Top tips for making remote working a success

Written by our Operations Director, Tim Leighton

There is no doubting that COVID has turned workplace norms upside down! At Artifax, we took an early decision to serve notice on our rented office and become a fully remote business. The genie is now well and truly out of the bottle thanks to COVID, but we frequently hear politicians talk about remote working as somehow inferior to a shared office environment. However, such proclamations miss two fundamental points: 

  1. Remote working is not appropriate in all circumstances, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be a great solution under certain conditions. 
  1. To be effective, businesses need to treat remote working properly – it requires a fundamental mindset change from top to bottom. 

Our experience 

Let’s be honest. Having sent everyone home during that memorable week in March 2020, we fully expected to be back in the office a few weeks later! Trouping out with monitors and laptops under our arms was somehow exciting and novel…but temporary. Little did we know at the time that we would not be returning to the office, except to collect more equipment and, eventually, to clear the space. 

Handing back our office only became a serious consideration once it was clear that COVID and lockdowns would be here to stay for some time, affecting not only our own business, but also the many hundreds of organisations we support in the arts and cultural sector, in the most unimaginable ways. 

We lived in a ‘temporary’ state for a good few months, working with less than perfect desk set ups wherever employees could find space at home. We were patient with the frequent family interruptions. For some employees, it was a really tough period with many craving the direct face-to-face contact of colleagues. Having taken the firm decision to go fully remote, we were clear as a leadership team that this would only work if we threw everything at it. We knew we had practical problems to solve for employees, but just as importantly, we had to discover a new internal company personality.  

Top tips 

Here are some top tips we have learnt along the way for making remote working a success: 

  1. Create a new culture of trust There will be interruptions and distractions. Don’t fight them! There are plenty of ways to monitor individual productivity without being obsessed about whether individual employees are sat at their desk every minute of every day. If you offer flexibility to employees, they will respect the trust shown in them. 
  1. Focus on communication How you communicate in a remote working environment is critical to functioning effectively as a team. Don’t assume that old ‘office’ communication methods will still resonate with remote teams. It’s easy for colleagues to feeling isolated, so find new mechanisms to keep teams updated and involved.  
  1. Find ways to continue to still meet face to face as a team This was obviously hard to achieve during the main COVID period, but since lockdowns have eased, we have made it a priority to bring all employees together on a regular basis. We are investing in quarterly meetups for a mix of shared social time and team learning, often using client venues to help support them at the same time.  
  1. Examine every aspect of your business operation We quickly discovered that the way we operate had to change. As well as technical considerations such as phone systems and network access, we found basic processes that work fine in an office environment, but were not fit for purpose. 
  1. Accept that remote working is not for everyone Although we set out with the aim of convincing all employees that remote working was going to be great, we came to accept that for a variety of reason, it just won’t suit everyone. Sadly, some employees moved to different jobs that better reflect their work/life preferences, but a hybrid approach was never going to work for us. As part of our recruitment now, we make a particular point of ensuring all candidates understand we are a remote working business and that this fits with their work preferences.  
  1. Embrace the opportunity to recruit from wider afield One of the positives has been allowing staff an opportunity to stay with us whilst also having the option to move to other parts of the UK. It also enabled us to throw the net far wider for the best new talent and we have been richly rewarded with talented new employees who simply would not have applied if we were still based in Epsom. 

As I made clear at the start, home working is not for all businesses. In the case of Artifax, an Employee Engagement Score of 90% in our latest staff survey is proof that with commitment and hard work, remote working can be a great option. 

Supporting your core festival team

Written by our Head of Products, Adam Pepper

I live in the UK, so I know that asking the question “How are you?” is a terrible way to find out how someone is — we’re always fine! Having worked with performing arts festivals for over twenty years, I also appreciate that the question “When would be a good time to ….?” is better phrased as “When would be the best time …?” as even an annual ten-day event brings year-round pressures and challenges. Good times are things that happen reliably in an auditorium, but seldom in a festival implementation plan!

At Artifax we’re mindful of not only when clients’ festivals are taking place, but also of their planning milestones, so that we can make sure they have the support they need. Setting aside the continuous artistic programming conversations for years ahead, the twelve month run-up to delivering a festival is reliably busy in distinct phases, leaving only small windows of opportunity for reflecting, planning and implementing improvements.

Typically, a core team will work on planning the festival full-time, handling the scheduling framework and contracting artists and works. Freelancers and temporary staff may be brought in to assist with organizing artist travel, accommodation and local transport. More staff may then be required for delivery, with events taking place in venues that are unlikely to be managed by the organisation. Afterwards, the core team catches its breath and refocuses on the next festival.

