This entry was written by Jessica Nelson, Hostra PR Major
This summer I am interning at the Special Olympics Minnesota in the Development Department, focusing on special events. We recently held our annual Summer Games, which is a large event held at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Over 3,000 athletes from Minnesota come to compete in a variety of events over three days. The competition is supplemented with activities in Olympic Town, including musical acts, games, as well as sponsor tents with activities, prizes and health screenings. My primary job was managing the volunteers from sponsoring companies in Olympic Town, ensuring that they had a positive experience and encouraged their company to participate again in the future.
However, I quickly learned that anything can happen
at an event of this size.
5 Tips On Working Special Events
1. Work hard, but don’t be afraid to delegate or ask for help.
During a large event, everyone is often working in their own area and may not notice if unforeseen things are bogging down one person. We all want to impress our employers and show them that we can do it all; at least I know I do. However, sometimes you need to know when to enlist help from others. The primary goal for those involved in the event is to ensure that everything runs smoothly. In order to get things done efficiently, sometimes you have to delegate responsibility, even though you would prefer to do it yourself.
2. Learn to multi-task while continuously prioritizing
When you have many things going on at the same time, you must constantly re-prioritize each task in your head. If you are able to do this effectively, you will be able to quickly take care of urgent things that come up while accomplishing your normal tasks as the event progresses. If you get too caught up in the task you are working on, you might neglect something that should be top priority.
3. When you are thrown a curve ball, improvise and fast!
Two former Minnesota Vikings Football players were doing a Q & A session with a group of athletes onstage. We had expected everyone to jump at the chance to discuss football with the pros. However, when three people asked about getting various things signed, we had to think fast. We didn’t have an autograph session planned, but because we knew the layout of the venue, which tent was available, where we could find an extra table and so on, the question was calmly answered. The “Autograph Tent” was announced and then quietly set up. The tent was a huge hit and had a line all day. To the general public, one would have never guessed this was unplanned. If we had not been so aware of our surroundings – or if we panicked- the outcome could have been disastrous and we would have missed out on a great opportunity.
4. Treat everyone like the CEO … they might turn out to be just that!
A couple of times throughout the day, I would find myself working with people I thought were volunteers (as all staff members wore the same t-shirt as the volunteers on one of the days) but later it came out that they were actually board members or other higher ups in the organization. If I had let my guard down or let some of my professional attitude slip, it could have reflected very poorly on me.
5. Take on the spirit of your event, from the non-PR side too!
Although in your head you are constantly thinking from a PR prospective, make sure you have the client and their cause/purpose in mind and understand the event from the view of those in attendance. I was asked countless questions – not about my knowledge of public relations – but regarding the Special Olympics as an organization, changes in the Summer Games from previous years and why I liked working for the Special Olympics. For every question, I had to step out of PR mode. I think this is a really important thing to remember; to do your job well, but be a real person too.