How to Motivate Yourself (and Others) to Work Late in Events

Skift Take

It can sometimes be a challenge to motivate yourself and other team members to work (another) evening or weekend but here are some motivational tips and incentives to help get everybody on board.

Events don’t always take place during traditional working hours, which means that organisation and planning often don’t either. The reality of the event profession is that 9 to 5 doesn’t often work and putting in long hours, particularly as an event approaches and in your peak and busy periods, is part part of the territory. For event managers, motivating yourself and your team to continuously put in the extra time can be draining and you may need a pick me up. Here are some tips and incentives to keep everyone motivated and wanting to put in the extra legwork so you can focus more effectively on the real tasks at hand.


We will start with the obvious! Incentivising can make or break the motivation to do overtime and work late, particularly if it is a regular occurrence for many eventprofs. Regularly review and assess what is working and what isn’t so that it maintains motivation. Ask your employees what they want, what is the most important to them and how you can turn it into an incentive in some way? This might be extra money, time off in lieu or some other privileges or rewards.

It is also important to remember to incentivise quality and productivity over time spent because we can all procrastinate and waste time but working late is all about getting things done efficiently!

Give Notice

Sometimes overtime is unavoidable and unscheduled, but giving as much notice as possible helps others to plan and makes them more likely to stay as they are prepared for it. For those with families or other commitments, notice allows them to make plans or arrangements so that they can remain focused on the work knowing that things are in hand at home.

Set Expectations

Right from the start – even from the job interview – set the expectation that event planners need to do what is necessary for a successful event, including putting in extra hours if and when required. Anyone with an important event project coming up should be mindful of overloading themselves in the key final weeks and days before the live event date. Try to stay focused on the event so that it takes priority during the critical final stages and clear your diary to avoid being compromised. Establishing guidelines early on that if everything isn’t ready for the event it is expected that extra time is put in develops the right mindset and avoids any misunderstandings or disillusionment down the line.

Hand Over Control

Give employees clear direction and then hand over control and responsibility to your team to let them get on with the project. This shows your trust, avoids micromanaging and allows everyone to work and get home and manage their workload in a way that is best for them. The team need to have ownership of the project, rather than just dipping in and out. That being said, you should make sure it is clear that they can come to you with problems or questions if they have any, or feed back if anyone is letting the side down.

Group Goals

Getting everyone working together can be a keen motivator as many like to feel like they have a place in something bigger and enjoy working with others more than working on their own. Set group goals so that they can pick each other up and everyone either succeeds or fails. This team work approach is particularly important for large and complex event projects and excellent team building too.

Improve The Environment

A clean and aesthetically pleasing work environment can go a long way towards making employees want to work there. Adding a splash of colour with art and pictures or bold furniture can add some fun into the workplace and make it less boring or dull which can quickly demotivate you and make you want to leave. The more time you are expecting employees to stay, the more effort you should put into the appearance and upkeep of the environment.

Show Their Importance

It can be hard for an employee to see the overall goals of an organisation and know that their hard work directly contributed to the vision or targets. Show those who do overtime or work late how their productivity has helped and in what way this has boosted the event, brand or bottom line. Knowing that their work has an impact will make them take more pride in their work and understand the importance of why working late needs to happen.

Be Honest

If the project is running behind or the client has certain expectations, be honest and let employees know the reason they are having to stay late, as well as what exactly needs to be done. This includes taking responsibility for your (or the brand’s) faults if it has resulted in more work or something else that needs to be done. Often honesty is more motivating than a corporate excuse and makes employees feel like they are respected enough to get the full truth.

Achievement Targets

Focus on the achievements and productivity rather than the time that employees have spent at work because it doesn’t always tally up. Plus focusing on achievements will help you highlight those in the team who are excelling and those who are just staying late for show, which will help you reward the right people.

Stay With Them

For event managers, show your team that you aren’t afraid to stay late and get your hands dirty too. Lead by example and do some of the grunt work that you wouldn’t normally do to show that it needs to be done regardless of your position. You will find it is not only motivating for everyone but you will become a closer knit team and earn more respect as a manager.

*Just ensure you are being useful and not micromanaging which can hinder productivity and make employees feel like they are being “watched” which will demotivate them.


Competitiveness can be a useful motivator and you can use sales targets or productivity targets with incentives to encourage healthy competition. This tends to get things done faster as well. Just ensure that you are appreciating everything that is achieved and not just singling out those who “won”, after all, everyone stayed late so there are no real losers.

Give Them What They Need

There is nothing worse than staying late, getting into the productive groove and then realising that there are resources or support that you need that are not available out of hours or someone else you need to liaise with who has gone home and is out of contact. Ensure that everyone has what they need to get the job done, in the same way you would during normal working hours. This may mean planning ahead.

