27 May 2020

This episode looks at how to find and procure or hire the best talent, services, consultants or any other expertise… and whether you know what you need, or not. We look at the key steps and perhaps most importantly the main questions so few people ask, yet if you ask them – you’ll find the right talent or services without the guesswork, with confidence and to deliver the best value possible. We also discuss job titles… which by and large, unless they’re obvious and common job titles, are typically meaningless in the live event and exhibition world.


Hi, I’m Will Glendinning, I’m a producer, writer, designer and director.

And in the last episode, we looked at how to find, buy or procure the goods you need for a live event or exhibition.

And in this episode, we’re looking at how to find talent and services. A quick recap. There are two things any live event or exhibition needs, goods and services. Goods are the things and services are the talent: resource and expertise. And as we looked at in previous episodes, traditional procurement exercises typically create the illusion of finding you the best value and solutions, whether you realise it or not.

The six approaches I’ve developed to find you anything you could possibly need regardless of the type, scale or purpose of a live event, are finding goods with a specification, goods without a specification, finding services and talent, finding a flexible turnkey solution, that’s a combination of goods and services, a fixed turnkey solution and finding a promoter. And these approaches can be used for formal or informal processes.

The first two of these we looked at in the previous episode, and we’re now on to the third. Services and talent.

Before we then move onto turnkey solutions in the next episode. And again, I’m not offering a financial, legal or safety advice here. I’m providing approaches that will find you the best value and solutions. Before we get into finding services and talent, let’s clarify exactly what services and talent are or in this context at least.

We’re looking here at how to find professional services and talent. This could be anything from designers, artists, producers, event management experts, sponsorship experts, consultants, marketing experts, commercial support, accountants, lawyers, travel agents, administrators, choreographers, IT support, stage managers, dancers, singers, scriptwriters, interpreters, anyone with specific talent or expertise. You can also use this approach to find software and systems that automate what people do, registration or data management, for example.

Any services needed to support or deliver a live event. If you’re looking for services that are performed by humans but largely purchased as commodities, then you should use the approach to find goods for this purpose, as we looked at in the previous episode. For example, if you’re looking for 100 security guards or 50 stewards or 20 labourers, use the same approach you would use for finding or buying goods. It may seem odd to consider labour and security as example of goods rather than services. While these are arguably services rather than goods, they’re largely procured as commodities. If you’re looking for the expertise to develop a security plan or such like, then you use this approach to find the services or talent to do so. You’re free to mix and match these approaches of course too or split what you’re looking for into different contracts of requirements, giving you exactly what you’re looking for and complete flexibility.

The approach we’re looking at in this episode is specifically to find the services and talent you need. Either for your organisation or for a specific event or project and whether you know what you need or not.

There are typically eight stages to finding the talent or services that you need.

Firstly, write a brief detailing what you want and importantly, what you don’t want, how long you think you may need the service for and any other information you can think of that paints as full a picture as possible regarding what you’re looking for. And use plain language outlining the challenge, opportunity or role as you see it. Also explain who the service provider will be reporting to and managing, if that’s relevant. And avoid job titles at all costs at this initial stage, they are too open to interpretation and of course, ask for their fee or their rates for their services. If you’re looking for professional volunteers, you can still follow the same procedure, though without the fees and rates element.

Second, governance. Add any governance requirements and procedures to your brief that you deem necessary. These could be checks or questions about financial standing, their tax, visa or employment status, health and safety track record, employee conditions if you’re hiring a company, sustainability management, quality assurance, your organisation’s HR policies or any other criteria important to you and or appropriate to the size of the opportunity. Be realistic though, too much governance or paperwork could put off your best candidate or company.

Thirdly, distribution. Distribute your brief or job description in whatever way works for you or your organisation, be that via headhunters, through your own network, across social media, traditional media, digital portals or anywhere appropriate for the type of role or service you’re looking for.

Fourth, review. Assess the responses you receive on the quality and value of the providers’ services and any other criteria important to you, their ideas or creativity for example or their experience or solutions. Conduct any necessary interviews or clarifications and look closely at any caveats, notes or exclusions if that’s relevant or applicable.

Fifth, references. Check the service provider or person’s references, if you’re not familiar with them. It can also be extremely useful to dig around and find people who have worked for people if you’re looking at leadership or management roles. Approached professionally, the most useful information you may find is what those who have worked for someone says and doesn’t say about those who’ve managed or led them. I have often found this far more useful than talking to people who have employed leaders and managers, who can be a step removed from the realities.

Sixth, content or contextual experience. If you’re looking for someone to fill a key role, then you need to make sure that they have relevant content or contextual experience. The person taking the overall lead, the person responsible for the physical delivery and the person responsible for the operations and logistics, for example, all need relevant contextual experience. The person leading on the events content or creative direction, for example, needs relevant content experience. And for any other role, assess whether they need relevant content or contextual experience and check they have it. And if you need to, you can skip back to episode two for more details on the importance and difference between content and context.

Seventh are the up and down tests. All too often I see people who think they’ve hired the right talent, later discover they don’t actually have relevant experience. It’s also fairly common to see people who’ve managed to land themselves a dream role by literally busking it. These situations typically arise because people looking for or hiring talent often ask the questions they think they should ask, rather than the questions they need to ask and the situation is further exacerbated by the fact that so many job titles in the event and exhibition spheres are utterly meaningless. Similarly, if someone shows you lots of lovely pictures of events or exhibitions and tells you they were heavily involved or that they led or managed them in some way, again, this doesn’t really tell you nothing useful. You need to conduct what I call, the up and down tests.

Ask, what did you actually do in layman’s terms? Did you do all this yourself or did you support or report into someone above you who took responsibility for this? This is the up check. And then ask, did you do all this yourself or did you oversee people, companies, or agencies working for you, who did this? This is the down check. Then you ask, how many people were involved in doing this? You want to know if this person had a small army working with them or other services that supported theirs or whether they were doing it on their own. You can then compare this with the situation you’ll be engaging them for and whether they can cope working alone or are reliant on a team or other services. And then you ask them, who they report to and who reported to them.

Ask these questions, get names where you can and check if what they’re saying stacks up by speaking to those people they said they worked for or they had working for them. The aim here is not to catch people out, it’s to find people that can actually do what you need doing and in turn, what support they might need from you or from anyone else.

Also, if you’re looking for a particular role and you don’t have the relevant experience yourself, it can be frustrating to find out after you brought someone on board, that you’ve ended up with the wrong skillset in place because you couldn’t articulate what you wanted.

And the opposite is possible, too. Without relevant experience, you may think what you require is more complicated than it actually is and end up with someone overqualified and overpriced and be overstaffed for what you actually need doing.

The answers to these questions, the up and down checks, assuming you check them, will be the most useful part of this entire process and mitigate many issues down the line.

And finally eight, appointment. Agree on terms or rates for your providers’ services and keep any arrangements flexible unless you are certain about the quality of the providers’ services and certain your plans won’t change, which is highly unlikely.

Things can and usually do change when it comes to live events and exhibitions, so when you’re hiring or buying talent or expertise or services, keep things flexible, you’ll have room to move and you’ll get more sleep.

The previous episode looked at finding the goods you need and in this one, we looked at services and talent. In the next episode, we start looking at turnkey solutions. That is a combination of goods and services, for example, a whole event or exhibition or a turnkey technical solution, technical design or expertise and the equipment once designed or specified.

With these 6 approaches you’ll then be fully armed to find or buy anything you could possibly need, at the best possible value to in turn, create the greatest value and the greatest impact.

Thanks for your time, thanks for watching and I’ll see you in the next episode.