Events are part of a booming industry that continues to grow both domestically and internationally. As events grow in popularity, attendances also increase. Due to this rapid increase, crowd management and crowd control are now important issues in the event industry.
Crowd management and crowd control are two distinct but interrelated concepts. The former includes the facilitation, employment, and movement of crowds, while the latter comprises steps taken once a crowd or sections of it have begun to behave in a disorderly or dangerous manner.
Some Facts About Crowd Management
- Crowds contain a large number of faceless individuals that follow a certain lead without really contemplating the reasons why.
- Crowds can be furious and perform acts leading to possible destruction, hooliganism, and murder. However, individual members of a crowd generally would not perform any of these acts without the anonymity that the crowd provides.
- It is important to understand that no two crowds are the same.
- Crowds can behave violently, resulting in the destruction of property, personal injury, and, in extreme cases, death.
- Crowd management plans should be adjusted to meet the needs of the event and the potential crowd.
- A crowd management plan involves consideration of a number of key matters, specifically reviewing:
- The potential crowd's sociological behavior,
- Seating arrangements,
- Weather conditions,
- Box office,
- Concession stands.
- In reviewing seating arrangements, for example, event managers must consider seating capacity, assembly of seating, and location of seating. Unassigned seating should be avoided as people can be trampled trying to get a good seat. With respect to assigned seating, an event manager may want to ensure that rival teams' fans are not seated together.
Crowd Management and Communication
Another element of an effective crowd management plan entails adequate communication among employees, guests, and between management and guests. Effective communication should lead to successful coordination between these parties. It's usually accepted that, effective communication has several objectives:
- To send a message,
- To have a message received,
- To ensure understanding,
- To achieve corrective action,
- To exchange information.
Verbal communication is one of the primary methods used in event coordination. This is not the most effective communication as it cannot be witnessed or returned by the receiver.
Non-verbal communication consists of body language, facial expressions, or gestures and may be used only if individuals readily understand each other.
Written communication is quite common but often misused. In effect, written messages should be kept specific, short, and to the point, as people might disregard longer messages.
Visual communication is mostly utilized to train employees and to promote products.
Electronic communication is considered the most effective in recent times. The use of two-way radios, cell phones, instant messaging services, the internet, etc., brings enormous benefits to event managers as most of the events occur in large areas where written and/or visual communication is difficult. The communication process must be flexible in case the environment of the event changes, and the information transferred must be "clear, concise, courteous, correct, complete, and correctly directed".
Another form of communication that is significant from an event manager's perspective is signage. Signage can serve to;
- Warn (e.g., slippery when wet),
- Instruct (e.g., No alcohol beyond this point),
- Inform (e.g., Exit only),
- Direct a crowd (e.g., Car park entrance 100 meters).
In so doing, signage fulfills the requirement to advise spectators of potential dangers and risks. Signage should be clear, concise, unambiguous, well written, and must be readily recognizable for maximum effect.
Key considerations in the clarity of signage are:
- Type of sign information (e.g., security, medical, lost and found, promotions),
- Size and dimension, shape, height, width, depth,
- Material (e.g., cloth, plastic, flag panels, billboards, streamers, colors),
- Wording and language specifications,
Crowd Management, Ushering, and Security
An appropriate plan for crowd management also entails ushering and security personnel.
Ushers can be used to communicate information from the stands to the main office and to assist guests to their seats. They may reduce disputes among spectators by monitoring the guests' behavior, reporting any accidents and safety hazards, alerting security of any potential problems, and checking whether people may need medical attention.
Security is also a significant feature of a crowd management plan. Security personnel should be experienced in handling disputes, protecting from theft, implementing emergency services, and providing an overall safe and secure environment for the guests.
Crowd Management and Alcohol Issues
Having assessed various event conditions, a manager must then consider issues related to alcohol distribution. Alcohol sales and consumption may lead to excessive drinking and result in personal injury and property damage.
Personnel should follow proper policies associated with their own alcohol consumption. They should not drink on the job and should be trained to deal with intoxicated people. In addition, participants are not allowed to drink during their performance, and highly intoxicated individuals will not be allowed to enter the venue.
Policies concerning alcohol consumption should be created prior to the sale of alcohol. For instance, alcohol should not be sold where crowd problems are foreseeable. Age requirements must be strictly followed and enforced by regularly checking identification. Security should also be positioned where alcohol is sold. Intoxicated individuals must not be served, and a purchase limit should always be established. More importantly, alcohol should never be the event's primary source of income. In addition to alcohol, the security personnel should consider illegal drugs so that they reduce the risk of injury and other crowd problems.
In order for event managers to limit their liability, preserve their financial stability, and secure the success of the event, they must focus on both crowd management and crowd control. Developing crowd management and crowd control plans will help protect managers and employees as well as the public. By reviewing legal case event/venue managers can develop a better understanding of what both the public and the law expects from them in terms of protecting their guests. Thus, by creating plans with an eye toward these legal issues, event/venue managers may avoid legal liability and other negative implications. Through effective planning and organization, they will achieve financial success as well as a safe event.