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Interview, Trends, Event Technology

On-Demand Webinar: Best Practices to Advance Your Festival in 2022

by Erin Chesterton
on January 31, 2022
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When it comes to advancing a festival—there is no one size fits all. So how can you right-size your advance process to run safer and more profitable events? We sat down with two database veterans Evan Gross and Gina Scaramella to find out. During the hour-long roundtable discussion, the two share experiences from their combined decades of experience working festivals, including:
  • How the advance process has changed since COVID
  • Tips to build a scalable and repeatable process for advancement
  • Best practices when advancing shows in 2022
Watch the on-demand recording for everything live event operations teams need to keep top of mind in 2022.

Featuring Industry Experts:


Watch the On-Demand Recording



Key Highlights from the Roundtable

Quotable Moments

What is the advancing process?

"Advancing is ensuring you have everything you need at the department level and at the individual level for your festival. That includes catering, contracts credentials, assets, power, technology—anything you have as a resource in your festival that others need access to.

You need to know how many items are needed, why they are needed and how to track it. I’ve found that everyone’s advance is a little different as the pieces that the different operation units need to focus on can vary from event to event."

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

Why is it critical to run your advance through one central database?

"Being able to have that holistic picture of the advance is critical to the profit and loss of the event. It also impacts the decision making when working with producers and partners across the festival by providing one source of truth—allowing everyone to operate more strategically.

It makes it a place where information related to each other is visible and actionable as a tool for analysis for better decision making. But finding one system that does it all and does it well is challenging. Trying to meet the different buckets of needs is a challenge and no system is perfect."

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

How can a central database help festival teams combat high staff turnover?

“With the turnover of festival management and staff, every year is not guaranteed you have the same team that already knows what to do. You lose a lot of knowledge. This would allow one gatekeeper of data that can document things for future years so teams can avoid chasing down info. It really helps teams stay organized to keep the system going to prevent starting from scratch and keeping data all in one spot."

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

How to prepare for and set up the advance

“Every individual element is a little bit different each year and it’s usually defined by the contracts from your vendors. With most vendors I define a “drop dead” date to give them changes for a final number. I’m also tracking dates when staff is coming onboard to ensure all requests are in as soon as possible. Overall it’s really fluid, but it’s key to identify when that end user (catering, credentials, etc.) needs that info and then working backwards from that date to map out your due dates.”

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

How has the advance process changed since COVID?

“Everything seems to be supply chain issues and timeframes. There was a lot more scarcity in 2021 than I’ve ever seen and I have a lot of empathy for asset managers using new vendors trying to make it work at the last minute.

A lot of events moved and the deadline schedule got a lot more scrutiny—but I think the biggest change I saw people needed to solve for was on the COVID compliance side. What are this event’s policies when it comes to COVID compliance, and how to work that into the advance? Are we engaging a third party like clear? How does this fit into the workflow? Do we require a health check before they get their credential? This is where I felt the biggest push in having to change our workflow."

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

Tips to Get Ahead of Supply Chain Issues

“We’re seeing a lot of vendor turnover and new people on the scene. The sooner you can reach out and move on your vendors the better. Prices are going up across the board so if you can get vendors and prices locked in ASAP.

You need to be mindful of what a cancellation policy looks like—especially with deposits, does it roll over does it not? You need to think about this on every contract you sign. You need to protect yourself and get aligned on the details early on to ensure it’s a fair agreement to all parties."

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

What are the Biggest Expense Categories Impacting Festivals?

“Last minute asset requests have been really costly for us. That’s why capturing everything in one central system helps you truly assess the costs and eliminate unnecessary financial expenses based on a lack of organization. Entire teams of vendors were wiped out so we couldn’t re-engage with past people we relied on and were starting new.”

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

I’ve noticed it most in trucking, any deliveries arriving on truckloads or sanitation related things—pretty much everything is going up due to labor shortages, lumber shortages and fuel shortages. When you’re competing with a lot of events you have to do your best to wrangle the assets you can because you’re up against other festivals."

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

How to get buy-in from your team when transitioning to advancing software

“It must come top down and you need to create a culture that helps your team and departments understand the value for their area of the business. Many don’t understand the true benefits but I have a way of doing it that is directly tied to the festival operations team to demonstrate the value.

The fact that it gives you the ability to do analysis year over year is key. Being able to speak to your different stakeholders across assets, credentials, health teams, etc. and understanding what they need to be successful can help you create a path forward. Constantly tie it back to efficiency and find the pain points across your team is key so you know the right areas where a tool can deliver them value.”

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

What processes can you implement to enforce deadlines?

“I try to develop a communication plan that lets people know when the database is open, always providing clear deadlines, and giving them material to empower them on how to use the system. You don’t want your team to enter a new platform without any direction. Oftentimes vendors may be using different systems across different events so it’s important to reinforce the value from following the process and adopting new technology.”

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

How much control should you give department heads in the advance process?

“Part of my role is to set managers up for success. I hire all department managers, I write job descriptions, I delegate responsibilities. It’s important we constantly follow up with these people because deadlines don’t always serve us—it’s usually treated more as a guideline. I always leave flexibility in my model. When you’re evaluating any request or missed deadline - you have to have a mastery over their scope of work to know if the request is appropriate."

- Gina Scaramella, Supervising Producer @ Lightning in a Bottle

What does the approval process look like when advancing?

“In an ideal world it would be one person overseeing all approvals, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Oftentimes changes and communications are happening all over the place and I’m not always confident I’m operating from accurate data. It's a lot of trial and error but it's key that this happens quickly. It’s not an easy process.”

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

Where do festivals go wrong when advancing catering?

“It’s partially understanding who is getting catering versus who is not. Some groups you contract don’t have it in the deal but they get offered it. I don’t envy catering managers because they require guarantees and numbers in advance which can be hard to estimate. Usually these requests come in late so it’s hard to get an accurate picture and catering suffers."

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

Why festivals should stop using hard tickets for catering

“If you’re still using hard tickets, I advise you to get a feel for other systems out there. I prefer to use an RFID system for both access control and catering redemption. Using a centralized database system that integrates with your RFID system is crucial in driving efficiencies across your catering request advancement.”

- Evan Gross, Director of Database & RFID @ Life Is Beautiful/Outside Lands

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From festivals to sporting events and conferences, chat with our team to discover how Lennd's credential management tools are changing the game for leaders at Rolling Loud, Life is Beautiful, Outside Lands, The Governor's Ball, Hulaween, Electric Zoo and more. 


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