With each phase there’s a requirement for not only a single source of data, but communication and collaboration with new or external staff and third parties. In our experience, having a single source of the truth is vital. For all our clients it enables them to easily share accurate information with everyone who needs it. Crucially for festivals, it prevents a situation where large volumes of data need to be entered into a system as part of a handover from another department, which would otherwise cause spikes in activity, data quality risk and stress. For example:

Your core team doesn’t need to work harder to ensure new staff are supported, just smarter. With Artifax, they could:

So, when would be the best time to start making those improvements? Talk to us immediately after your festival (or after you’ve taken a moment to recover!) and we’ll turn that debrief into a de-stress for your core team.

Top five tips for planning resources efficiently

The secrets to a successful event are planning, preparation and delegation! If you can manage your time and resources efficiently, you will create unforgettable experiences for your audience.

One of the most important resources you need to consider when planning an event is your time. Reduce stress levels by managing your time efficiently and delegate tasks wherever possible.

Tip 1 - Make lists – whether digital, in a notebook, on the back of an envelope or in your mind. Lists can be used to plan a schedule, tick off remaining tasks, delegate tasks between a team and be shared amongst a team so that everyone is aware of the remaining tasks and how close to complete the event planning is.

Did you know that you can create task templates (called task sets) within ArtifaxEvent that you can use when creating similar arrangements in your calendar and allocate the tasks to individuals or user groups?

Tip 2 – Automate the sharing of information where possible. Most online project management tools allow you to automate the notification of completed tasks or the allocation of tasks. Don’t leave the sharing of information as a manual process where possible to reduce the possibility of miscommunication or no communication at all.

Did you know within ArtifaxEvent you can automate the sending of reports based on changes in resource requirements or send automate the sending of a regular report such as the Resource Usage report that could be sent weekly or the Resource Bookings with Changes report. This report emails the next few days of resource bookings to the Ops team and the report shows if anything's changed (e.g., new bookings, changed time, etc).

Tip 3 – Get a bird’s eye view of your resources when you have large quantities of equipment such as chairs and other furniture, AV equipment and even staff. Getting an overview of how many of each item is currently allocated and it’s required location can give you an overall understanding of the demand for that item. Is it under-utilised and not needed or over-utilised and you need to purchase additional items? In the case of staff, it can help to highlight occasions where temporary staff are required.

Did you know you can view reports such as Resource Usage, Room Usage, Staff Schedule and What’s On- List by Date with Resources within ArtifaxEvent. All these reports can help you get an overview of resource requirements for equipment, rooms, and staff.

Tip 4 – Configure your digital resource planning to what works best for you. Use filters, configuration options and settings to create your ideal digital planning environment. View the information that you need, how you like to view it.

Did you know you can customise the columns that you want to see, including custom form data, the order the columns appear and how/if they are coloured within ArtifaxEvent? Also, when editing resources, hold Ctrl down (cmd click for mac users) when clicking on the resource you want to edit, and it will open it in a new tab in your browser. You can have all the resource you need to work through open in separate tabs.   

Tip 5 – Let’s not forget your money is a resource too! Getting paid on time can help you budget better, pay your suppliers in a timely manner and improve cash flow. You did all the hard work now you need to get paid for it. Proper management of invoices is the key to success in this area, sending them out on time, having a process in place for chasing late invoices and managing incoming payments.

Did you know you can create custom invoice schedules for your resources, for example to automatically offset advanced deposits, booking confirmation and settlement charges? You can also set up Batch Invoicing which will automatically generate invoices that are due within a specified date range.

Lastly, a little bonus tip for you. Cut yourself some slack! As event organisers you tend to be highly detail oriented, organised people but trust me when I tell you no one will notice the little details like you will. Focus on the big picture and putting tools and systems in place like the ones suggested in this article. The result will be a happier team, resources used to their maximum potential and reduction of potential errors.

How to effectively use calendars to manage your events

Written by our Head of Products, Adam Pepper

You’re using ArtifaxEvent to capture everything that’s happening in one place, but a single source of the truth doesn’t mean that everyone has to look at the data in the same way.

Are you and your colleagues taking advantage of the many ways Artifax enables you to view and share calendar information? Make sure you’re using the most efficient tools for the job with our top five tips, and by signing up to our webinar where we’ll be taking a deep-dive into the Calendar module.

Same views? You lose!

