As we unloaded the trucks and pushed the gear into the main hall for staging, I noticed that one particular zone lead appeared to be quite a bit more experienced (translation: “older”) than the others, and he appeared to be more interested than his comrades in what we were doing… or perhaps more accurately, the way we were doing it. He didn’t say much, just watched us more intently than the others. It later became apparent why.
After the trucks were unloaded and the gear was in the main hall, we gathered as a group, and each zone lead chose a predetermined number of local freelancers. The “more experienced” gentleman chose first, and he chose me along with some other A-list freelancers whom I knew to be almost equal to my capabilities, (“Yes, dear, you keep believing that.” – my wife), and whom I enjoy working with because we make a great team. It turns out that this gentleman’s experience had taught him to watch us during load-in and identify the seasoned technicians by observing the way we interact with each other and the way we work.
Unfortunately, the staging area was on the opposite end of the building from my particular zone, but it couldn’t be avoided because of the crowded loading dock and the expo that was also loading in as part of the event. So we made numerous trips from one end of the building to the other. At the end of the day, probably half of the hours we logged were just walking.
However, we were only responsible for the equipment that was designated for our particular zone, and once the equipment was in the back hallway, ready for deployment into our respective rooms, the only time we left our zone was for meals, and the meal room was located in the center of the building. No more walking from one end of the building to the other.
Upon arrival each day, we signed in with our zone lead, so we didn’t have to walk to a temporary headquarters and then to our room. Our zone was our world for the duration of the event. At the conclusion of the event, we were responsible for loading out only the equipment in our particular zone to the main hall, followed by the final push to the loading docks. As a result, the client didn’t have to pay us for hours of just walking.
Most of us can probably remember working a couple of gigs that were polar opposites from an organizational perspective. As freelancers, we’re generally not responsible for those kinds of decisions, and over a long career, no one has ever asked me for guidance or advice in that regard. But for those who are responsible for making those kinds of decisions, hopefully you can benefit from a tale of two load-ins.