are often non-existent or overbooked, and it’s difficult for Event Offices to keep track of what locations and facilities are available, especially when they are managed by other municipal departments. In some communities, new spaces are planned or in development, but several projects are delayed due to budget cuts.
TIP: Look for opportunities to work with other community partners (e.g. Chamber, Arts Council, community groups, private sector, developers) to explore multi-use spaces that could be designed to facilitate hosting events. Planning in advance for the specific needs of events, including power, parking, seating, and acoustics, may well ensure new public spaces that come online in your community can be shared by events.
Overcoming these Challenges
Whether or not your Event Office is struggling with some of the same challenges we heard at this year’s IFEA convention, we are confident that Eproval can help overcome or circumvent most of the pain points typically associated with reviewing and approving event permits.
Contact us today for a demonstration of Eproval and see for yourself how it can help your Event Office.