Review Tech

If the same tasks are causing a backlog time and time again and forcing the need for overtime it is worth reviewing the processes and technology that is being used. Is there a better way to manage the task? Can it be done differently? Is there technology or software that could streamline the workflow and automate some or all of the task? Sometimes investment in a solution can be more cost effective in the long run if it cuts down on the amount of hours and therefore the overtime required. It can also give a big boost if employees were feeling demotivated by an inefficient system, by energizing them to get things done a lot quicker.


When you and your team are seriously overstretched you should also look at any elements which can be outsourced. If a task is taking up a lot of time or could be done better and more cost-effectively elsewhere it may be a better use of resources and reduce anxiety so that key players can focus on getting everything back on track. Whether it is a casual pool of staff, contractors or skills found and outsourced via websites such as Upwork it can help to take the pressure off at short notice.

Staff will appreciate that you are aware of the problem, noticing their efforts and working hard to find solutions.

Make It Personal

Everyone is motivated by different things so learning what makes certain people tick means that you can appeal to them specifically. For example, some are looking for career progression or opportunities for more responsibility, while others are hoping for flexible working hours. Getting to know your team on a personal level can allow you to pick the right caveat to face any resistance.

Ask For Feedback

Ask employees what they want and need from overtime, what is working well and what needs to be improved as it will help you avoid making decisions for them and will save plenty of time trying to analyse how things are going. If you want to know if your employees are feeling good about what they are doing (or not) then ask, or provide other forms of feedback.

Celebrate Achievements

Very simple but easily forgotten is celebrating and rewarding achievements because everyone gets wrapped up in actually getting the work done. When the event is over and the project has been delivered sometimes the relief or physical tiredness of a long live event day can be overwhelming and everyone just wants to go home. Ensure that there is frequent praise and celebrations for a job well done and that you make time to celebrate at a later date!

Offer Downtime

It can be tempting to just try and “power through” when working late which can mean 2 or 3 hours pass in order to get things done, however don’t forget that many eventprofs won’t have had a break since lunchtime (and they probably had a working lunch anyway) so ensure that you schedule breaks and downtime even when you are working overtime or later than usual. Having some time out can make the team attack the task with renewed energy.

Non-Financial Incentives

Bonuses and pay rises can of course motivate many to add extra hours but it isn’t always necessary and for many they are looking for something else. Regardless of the incentives you chose, always ensure you are clear on what employees will receive and when, making sure you always follow through. Making promises you can’t keep is a quick way to lose morale, motivation and for your team to lose faith in you.

  • Flexible Working – Working from home options or later start days so that employees can have a lie in or make up lost time at home often goes down well.
  • Holiday – Time off in lieu or extra holiday days can make employees view overtime as just another day as they will be getting extra time off later so they won’t see it as a “big ask.”
  • Break Area – Create a fun and unique area for your employees to go to unwind, add a pool table or games machine as well as useful facilities and opportunities to actually unwind or take a real break, especially if they are spending a lot of time at the office.
  • Raffle Draws – For frequent overtime you can offer raffle tickets to those who stay later and at the end of the week/month have a prize draw where someone can win big or small prizes, for example a spa day of luxury food items.
  • Food/Dinner – Offer to buy food or dinner for everyone staying late and bring it into the office, particularly with late working as many won’t have planned a meal. You could all order pizza and enjoy some food while being productive!
  • Career Progression – Making it known that those who work overtime or longer hours will be considered favourably for promotions in the future can be a huge motivator, particularly if progression opportunities are few and far between. However, this only tends to work if there is a role coming up soon, rather than vague promises for the distant future.
  • Travel – For late night working, offer to pay an Uber or taxi fare or alternative travel arrangements, particularly for those who commute who might feel safety is a concern later at night. Also it helps them get home in a reasonable time without having to wait for out of hours public transport.
  • Event Tickets – Got a big event coming up that they aren’t needed for? Give them free tickets to go as an attendee for once and allow them some time off and even see a new perspective for work.
  • Dress Down – Many just want to be comfortable at work so offer a dress down option past a certain time so that ties can come off and if employees want to change into jeans and a t-shirt they can without needing to adhere to a dress code.

Opportunities for Personal Development

Other team members will be most appreciative of ways to progress and develop on a personal level. For some these could be super motivating factors in return for their overtime commitment:

  • Education Opportunities – Courses, training opportunities or even education incentives can help some bulk out their CV and gives them more satisfaction in their personal development.
  • Retreats Corporate retreats, experiences and team building opportunities can show your employees that you care and reward them for a job well done.

In Conclusion

Being honest and transparent are key points to working late when asking more of your eventprofs. Earn their respect and make them more likely to say yes! But ultimately, part of motivation is how you present the situation to your employees and knowing what will personally motivate them can help you pick the perfect incentive so that they don’t need so much nudging!