How many of us have an array of knives in a block on the kitchen counter, but tend to use the same blade for most tasks and ignore the others? Guilty! But using the correct tools for each task provides significant improvements in efficiency once you know how to use them.

ArtifaxEvent has four radically different Calendar views, and everyone has their favourite – but if you stick with the same one for all purposes you’re missing out on time-saving opportunities, so it’s worthwhile familiarising yourself with them:

On your marks, get Settings, go!

Don’t settle for the defaults, tailor each view to your requirements by using the settings in the drawer to organise the data in the way its easiest for you to understand at a glance. For example, on the Graphical view:

Less really is more

Filters really are you friends. Use them to restrict the data you’re viewing to specific groups of spaces, or to events based on their properties. Just meeting rooms. Just bookings made by that customer who often loses track – or perhaps your own! Just bookings that have require catering. Just bookings that are pencilled or confirmed. Just opportunities where you or your team are managing the sale. Just comedy gigs – we all need a laugh!

Simply create an Event search and turn it into a calendar filter – and administrators can share them with other users so that everyone can start with a set of useful filters without needing to set up their own.

Get out what you put in

You’re viewing a calendar that’s showing you events or availability that you need to communicate to someone else? No problem! You can configure reports to be launchable from calendars. Run it, attach it, send it.

Sharing

The more accessible you make the data, the fewer queries you’ll get from colleagues about availability or their bookings, so find the ways that make it easy for them to access the data.

Of course the absolute best way to get efficiency out of your calendar is to make sure it is your ‘Single Source of Truth’. “If it’s not in Artifax, it’s not happening” is the mantra of many of our clients. To reduce the number of mistakes that can be made and improve your time efficiency you need to use ArtifaxEvent as the one place where everyone inputs the event details and the first place everyone goes to find information. Eliminate any other places where event info could be kept and really embrace the Calendar and its reports.

If you have staff members who aren’t trained on Artifax, you don’t have the reports you need or aren’t sure where to start, contact us about our Professional Services packages.

We will be doing a webinar with a deep dive into the Calendar functionality with tips and hints, sign up today.

Calculating the ROI of a Venue Management solution

Watch the above video for an explanation on how we can help you to calculate the Return On Investment you would get from implementing Artifax in your organisation.

Harder to calculate than traditional revenue generation software such as a ticketing system, Artifax helps to increase efficiency, save you valuable time and streamline data processes within your venue. And we all know time = money!

For a more detailed look at calculating the ROI for your organisation and your processes, contact us for a demo and a walk-through our ROI calculator based on your current procedures and timelines.

Rediscover festivals with your industry experts

We can all agree that the response of the art and culture sector to the Covid-19 pandemic was inspiring; from art centres turning into vaccination sites to museums delivering tours online, ensuring the public doesn’t miss out on the well needed entertainment and education. But for festival organisers the last 15 months have been particularly challenging, as most of them rely on the audience to deliver the art in-person. So what do you do as a festival manager when your only option is to take your event online?

We sat down with festival organisers Zen Bharmal from the British Film Institute and Michael Csar from Bregenz Festival to discuss the impact of lockdown on their organisations and the future of festivals.

Innovation driven by change

Online and hybrid events became a game changer for many organisations. They allowed the venues to reach audiences further than even before and be more inclusive.

For BFI, opening up their usually London-based film festivals to the wider audience helped expand their reach, but also allowed them to be more accessible for people with disabilities – which is a fantastic benefit of virtual events.

Zen agrees there is an appetite for the return of in-person events, but does it mean the end of virtual performances?

"My own personal view is that it's hard to put that back in the can. Once people know what they can access, to take that away from people would be quite difficult."

Zen Bharmal, British Film Institute

BFI took every opportunity to learn while delivering Flare, one of the biggest LGBTQ+ film festivals in Europe. With the London Film Festival just around the corner, staying agile provides a sense of comfort to organisers and attendees.

"For us it depends on people being in the venue. That’s what makes the experience and really represents the art in the way that it was intended. We are quite fortunate that we will always have the opportunity to pivot to the hybrid or digital model."

Zen Bharmal, British Film Institute

How can you drive safe return of in-person festivals?

Having the ability to turn to digital provides many organisation with a safety net, but it’s not “one size fits all”. For Bregenz Festival there was never an option of transferring into the digital sphere. After all, their unique location is part of the immersive experience and you simply can’t recreate that online.

So if virtual is not an option, what can you do to make sure your in-person event is safe for your audience, staff and partners?

Michael says there are two key things festival organisers should focus on: preparation and communication.

