As an event professional, one of your responsibilities is to anticipate things that could go wrong before or during the event. Yet, this task becomes trickier when you move from logistic-related challenges to security issues.
As Peter E. Tarlow highlights in his book Event Risk Management and Safety, "Whenever we bring people together, there is an element of risk." From small to big meetings, from conferences to exhibitions, from insignificant to large number of attendees, safety has to occupy the central role in the event-planning process.
Tarlow explains, "As an event professional, it is important that you understand that it is significantly less expensive to manage a risk prior to the event than to deal with the crisis after it has occurred." There is nothing more relevant, especially for the hallmark events. As researcher Colin Michael Hall specifies, hallmark events represent all the "major fairs, expositions, cultural and sporting events of international status which are held on either a regular or a one-off basis." He adds, "A primary function of the hallmark event is to provide the host community with an opportunity to secure high prominence in the tourism market place."
Hallmark events, such as the Olympic Games, international concerts, or big cultural manifestations require a special set of safety measures, taking into account that in this case, "Security legacies are primarily important for the host nation/city, not for the event organisers."
Yet, it’s impossible to neglect the large number of people that usually attend hallmark events. That’s why organizers are responsible for setting up efficient safety parameters and managing risk situations. To do so, event planners should be aware of crowd management secrets that aren't obvious to others. Here are some of them:
Secret #1. Understand the crowd psychology
One of the biggest risks during hallmark events is losing control over the crowd behavior. As Peter E. Tarlow notes, "Crowds do not always listen to those in authority. Anyone who has observed a riot at a rock concert or at a sports event knows that, despite the best efforts of the authorities, people can turn from individuals into a mob."
To survive a hallmark event, organizers should know how to control the crowd. Moreover, is important to understand how to manage the panic of crowds that can easily manifest because of proximity (crowd panic occurs mostly because of the close physical contact people have with each other).
According to Tarlow, "When panic occurs, the slow 'movement in group' disintegrates and others are dehumanized. In a panic, people have a tendency to take care of themselves and to become blind to the other person's needs." Thus, the main skill a hallmark event manager should have is to know how crowd psychology works and know how to manage it.
Secret #2. Identify the intentional instigators
Have you ever found yourself waiting for the green light, when a group decided to cross on the red, and you had the urge to follow them? Crowd behavior is contagious. That’s why intentional instigators and troublemakers are so dangerous. When planning hallmark events, as Tarlow describes, it’s important to train people to identify those who have the intention of causing trouble or encouraging the crowd to manifest aggressive behaviors.
Secret #3. Pre-establish evacuation procedures
Crazy things happen when the crowd is panicked and people want to escape, yet they don’t have clear exit routes. As Julia Rutherford Silvers argues, "A crisis is a critical moment when a situation or condition can turn into a catastrophe, causing damage, losses, injuries, and/or fatalities." Silvers highlights that, "Although emergencies requiring evacuation are much less likely to occur than crowd conflicts, they have the greatest potential for crowd panic and injury." To avoid these situations, event planners have to dedicate their time to analyze the venue blueprint, identify any unobstructed routes, and train the employees or team members to flawlessly executive the evacuation procedures.
Hallmark events are prominent, especially because of hosting an incredible number of attendees. That's why crowd management and strict security measures are a must. Obviously, it takes time, effort, and a great deal of training, yet risk assessment and preventive actions may save your entire event from disaster.