Join Ticketbud Tidbids for a chat with Deidra Sibila, an expert in event ticketing. We talk to Deidra about event planning, the role of ticketing and ticket programming, dealing with the unexpected, and the importance of Event Protect ticket coverage for unexpected cancelations.
Deidra has done it all from theatre events to concert tours and festivals. Deidra worked for Live Nation for 13 years including corporate touring as Senior National Director of Ticketing for Touring in North America. Deidra managed ticketing for major concert tours across the US, from Coldplay to Justin Timberlake, Beyonce and Jay-Z. She has also managed ticketing for C3 Events, known for festivals such as ACL and Lollapalooza. Deidra now works as an independent contractor for festivals and events including local holiday favorite, the Austin Trail of Lights.
Event: Austin Trail of Lights, Holiday festival.
The Austin Trail of Lights is the largest holiday tradition in Austin and the 2nd largest event in the city. The annual event held in Zilker Park and run by the Trail of Lights Foundation, welcomes 400,000 people every year over two weeks in December. As you walk through the park you will see 2 million lights, and experience themed light displays. The family friendly event shares Austin music, food and holiday fun.
Unexpected Event Cancelation
Deidra talks about dealing with cancelled events from a ticketing perspective. There are always going to be unforeseen or unexpected reasons an event has to be cancelled. Mother nature doesn’t spare your carefully planned event, with anything from strong winds to flooding causing an event to be shut down. There are also other unexpected possibilities such as a major supplier falling through. Different event insurance options are available and some can get quite expensive. Trail of Lights was Ticketbud’s pilot event for our new partnership with Event Protect. After researching options Ticketbud felt this was a simple and cost-effective way to protect ticket revenue by insuring the ticket transaction. This meant that when strong winds forced the Trail of Lights to be shut down one night, organizers were protected against that loss of revenue, and ticket buyers could quickly and easily get a refund for their ticket.
Ticketbud event organizers can now opt-in for Event Protect’s comprehensive ticket revenue protection
. This coverage gets built into the ticket price and protects the full value of the ticket transaction. Because organizers often have significant sunk costs leading up to an event. Event Protect minimizes the financial risk for organizers if their event gets cancelled.
Managing Unexpected Challenges
With events anything and everything can happen. Artist illness, fence jumpers, people who try to sneak in the gate. Sometimes the challenge is ensuring it’s quick and easy to communicate with attendees. That’s why it’s important to have a good system in place to be able to do that effectively. When an event if cancelled due to bad weather it’s obvious to attendees why the event isn’t going ahead. But if you have to cancel because of flooding on a previous day that is now causing safety concerns (think water and electricity for a light show), that might be less clear to attendees when it otherwise looks like a perfect day.
The Role of Ticketing
We talk about how ticketing is the face of your event. It’s the first thing that people experience when signing up or buying a ticket, it’s part of the event communication process and it’s the first thing people experience when they arrive at your event. If they have to deal with ticketed parking that’s another layer. The ticketing experience is a huge part of the customer experience for any event. The ticketing role is responsible for gate management and staffing, the box office, production elements and ensuring that the technical systems are in place and working, from scanners, to wi-fi and power.
Large Festival Event Planning and Key Roles in the Organizing Team
It’s important to have community buy-in, a solid ticketing partner and reliable vendors. You want team members who are working as a team to make it a great event and people who are calm under pressure. Large events and festivals need gate managers to keep entrances under control, safety experts and of course customer service managers to look after all the customer enquiries. Having a great marketing team is important and a good event website. It’s important to be able to build and segment your database, analyze event data and look for trends in the analytics. This helps you make better and more informed decisions for the next event and keep improving. A social media manager is important to keep people informed in real time about the event, especially when there are last minute notifications, often people will look to social media for updates.
Building a ‘Run of Show’
A ‘Run of Show is your event bible and is particularly important for large events and multiday festivals. It communicates everything that’s going to happen at the event, when it’s happening and who is responsible. It includes a build schedule, when different teams need to be on site, when deliveries are arriving and all the operational elements leading up to the day of the event. On event day the Run of Show communicates when bump in starts, when doors are opening, when the show begins and details and timing for pack down. It provides clear communication so that everyone is on the same page because they are all reading from the one document. For ticketing and gate staff the Run of Show also enables them to be informed to answer attendee questions.
Ticketing is both an administration and operational role. You start with planning, setting up event pages, ticket programming and looking at purchase flow and ways to optimize. You have to consider volume expectations and high sales times. Then you also work on customer service documents, FAQs and staffing. When you get on site its more of an operational role, setting the event up and checking gate flow, testing equipment, setting up logins and making sure the internet works.
Event Page Digital Experience and Purchase Flow
Ensuring a frictionless purchase flow
and making it as easy as possible for people to buy tickets is a significant consideration. This includes having mobile optimized event and ticket sites. Buyer behavior is increasing shifting to mobile when researching and buying tickets for events.
The Importance of Ticket Programming
Ticket programming is about maximizing sales by offering different ticket types for various times and audiences. It includes things like early bird sales, the offer of cheaper pricing incentivizes people to buy sooner, which is ideal for planning, financing and for generating word of mouth buzz. VIP experiences allow you to charge a premium for a higher end experience to cater to a different end of the market, tiered parking is another version of that.
Event Day Logistics
On event day there are a lot of logistics to manage. What are current sales and inventory levels, what is the weather today, what are the event location conditions, to get a picture of what the day is going to bring. Considering what the programming is for that day. What changes need to be made, does signage need to be changed, are different gates open, are special guests or sponsors expected on this day? Things like cash banks need to be prepared for on the door ticket sales, point of sale gets set up, and briefings need to happen with security and event staff. Ticketbud is great for setting up logins per day. This is a different login per location, per day so you can see exactly where sales are coming from. It makes it much easier to track and reconcile sales data.
Gate Management Communication
Communication is important at any event, but particularly important for large events with high volumes of attendees. You need to have safety and emergency plans, as well as communication documents prior to the event so that everyone knows what to expect. Then when on site for event day, ensure there is a group meeting to re-clarify key information people need to know for their area.
Choosing a Ticketing Partner
Deidra talks about how valuable it is to work with a ticketing company that really is your partner. Having accessible staff that want to see your event be a success, with ongoing customer support. Deidra recommends asking questions such as:
- What is their event cancelation policy? What solutions can they offer you?
- Is their site mobile optimized?
- How detailed is the reporting and what information are you getting?
- Do ticket buyers have to create an account, how easy is it for people to buy a ticket?
- Do you have the flexibility for various ticket types which allows you to do effective ticket programming?
- Can you have access and promo codes for discounted or sponsor tickets?
- Can you customize the ticket information for different ticket types, such as a map relevant to that ticket?
- Can you communicate to a specific ticket type easily to send custom messages through the ticketing platform?
- What are people saying about them? Ask for recommendations.
- Do they have hardware available? How does that hardware work if things go offline?
- Are they willing to listen to your feedback as an event organizer and make improvements?