It’s never a good experience for attendees to arrive at an event and be welcomed with long queues. Last week, organisers of RuPaul’s first-ever DragCon UK had to apologise to fans who were unable to get into the venue – despite being ticket holders and waiting for hours outside. As an event planner, you may have your own horror stories with attendees waiting in the wind and rain to enter an event. Or maybe you have personally queued for hours only to find out it’s already over capacity?
Either way, long queues shouldn’t happen.
As well as having a negative impact on the attendee experience which can be long lasting and damage future engagement and perception, there is also the very real issue of health and safety concerns. First impressions matter too and waiting too long in line to get access to the event is not a good start – for anyone.
With that in mind, we have put together seven things you can do to help minimise the impact of queues at events and help you deliver the experience your attendees want. Have a look:
1) Use Your Event Data to Predict Attendance
You can use event registration data to predict and manage attendance. Data from pre-registration is invaluable as a start point. You will then need an estimate of walk-in attendees. This may be more difficult to calculate but you can look at patterns of attendee numbers for past or similar events.
Any historic information you have on attendee flow will also be useful. For example, are more delegates likely to turn up around lunch time just before the keynote speaker takes to the stage? You can also look for sign-ups to your sessions to help predict which sessions are likely to be more popular. This data will enable you to understand when a sudden occurrence of people is likely. You can then prepare accordingly. Event management systems like Eventsforce can help you do this quite easily – with real-time information on all session registrations. You can also look at chatter on social media channels to see which sessions and speakers people seem to be most excited about.
2) Brief On-Site Staff, Volunteers and Security personnel
Ensure that you have fully briefed staff, volunteers and security personnel who will be working at the heart of the registration area. It is essential that everyone pulls together and understands their responsibilities. Make sure the staff and volunteers understand who is in charge, what decisions they need to refer and when they can go for breaks, etc.
Security staff are invaluable in helping make sure that the venue is protected and event attendees remain safe. By working with them and utilising their experience you can gain insights that will help enhance the registration process. For instant communication and to facilitate working together (especially in case of crisis situations) you may want to create an internal group on WhatsApp. Don’t forget to have extra resources (people) on standby if you expect an influx that you cannot handle.
3) Design Your Event Registration Area
Think about the attendees’ journey from the moment they come into the registration area to the point at which they enter the event. The more obvious and efficient you make the area, the more it will enhance the experience. Whilst it is unlikely that delegates will make positive comments about the registration area, you can be sure that they will complain if it’s not up to scratch.
Once inside the registration area, is it obvious where people need to go? Where does a VIP go? Where do visitors that have pre-registered go? Members of the press? Clear and bold signage should be used. Easy to read signage is crucial and can have a significant impact on first impressions when people arrive. Your attendees don’t want to start their journey by standing in the wrong queue.
4) Make Event Check-in Super Simple
Check-in should be super simple. Make sure that the technology you use will assist with this. Self-service systems like Eventsforce Kiosk, for example, can cut the whole process of check-in and badge printing to seconds. Your attendees can check-in to an event through a simple name search or QR code scan and print their badges on the spot. Full integration with your registration solution ensures that the kiosks always display the most accurate and up-to-date registration information. This means that even your walk-ins won’t face any issues in finding their details on the system and checking-in.
Systems like these also provide valuable real-time data on attendance levels. The event manager can use their mobile phone to access the analytics tools and see in real-time how many people are checking in at any given time. This allows them to make quick decisions on adding more resources and it also helps with next-day or future planning.
5) Allow Time for Dropping off Coats and Security Screening
When you considered the design of your registration area you looked at the flow of people and how they could easily join the right queue. Equally important in your design thinking is where they go to leave luggage and coats. Is the cloakroom easy to get to or does it mean your attendees have to back track so as not to cross lines of people?
Attendees will also likely need to go through bag security. All the good work up to now of speeding delegates through check-in can come to a shuddering stop if the bag security isn’t well executed. To keep things moving along and to not surprise your attendees, you can let them know in advance that there will be a security check. Give them time to get their bits and bobs ready for inspection. You could advise them of this in your email communications and by posting information on your event website. Look at what happens at security screening at airports and apply some of their techniques to your event. Creating awareness of what people need to do at security screening will speed up the overall process and reduce the time that attendees wait in queues.
6) Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is a double-edged sword that you can use to your advantage. Attendees waiting in line longer than they think is appropriate (remember we live in a world of immediacy) are likely to take out their phones and use social media channels to vent their unhappiness. This is not good especially when you want to encourage people to come to your event. You do not want potential attendees put off from coming to your event.
However, you can use social media channels as a means of helping attendees understand what is happening. Managing expectations is half the job if you have a problem on your hands.
7) Stay in Control
If you have more delegates showing up than anticipated, you may need to restrict entry until you can safely allow more people into the event. There would be little point in moving delegates from the registration area to then crowd the exhibition floor or conference rooms. You always need to be in control, not least because of health and safety issues.
You may need to borrow some of the tips and techniques used by organisations that are used to dealing with crowd control. Think of the times when you have to wait to go to an underground platform to get your tube. You have to wait until there is room enough on the platform. The same principle applies to your event.
Again, event tech can help. Using push notifications on your event app is a great way to keep attendees up to date with any potential issues. The main thing is that you keep people informed and stay in control.
An Ongoing Strategy
The challenge of queues at events and ever-increasing attendee expectations is here to stay. It has been for some time but in a world where almost everything needs to be delivered immediately, the challenge is accentuated.
To help you deal with the issue of long queues at events we have provided some steps that you can put into place immediately. However, what’s needed as well, is a strategy that you create and continuously develop. What can you learn from people behaviour at events, what data can you use and how can you keep improving that amazing attendee registration experience? Keep asking these questions around each event, look at other industries, use robust event management software and keep learning.
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