"One aspect is developing a health and safety plan and prevention plan: what do you do with the audience? How do you rehearse? How do you accommodate a chorus and orchestra working together without the risk of infection? Develop a plan and very clear guidelines of what you can do.

[…] keeping the relationship with artists, with partners, with official authorities alive and the communication going is very important... We invest a lot of time and energy in those relationships and the worst thing you can do is not keeping them involved."

Michael Csar, Bregenz Festival

Want to learn more? See the full conversation here.

Have the right tools for your festival management

Rescheduling your festival may cause a ripple effect, especially if you plan your programme years in advance.

Changing a single date means altering contracts and checking artists’ availability for several other events. It may feel like putting together a puzzle without a picture to guide you.

Our Artistic Programming module will help you manage those last minute changes, giving you a peace of mind now and in the future.

See it in action on Thursday, 9 September at 16:00 BST in our FREE webinar. Save your spot here.

Artifax Software - Artistic Programming module free webinar invitation - festival management

Zen and Michael use Artifax to deliver exceptional customer experiences. We can help you take your organisation to the next level. Book a free demo today and explore your opportunities.

Top mistakes to avoid when planning an event

Everybody makes mistakes, and while learning from errors of judgement is arguably more useful and important than avoiding them in the first place, it’s also more embarrassing. Being aware of some common mistakes that you might fall prey to while planning your events could help you steer clear of them, so we’ve put together a list of common ones that event organisers have made. We hope that someday, you’ll be able to look back with relief that they were someone else’s mistakes and not yours.

1. Not promoting the event well enough

You may have researched your target market thoroughly and made sure that your event is just what they need and want, but if you don’t tell them about it, no one will show up. Getting the word out clearly across multiple mediums and consistently over a sustained period is essential to your success. It might seem obvious, but this one is at the top of the list because event planners so often end up disappointed because they didn’t effectively communicate how awesome their event would be. Make sure you’re not one of them!

2. Choosing the wrong date

There are many ways to turn a great event idea into a disaster by putting it on at the wrong time. Perhaps you’ve planned a kids’ party during school hours, an outdoor activity in the winter or a candlelight procession during the daytime – or maybe your event simply clashes with another big or competing one, or a time when your audience is busy doing something more important. Whatever it is, the timing of your event is crucial, and it needs to be given very careful consideration.

3. Leaving too little time for event preparations

There are two factors to consider here – how far in advance you start preparing your event, and how many hours you dedicate to it during that time. Organising an event is often a full-time commitment, sometimes even more, so if you have other things on your plate or you think it’s enough to devote one day to the preparations every fortnight, you may well find yourself falling short. Things like assembling a team and promotion need to be started well in advance of the big day, and tasks often take longer than expected, so figure out exactly what you need to do and by when, then make sure to leave more than enough time for everything on your list.

4. Forgetting to confirm final details with contributors

Your vendors, speakers, caterers and other participants have a lot of other things going on, and believe it or not your event is not the first and last thing on their mind at any given moment. This means that they can easily forget about their commitments or find the event date creeping up on them too quickly. For this reason, it’s essential that you maintain a dialogue with them to ensure that they’re expecting your event and that they’re ready to do their part when the time comes. In particular, a reminder a few days (or however long they’ll need to make sure they can fulfil their promises) before showtime is a must – and keep trying if you don’t hear back from them!

5. Failing to have a contingency plan

There are so many things that can go wrong with an event. The weather can spoil your plans, traffic can cause delays and no-shows can let you down. Add in an almost infinite list of other unexpected issues, and it’s a minefield. The problems you may face will depend on the nature of your event, so it’s important that you have a thorough brainstorm and list everything that might go awry. Once you’ve done this, come up with solid backup plans that will allow you to overcome each of these difficulties individually while making your event still look like a success. Your attendees will understand that issues can arise, but they’ll be less forgiving if you didn’t seem to consider that possibility yourself.

5 tips for reducing stress before an event

When you’re planning an event, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by what seems to be a deluge of never-ending tasks.

In 2019, Business News Daily listed “Event Coordinator” as the sixth most stressful job that year, so it’s clear that event planning can be a tremendous challenge…

...but it doesn’t have to be!

Here are our top 5 ways to de-stress when planning an event.

✔️ Checklists and technology

As obvious and clichéd as this sounds, writing a detailed checklist of everything you need to include is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to handle planning an event. With a structured timetable of which tasks need to be completed and in what order, an organised list will help you to remain in control despite being insanely busy. This method really does work wonders—remove all the ideas that are floating around in your head and write them down on paper in order of priority. Did you know that physically crossing off a finished project on a checklist is therapeutic?

