How to manage crowds at events largely depends on the crowd. Certain crowds are mellow. Others like to party hard. So hard that they break things.
It can be difficult to prepare for the unknown. Yet with the right crowd management strategies, you can greatly reduce the risk of your event ending in a bad experience.
In this guide, we’ll go over…
- Which events need crowd management
- Why it’s so important
- Tips for how to manage crowds at events
- Guides, apps, and firms to help you out
Time to lay a solid event crowd management plan so you’re prepared for anything.
Which events have to think about crowd management?
Crowd management typically only becomes relevant when your event draws a big crowd. If you’re planning a small get-together with family and friends, managing a crowd won’t be an issue.
But once you start organising these types of big events, it’ll become more relevant:
Why is crowd management important?
People act differently when they’re part of a large crowd of faceless individuals. Strong emotions such as joy, anger, and excitement can quickly spread and become dangerous.
Lack of crowd management can lead to the destruction of property, personal injury, and general hooliganism. Read this comprehensive list of crowd disasters to see how bad things can get.
Tips for effective crowd management at events
As you can see, crowds can be dangerous unless they’re managed properly. So let’s dive into some crowd management strategies that will help you avoid a disaster at your event.
1. Know your audience
Football matches and heavy metal festivals will have a little more action than academic conferences and trade shows. Know who your attendees are and how they act in crowds.
2. Plan in advance
3. Inform the relevant parties
Once you have an idea of the who, when, and where, you can start contacting everyone that will be affected by your event and needs to know what kind of crowd to expect.
Make sure to contact the following:
- Emergency services
- Event contractors
- Local authorities
- Neighbouring businesses
- Venue management
They’ll be able to help you work out the practicalities of crowd management, as they’re likely to have experience with similar events in the past.
4. Make a risk assessment
Risk assessments for health and safety at your event are an integral part of planning your crowd management strategy. Identify potential dangers and plan how to keep people away from them.
5. Have an emergency plan
Things can go wrong no matter how meticulously you’ve planned your event. That’s why you should always have a contingency plan for when they do.
You should have a plan for some of these worst-case scenarios:
- The weather suddenly changes
- Flammable objects catch fire
- A fight breaks out between attendees
- Someone is caught stealing
- Everyone panics and people trample each other
Figure out the best way to manage those situations so you don’t lose control if they happen.
Tip: Read our guide on creating an event contingency plan to help you come up with your own.
6. Use a lot of signage
You can avoid having to answer a lot of questions on the day if you use proper event signage. Make sure that your attendees can find their away around and know where not to go.
Have big signs that can be read from afar for the following:
- Registration queues
- Smoking areas
- Staff-only rooms
- Potential hazards
7. Demarcate the different areas
Use barricades, cones, ropes, or stanchions to show where people should queue up for tickets and registration. Make clear where the main event is and fence off the areas you want to be left alone.
8. Limit access to alcohol
Alcohol is a good ice-breaker, but it can also break a lot of other things if consumed in copious amounts by an excited crowd. Depending on your crowd, you might want to consider imposing certain limits.
9. Screen attendees
If you think there’s a chance that some of your attendees will try to bring anything illegal to your event, consider having the security team pat down everyone when they arrive.
Tip: Have a look at this detailed guide to event security for tips on attendee screening and more.
10. Streamline check-in to reduce queues
A sure-fire way to tick people off is to make them wait. Long queues can turn otherwise civilised event attendees into their polar opposites.
Here are some ways to streamline the check-in process:
- Have multiple check-in points
- Use a ticketing app like Billetto
- Assign customer-minded staff to handle registrants
- Use turnstiles, barcode scanners, or RFID chips
Tip: Our guide on how to handle guest check-in at events will help you reduce the stress of long queues.
11. Have the right number of staff
You can’t do it on your own, so make sure you’ve hired the right number of staff in proportion to the size of the crowds you expect.
There should be ushers to show people around. Your whole team should know the layout of the venue. They should also have a convenient way of communicating with each other, such as walkie-talkies or a group chat on everyone’s phone.
Place your staff strategically around the venue and make sure you cover key points of interest:
- Check-in lines
- Ticket purchase windows
- Seated areas
- Guest service desks
- Presentation rooms
12. Hire security
Big events usually require a third-party security firm that is trained to deal with large crowds, rowdy behaviour, and dangerous situations.
The security personnel you hire should deal with the following:
- Screening attendees for contraband
- Breaking up physical confrontations
- Contacting the emergency services
13. Ask everyone to report suspicious behaviour
Your security personnel won’t be everywhere all the time, so you need to recruit more eyeballs. Ask your team and event attendees to report anything shady or suspicious to security.
14. Have a way to alert everyone
It’s easy for your voice to be drowned out by a roaring crowd, so you’ll need other forms of communication in case you need to alert them of anything important. Consider using a PA system to amplify your message, or alert attendees via your event app if possible.
15. Review your strategy
Once your event is over and done with, review your crowd management strategy. Speak to your team and security firm and ask what worked well and what could be improved.
Companies and tools to help you manage crowds
There are plenty of resources and trained professionals out there to help you with crowd management and security.
Here are some of the most popular UK security service providers:
You can also find plenty of useful guides on industry association websites:
Finally, there are a number of software applications for crowd control:
Remember, kids: Safety first!
Large events can be a lot of fun, especially when they involve loud music and lots of alcohol. But it’s a good idea to have a team of adults around to make sure everyone stays safe.
Hopefully, these crowd management strategies will help you make sure everyone has a good experience at your next event.
Do you have first-hand experience and opinions on how to manage crowds at events? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!