Over the years, we have seen many events, from bands, sports teams, community groups, street environments and corporations. During that time, I cannot recall a defined way I spoke to each grouping. As with everything, there are similarities, but never once have we used the same methods of communication with every group or individuals. We all receive information differently.
So how do I communicate with tens, or hundreds, or thousands of people grouped together?
There is never going to be a one size fits all, and that; at times, this can create problems for us. If most crowd managers or those associated as safety leads on crowded events rely on others to communicate on our behalf are we achieving the results that we want.
As experts in our fields; communication is not always our priority. The bigger the event, we will tend to find there is a lead on media and communication. But, how much input do you; as the expert on crowds, have on on what medium will be used to communicate, what will be conveyed and more importantly, when.
I am sure most involved in providing safety for crowded events may only consider how to communicate to their crowd when it is most vital; an emergency. It is more likely that communication up to that point will come through media leads and on instruction from event management leads. Is this possibly on oversight on our part though.
Media and communications
Media and communications leads have a few bows to pluck at an event;
- promoting the event through its life cycle,
- coordinate the press over the event
- and be a vital part of crisis communications for the event.
They are not experts in crowded places though, they rely on information from experts. If we do not provide this information or play any part of the comms package, can you fault the information and forms of communication platforms utilised.
How do you want to communicate and what?
As an active participant in crowd safety, you can play an active role in the comms plan when it comes to preparing your crowd, even before they arrive for the event. You could also prepare them for emergencies and familiarise them with evacuation plans.
What could you consider?
- How are your crowd getting to you; transport and safe walking routes?
- What are they wearing? Is it suitable for the elements or with this cause you problems.
- What are they bringing with them? What do you not want them to bring?
- What do they expect from the day?
- What do you expect of them?
- How are they leaving at the end of the event so you can plan for this?
- What and how will they express themselves after the event so you can find information?
Now some of these may not come springing to mind when you initially think about managing a crowd, but they all play their part; may it be big or small. As crowd managers it takes more than just the physical management of people to create a safe and successful event. Knowing the thoughts and needs of those attending will assist you in this process.
During the event.
- How do you get information out to the crowd, what is the most effective way?
- Do you monitor social media feeds? #dontmissatrick
- What if you need to relay helpful information?
- Will those attending find the information and use it?
- Does the environment you are using allow for easy communication or does it present challenges?
- Do you have pre prepared information and variations for different situations?
Being prepared with information you know you may need is important to effective communication to your crowd. Looking at variations of these plans will also assist you.
Ending the event
- Where are your crowd heading off to and how they are getting there?
- Do they know how to get there; it may be dark?
- Do they have the correct travel information and know of delays?
- What information means have been planned to get information to assist in departure?
It is safe to say, at the end of the event, nearly all of those attending just want to leave; especially the later the night is. The priority of the crowd is to get on their way in as quick and easy a way as possible. How we communicate prior to and at the end of the event should be aimed at achieving this.
- How do those that attended share their thoughts on the event?
- Where should you look?
- Should you share additional information to assist in planning for future events?
If you only look internally, you could miss out on a vast amount of useful information that relates to safety; even if those sharing are not aware of this. Nowadays people are more willing to air there frustrations, displeasure or complaints about an event; even instantly or stream live in some cases. The ease of social media to all is the driver behind this.
What are your plans from crisis situations?
We have seen many plans, we have heard many inventive and unique ways of passing vital information during a crisis. We have seen multi stage, step by step guidelines. We always have the same thought process though.
Is it simple and easy to follow?
During crisis, simple, clear and easy to follow steps and information are required. They also have to be targeted in the correct manner and at speed. Making your comms plan overly complicated will slow everything down and that will be too late. Where possible brief out as much information to the event workforce, all the event workforce.
We will leave you with two events to think about and how you would best communicate to those attending; pre, during and post for both standard operation and emergency.
Think about a stadium size Taylor Swift concert.
Think about a street event with a possible attendance of over 30,000 people.
Where would you start, what stages would you go through and bring all those ideas together. We have spent a bit of time on this and how we would best bring what we need out of those corners of the mind. For this, we created a variation on a risk assessment to bring our thoughts to one place.
Now, normally we would attach this to this blog, but we wanted a bit more thought by our readers on the matter. We have attached it though. But unlike normal it is hiding in this site somewhere; we believe this is called an Easter Egg (thank you to an associate for this idea, a bit of fun). A PDF of the risk assessment had been stored somewhere and this will assist you.
More importantly though, think about what you want to say, how and where.
You are part of the comms plan, if you keep quiet, then how are you supposed to keep people safe.
Workingwithcrowds.com 27th October 2018