MANAGING ENORMOUS EVENTS
WE'VE WRITTEN BEFORE ABOUT SMALL, INTIMATE EVENTS AND WE THOUGHT IT WOULD BE FUN TO INVESTIGATE WHAT IT TAKES TO PULL OF AN EVENT OF OPPOSITE PROPORTION. LARGE-SCALE EVENTS CAN BE OVERWHELMING, SO LET US TAKE THE GUESSWORK OUT OF IT FOR YOU AND HELP LAY A FOUNDATION FOR WHAT REALLY WORKS WHEN YOU'RE RESPONSIBLE FOR AN ENORMOUS EVENT. BIG EVENTS CAN GATHER AUDIENCES OF A THOUSAND PEOPLE OR MORE, SOMETIMES TENS OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS. WE'VE PREVIOUSLY COVERED A COUPLE VERY SUCCESSFUL LARGE EVENTS (COMIC-CON, CES) BUT HERE'S WHAT WE THINK WILL MAKE YOUR NEXT BIG EVENT A SMASHING SUCCESS.
PRIORITY #1: PREPAREDNESS
We think the best foundation for a big event is preparation. If possible, begin to plan your event months in advance of the date you set. If your event is annual, meet as soon as one event is over to debrief about what will make the next year's an even bigger success. Since everyone wants this to be a well-oiled machine, putting a comprehensive plan in place as soon as you can will allow plenty of time to deal with any inevitable complications of a huge event. Think in scale: make sure that your planning is in proportion to the size of your event. Get your team together early and often.
PRIORITY #2 LOGISTICS
As far as priorities go, skillfully organizing the logistics of a big event is essential. How many people are you expecting? Where will they all need to be during specific times? How will they get from point A to point B? Will they be comfortable? How will you account for people with physical limitations or special needs? What about food, water, restrooms, trash, and emergencies? What are the security concerns? What is the weather forecast? There are many, many long and short term needs to be considered. Depending on the size of your audience, the scale for these questions is potentially enormous. If you've got a circus-sized event to manage, make sure you've covered all your bases. We've outlined some of the most critical considerations below.
PRIORITY #3: SECURITY
Large crowds often present particular security issues and therefore, security for large events is of paramount concern. Unfortunately, there are occasionally safety issues in places like open air markets, nightclubs, and other venues. Depending on how high profile your event, talent lineup and attendees are, you may need to take security precautions above the standard: barriers and checkpoints, secure safety perimeters, or other considerations. If necessary, you can hire private security firms that can help you determine your level of security need and plan and budget accordingly.
PRIORITY #4: TRANSPORTATION
Especially for events like conferences or festivals that span several days, attendees will need to get from one place to another, with peak times surrounding the days' main events. As part of your planning and logistics strategies, make sure you take all of this into consideration. Which of your attendees or talent will require private cars or limousines? Will guests be taking taxis or using ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft? When and where will vendor delivery trucks arrive and unload? Is any public transportation available to your venue or will you need to consider a shuttle bus or other transportation service? Checking in early with your security is essential here to be sure that your transportation and logistics plans are in alignment with any safety concerns. When you're holding a grand affair, remember that guests feel safe and cared for when they know you've made a plan for them to get where they need to go.
PRIORITY #5: SANITATION
Large volumes of people means large volumes of waste. We are not going to get too detailed here because you know what we mean, but let's just say, lots and lots of garbage cans and restrooms (or port-a-potties) will be necessary for any big event. It may be an unappealing conversation but it sure is necessary. The solid infrastructure we have in the U.S. for waste management is why we aren't living under mountains of garbage and why our streets don't look like they did in the 18th century. Don't forget to consider recycling plans when you're planning your waste management to reduce the environmental impact of your festivities. Your venue will assist with this, as well, but when you have many hundreds of people (or more) at an event you're managing, be sure that you estimate the right number of restrooms and waste management personnel to account for the needs of the multitudes.
PRIORITY #6 HOUSING
Big events are pretty exhausting and everyone will need a place to rest. If you're hosting your event in a small town or mid-sized metropolis be sure that your guests will not find the hotels booked to the gills. Make sure area accommodations can absorb the influx of thousands of humans you are expecting at your event. You can reserve blocks of rooms, work with hotel management to offer discounts for volume room purchases, or other incentives. If you have additional expectations of the hotel staff such as perks for your guests, gift bags, or other VIP treatment, be sure you've alerted the concierge(s) at each hotel so they know what to expect and how to work best with your guests. Additionally, be sure you have enough in-house event staff to act as liaisons so that attendees feel that the journey to your event was worthwhile. If your big event is only a day, make sure you have given everyone breaks (attendees and staff) and that you have a lounge area or other spot for people to catch a restorative moment.
PRIORITY #7 FOOD
We all know that when there are many people gathered together and there are festivities of any kind, people are going to get hungry and need to eat. Many large events have multiple micro-events within the framework--pre- and post-parties, award ceremonies, galas or balls, etc. Each event is its own celebration of sorts and each requires good food and drinks. Throughout each day, also, it's helpful to have small snack stations or food vendors for attendees to have refreshments when needed. Providing your guests with hydration and sustenance is helpful, especially in case there are delays, emergencies, or long stretches between activities. Especially at extra-large events, this can be an awesome opportunity to court sponsors, do brand collaborations, or other marketing integrations. Due to the direct exposure, many food and drink brands view large scale events as an enormous boon, one that can garner new customers on an epic scale. As the organizer, make sure that you keep some healthy snacks handy so that you can retain all the energy you need to get you through the day(s). Feeling hangry is the worst! Don't let it happen to anyone at your event.
PRIORITY #8 BUDGET
So, you may be asking, what do big, big events really cost? Well, the answer is: a lot. Actual cost will be entirely variable depending on all of the factors of your particular situation. Depending on the type of your event, some cost can be offset by sponsors, paid tables, and/or other fundraising strategies. We have a little cheat sheet if you want our two cents on how to maximize a small budget. (Just click on that handy link there). You definitely have to strategize your budget to get the most out of your event. When you start planning, try to get a clear sense of how much your big event will cost and prioritize accordingly. Planning ahead as early as possible will allow for enough time to fundraise among your target audience so that you (or your company / organization) is not wholly responsible for paying for every expense.
WE HOPE THAT THE NEXT TIME YOU'RE EXPECTING A BIG CROWD, YOU'LL CONSIDER THESE TACTICS TO MAKE THE EVENT AS SUCCESSFUL AS POSSIBLE. WE ARE EXPERTS IN PLANNING AND PRODUCING ANY SIZE EVENT AND WE'D LOVE TO HELP YOU WITH YOURS. GET IN TOUCH WITH US ANYTIME.