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What Makes Event Freelancers Tick?

If your business events team fills talent shortages and skill gaps with freelancers, or if you’re a freelancer yourself, weigh in on a new Temple University research study. Here’s how.

For many organizations, freelance meeting talent is a lifesaver. Whether they’re staffing the registration desk, wrangling event volunteers, moderating social media, or managing the entire onsite experience, freelancers are often the grease that keeps conferences and other business events running smoothly.

If you’re a freelancer or you work on a meeting team that relies on the manpower and expertise of freelancers, an academic study now underway is looking for your input to better understand the personas of the independent workforce for business events, marketing, and hospitality.

Working on events independently, eschewing the benefits of a regular paycheck, may be motivated by the need for more flexibility or less stress, a thirst for diversity of work assignments, the desire to have more control over assignments or hiring organizations—or something else entirely.

The goal of the new study, a partnership between Temple University and Soundings, a freelance job platform, is to uncover those drivers. During a session at IMEX America, Tracy Judge, founder & CEO of Soundings, summed up the research mission: “Understand the motivations and values of independent talent to offer insights to organizations on fostering supportive work environments to effectively engage, retain, and elevate this cohort of talent.”

The research team, led by Lindsey Lee, assistant professor, Department of Hospitality & Tourism at Temple University, conducted a small pilot study this summer, which informed the larger survey, which began in late October and runs through December 8. Freelancers can sign up here to participate in the survey, and employers can use the same link to register their interest in research roundtable discussions.

The study will ask freelancers about their skill level and experience, why they freelance, their personal priorities, and their motivations, such as autonomy or career development. The study will also report on how organizations can better adapt to the freelance workforce. “How do we manage freelance talent; how do we handle organizational inclusion to make freelancers feel like part of the team?” asked Judge.

Temple University’s Lee is working with three other academics on the study: Ceridwyn King, professor & head of White-Lodging J.W. Marriott School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, Purdue University; Heyao (Chandler) Yu, assistant professor, School of Hospitality Management, Pennsylvania State University; and Sandra Ponting, associate professor, L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality, San Diego State University.

Findings are expected to be published in January 2024.

“Understanding the motivations and values of freelance talent is a critical step in solving major challenges faced by the business events industry such as talent shortages and skill gaps, recruitment and retention challenges, and agility and business continuity,” said Judge. “We're charting a roadmap for businesses to harness the power of flexible talent for greater growth and innovation.”

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