Last Updated on June 2, 2022
We’ve said on more than one occasion that event planning is as much about managing people as it is about running events. Today, we’d like to explore that statement with somewhat greater depth. Today, I’d like to talk about crowd control and offer some of the best crowd management tips we could think of from our experiences.
As an event management professional, you could potentially be dealing with crowds of hundreds (or even hundreds of thousands) of people. It’s imperative that you keep it together; otherwise, things are likely to get very hectic very fast. Even a few bad eggs can completely ruin an event for everyone else, and the more people you’ve got, the likelier it is that you’ll have to deal with them.
And we’re not even touching on how much damage a large crowd can cause if things really get out of hand.
Anyway, I’m sure you get the idea at this point. Let’s get down to business, shall we?
Here are a few best practices and our best crowd management tips for keeping the crowd at your events firmly under your control.
Our Best Crowd Management Tips
Be Aware Of Your Audience’s Characteristics
If you’re running a corporate conference for investors in the Oil and Gas industry, you’re going to attract a different crowd than a heavy metal concert (presumably, anyway). For this reason, it’s important that you know what sort of audience you’re hosting an event for—their general temperament, preferences, and reason for being there.
If this is a first time event, you’ll want to reach out to whoever hired you to get a feel for their audience. If there’s been previous events (i.e. this is an annual conference) then ask people that were actually involved with the previous events.
This is an obvious one. Alcohol is a remarkably powerful catalyst for stupidity, no matter what sort of crowd is being given access to it. Alcohol hits everyone differently, so you have to be ready for all personalities no matter what demographic your event is for. What that means is that you need to keep your alcohol under control if you’re serving it at your event—limit patrons in how many drinks they have access to.
And if you will be serving alcohol at your event, make sure that there is an ample supply of non-alcoholic drinks, too. Not only will you give those that don’t drink alcohol options—and there’s a fair amount of people that don’t drink alcohol—you’ll also give people that are feeling a bit too tipsy a way to slow down. If the only option is alcohol, then they’ll just keep drinking that. Oh, and it’s just more inclusive to provide options.
Keep Access Points To A Minimum
Make sure that you follow all maximum occupancy requirements to maintain a safe (and legal) event. There should be several access points to your event, at most, and they should each be ran by well-trained individuals. Be sure that you can control the event at all times, if that means cutting off access for new patrons, do it. Better to be safe than sorry.
By minimizing access points you can make the event more secure for all.
Screen For Contraband
This one depends entirely on what you’re running. If you’re hosting a trade show, you probably don’t need to check people for drugs before inviting them in—particularly if it’s a ticketed event. If you’re running a concert, or admitting people to a conference after-party, that’s a whole different story.
Make sure you’ve got security patting down guests for any illegal stuff they might be trying to bring in (but also ensure you only do so when appropriate).
This one can be tough to get right, but you need to spend time thinking about possibilities. For example, if the event is an industry specific event, and people don’t like that industry for some reason, then maybe the contraband is weapons in your case.
Organize Your Staff, And Give Everyone A Clear Role
Every single volunteer, security agent, and vendor should know exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and where they’re supposed to be at any given time. Organize your event staff, and keep it that way. This will ensure that when trouble does arise, your team can spring to action like a well-oiled machine.
A pre-event meeting can be great for this purpose. Things you’ll want to include in the training (or at least on the print-out given to everyone involved) would be SOPs (standard operating procedures) for various possibilities, like how manage the crowd if there is violence, drunk people, or fire alarms going off. Try to plan every potential issue during your event, so that if it does happen, people can all follow a plan and know their role in it.
Make Sure You’ve Got Trained Security
This is the most important thing you can possibly do for crowd control, and no event should be run without trained security staff on hand. Seriously, if you’re thinking of running an event without security guards, do everyone a favor and resign so they can bring in someone who will.
Did you know that for Woodstock in 1969 they hired Hell’s Angels (a biker group) to be their security? It’s crazy to think an event like this would have planned it so poorly, but they did, and you can read all about this and the other ways that Woodstock was a failure.
Encourage Patrons To Report Any Suspicious Or Threatening Situations
Although security guards are trained to deal with whatever problems might come up at an event, they’re only human—they can’t be everywhere at once, nor can they see everything at once. With that in mind, make sure you encourage guests to report any suspicious or threatening activity to the nearest security guard.
If at all possible, you should also try to provide less obvious ways to report issues, like providing a phone number they can call or text, or putting links within your event app for reporting security issues. It goes without saying, that these alternative methods need to be maintained by someone so concerns are dealt with immediately.
Keep Ticket Lines Orderly
There’s really little else to say here. Keep ticket lines organized, orderly, and fast-moving. Encourage guests to register ahead of time, so they’re not fumbling through their payments at the door.
A lot of people travel to events and are grumpy coming into the registration already. Don’t give them any reason to take that out on other guests, or your ticketing staff.
Get The Venue Management Involved
If anyone knows the venue in which you’re running your show, it’s the venue owner. Get them involved in the planning process—work with them to figure out the best setup for the crowd’s movement through the venue, and to figure out any possible choke points.
Did we miss anything in our Best Crowd Management Tips above?
Crowd management can be a tricky thing, and the only way to really do it right is to have experience behind you. These were just the best crowd management tips we could think of, but surely there are more. While googling articles like this are great for creating a foundation, it doesn’t truly give you the experience, and so a final recommendation from us is to get help. Have others review your plans and thoughts around crowd management, and heed their advice and warnings.
Everwall provides social media walls for events, and one of the great features that can be used for crowd control is our Announcements feature. Using that feature you can display full screen, lower third, inline, or ticker announcements on your social wall—and one of the best reasons to do that is to tell your guests things they need to know, like when a keynote is starting, or to thank them at the end of the event and tell them where to go from there. Click here to learn more about our social walls for events.
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