Maintenance & Operations (Managing the Physical Plant)

Roadie for a Day

Plan ahead for successful event support on campus.

No longer are the hallowed halls of education reserved solely for education. As often as not we find ourselves supporting outside events alongside the day-to-day activities of campus. No one is more aware of the various meetings, classes, conferences and events that our institutions are attracting than the Maintenance department. Conferencing and Community Relations departments are encouraged to bring in outside events as a way of providing additional revenue and as a quiet marketing tool. Events create an additional vibrancy on campus, and this attracts prospective students as well as outside organizations.

Develop a Game Plan

There is a great deal of coordination, scheduling and planning before we even provide support for the event. How well your Campus Events, Maintenance and Facilities departments handle these events speaks to the success of the events.

It is imperative that the Maintenance department is involved early in the planning for all campus events, both internal and external. This is not to say that Maintenance drives the decisionmaking process for these, but that we remain in the loop to ensure our ability to help support the process by providing valuable input as to setup and turnover times, and much more.

A successful model has Facilities/Maintenance included in the early stages of planning. We work with other departments to ensure that the required space is available for use, that the resources to support the event are available and in place, that enough electrical power is available, and that there are no conflicting events that would cause a backup in the setup process. It is always wise to check to make sure that the appropriate parking will be available, as scheduling too many events on campus at once will certainly create a strain on parking infrastructure. Also, check as to whether there are any construction or renovation projects happening nearby that would be disruptive to the event, create a traffic-flow problem, or cause the loss of utilities in the area. Planning ahead to limit the surprises or inconveniences goes a long way in pulling off a successful event.

Make a Good Impression

Once the information about the event has been conveyed, it will be our responsibility to ensure that we affect the appropriate plans for staffing; meeting the needs of the setup (including the setup of tables, chairs, podium, staging, etc.), and having the space cleaned and properly maintained prior to the event. Ensuring we put our best foot forward is very important, regardless of whether the event is for an internal or external organization.

Who among us has attended a meeting or conference where we sat freezing in the room, only able to think about how cold we are and fully unable to focus on the speaker or the content of the meeting or educational session? Why professional facilities managers allow that to happen is beyond me. Regardless, if we don’t like an uncomfortable temperature in a room, you can be sure no one else likes it… so please be sure to set the room to an appropriate and maintainable temperature so that our guests can enjoy their visit to campus.

Have All the Pieces and Personnel in Place

Roadie for a day! When we are tasked with supporting larger events such as concerts, sporting events or conferences, the demand for staffing and ancillary support increases greatly. If we are unable to provide this level of support utilizing in-house resources, we must plan far enough ahead to bring in the appropriate contractors. This may include renting tables, chairs, barrier fencing and more. This may also include hiring additional custodial support, security and tradespeople such as electricians or HVAC technicians. In addition, we may need additional equipment to support the setup, such as man-lifts, forklifts for offloading, or auxiliary generators to support higher power requirements. Oftentimes, the requirements for the support of these larger events falls on the host institution, and we must be prepared to provide exactly what they need, when they need it. Once again, this will require planning ahead and having the right people involved in the early stages in order to ask the appropriate questions and give the right direction.

No matter the size, we should approach every event we support as if it were the most important event the institution has ever hosted. One never knows when a visitor to campus may decide to send his or her child to your institution or may even become a prime donor, based largely upon the positive experience he or she had at a particular event.

Remember, I always say, “It’s not just maintenance!” The job we do has the potential to impact the participants and the institution in many ways!

This article originally appeared in the College Planning & Management November 2013 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Michael G. Steger is director, Physical Plant, for Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, FL. He can be reached at [email protected].

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