Let’s face it, technology is great! You can run entire social media marketing campaigns straight from your smartphone. And you can film, edit and upload videos straight to a third-party video hosting website from your iPad. So, rather than being consumed by various technological advancements, why not use technology to your advantage? There is a humungous range of applications that you can download which update and modernise the old school pen and paper “to-do list”. Incorporating pictures and videos will also help users really personalise what might otherwise be considered a rather dull checklist.

Nevertheless, no matter what method you choose, breaking down a big task into smaller, easier, manageable achievements will help to eliminate any unnecessary stress.

☕ Have a nice cup of tea

During the busy hustle and bustle of organising your event, remember to take five, have a sit down, and avoid reaching boiling point.

There is no shame in taking a break and switching off regularly to remain on the ball. Everyone has their own unique methods of switching off—whether this is video games, attending yoga classes, being sociable or simply just exercising.

Regular breaks and staying healthy are key aspects to remaining on top of planning events!

💾 Always have a backup plan

There is nothing worse than having your event successfully planned, but then being informed your star-turn has fallen ill the day before your event—nightmare!

To avoid potential embarrassing situations like the example above, always try to have a backup option available. Sometimes things do go wrong. Singers fall ill, the DJ has double-booked, or perhaps the venue cancels at the last minute, for example. So, having backup alternatives available for most elements of your event, which you can whip out at a moment’s notice, is crucial when planning a big event.

Any experienced event planner would always recommend never relying on just one sponsor—always, always, always make sure you are covered should the worst possible scenario come true.

🏃‍♀️ Get moving

Did you know, one popular way to de-stress is to take part in some exercise? “Wait, what? Exercise? I don’t have the time!” Don’t worry, I totally agree with you!

One of the easiest ways to get a quick bit of exercise in is to climb a few floors via the staircase. Do you work on the 11th floor? Perhaps take the lift to the 8th floor and take the stairs for the remaining 3 floors? Getting your body and muscles moving not only takes your mind off the stress of your event, but also gets your blood pumping.

Another great way to de-stress is to spend some time walking around. Take a break and have a walk through the park/explore the general area/around the block. Get your blood flowing to wash away stressful tensions and put down that mobile phone to properly switch off.

🌲 Embrace the great outdoors

Not only is it sensible to remain physically healthy, your mental health is just as important.

Studies show that being presented with, or surrounded by, nature drastically increases our mental well being. An unusual trend of ‘forest bathing’ is gaining popularity, which involves spending time in a wooded area wallowing in nature and reaping the rewards of fresh air, the open countryside and high levels of relaxation.

Nature can be beneficial for mental health. It reduces cognitive fatigue and stress and can be helpful with depression and anxiety. 

Irina Wen, NYU Langone Medical Center

However, if you are preparing to go for a wander around a wooded area, remember to stay safe. Let someone know you are off gallivanting just in case you get a wee bit lost!

Still managing your venue with Office?

If you're still using Excel and Outlook to manage your venue, we completely understand why—they are flexible, user-friendly, and your organization is probably already using the Microsoft suite of products. However, they don’t simultaneously provide you with both the big picture AND the essential detail for seamless event planning and production in the same way a venue and event management system can.

Without a centralized system, managing your venue can feel like a spinning plates act on the brink of disaster for a few reasons:

No access to real-time changes and up-to-date information

Controlling different and evolving versions of a spreadsheet can be a nightmare. It’s almost impossible to keep track of event changes from version to version.

No coherent structure

It’s difficult and time consuming to put an organization-wide structure around event management in Excel and Outlook. Each department often creates their own documents and calendars using different formatting and layouts, and when departments track details for the various components of the same event in different ways, it’s not easy to see the full picture—or to flag when one department’s event might conflict with another’s.

No peace of mind

Managing event details in numerous Excel spreadsheets and Outlook calendars rarely helps you feel confident that you’ve remembered all the details that have gone into planning your event. Even after checking through all shared documents, there is the risk that some elements of an event are only communicated or documented within one department, and are completely lost.

No organization-wide view

A single source of event information provides statistical data on revenue, resource and room usage, and general event demographics that can otherwise be difficult to assemble and track without a lot of double entry. The reporting capabilities of a venue management system let you both anticipate potential issues like double- or over-booked resources as well as strategize for future seasons.

With Artifax you have the capabilities you need to manage every detail of an event, as well as the perspective necessary to view the entire picture.