Every event needs somebody to run the show and they need to be located somewhere. For small events this would be the event manager, a phone and or radio and perhaps a table. As your event gets bigger in size and complexity then a designated space – gazebo, tent, portable cabin or room is required: to which people can be directed to. When you have large numbers attending your event or a lot of logically challenges (things or people) then the effective running of event control is critical to the ultimate success of your event. Event control can take many forms, but there are some important considerations that need to be thought about when setting up and operating them. Here are a few pointers.
How do you run event control effectively?
Who’s in the room?
This is a fine balance between pleasing everyone, and getting the job done. There are some people who definitely need to be in event control and there are those who want to event control. Although in my experience working in event control is not usually something that is oversubscribed! Important decisions need to be made in event control, and this is best done in a quiet, controlled environment. Make a list of who needs to be in event control, versus who wants to be there. Overcrowding can become a problem if there is not a strict, controlled list of who has access to event control, and who can visit the event control room under supervision.
For large events then you would expect people like the following to be there, and these can include your Security, Medical and Fire leads, Police reps, Public Relations, CCTV, and Event Director / Manager and Safety Officer.
Everybody who needs to be part of making ‘important event decisions’ should be in Event Control or be able to easily and quickly get to it.
What are the backup room plans?
Event control needs to be located in an appropriate room or structure. However do consider what your back up plan would be if it became unusably or an evacuation is ordered (it happens). What is your back up plan – where could you move to, set up and make ready?
Technology and Communications
If you are using technology and communications systems at your event, ensure everyone is familiar with their use and knows their limitations? Do you have a backup plan for communications and radio systems – should they fail? This is worth working out before event day to prevent problems on the day.
Realise the limitations of event control
Event control can only make decisions based on the information it receives and processes. So it has its limitations. The quality of the information received is paramount.
Event control needs good people to operate it but crucially event managers must deploy the best people they can at the event. Choose and train your ‘on the ground teams’ carefully and with the nature of your event in mind. Good event teams will ensure those in event control receive the most accurate information available and so enable them to make the most appropriate decisions.
With large events it is always sensible to carry out pre-event table top exercises. Set them up so they are at different times of day, cover different types of situations and with multiple stakeholders to ensure common understanding of requirements and to help build your event control team. It is also wise to ensure you carry out proper shift handover / briefing / debriefings to maintain situational awareness within the control room.
Use common view maps
You should only ever use ‘common view’ maps using north up and endeavour to remove any unnecessary details – e.g. contour lines so everybody is working of the same site plans
Walk the event
I suggest everybody in event control room and all key personal and stewards should ‘walk the site’. This will help site orientation and at this point you can note and agree what are significant landmarks (everyone knows) on common view maps.
That looks suspicious
‘Suspicious’ is anything that does not ‘fit’ or produces a level of discomfort or interest. Event control staff / stewards and security officers on the ground will see things differently (both visually and cognitively) and this needs to be considered when giving and receiving information. Help staff to gain a familiarity of the event environment in order to understand what is ‘normal’ for the environment.
Logging calls, incidents, changes, decisions made
Logging has to be a constant, continuous process as human recall in such a pressured environment is flawed.
Can I confirm….checking and verifying information?
We all see things differently so don’t be afraid to check and verify any information received. In may be inaccurate and can be influenced by biases of interpretation and personal perception. It is wise therefore to foster an environment where is it acceptable and necessary to check information received. Clearly not all information needs double checking!
Yes you can talk to us: Encourage open communications
It is important to establish open communications and good relationships within the control room, and between the control room and those on the ground to reduce any perceived barriers to reporting.
Hello I am
All those in event control should as a matter of routine introduce themselves to key staff on the ground to improve reporting and to break down any barriers.
Set a common language
Do not use any acronyms or abbreviations. This will reduce misunderstandings.
Does this really apply to my conference, party, sport event…etc. well I think so and here’s how:
- Getting the right people in event control really does matter
- Thinking about if you had to move event control where could you go, is just sensible
- Technology will fail you. Having a spare laptop, Wi-Fi booster, projector just makes good sense
- Having the best ‘on the ground’ team you can afford not only makes for a better event it also helps you make smarter decisions
- Having a full run through in person is unlikely but running table top exercise is certainly possible and wise
- Only having one style of site plan reduces misunderstandings
- Being familiar with the site layout will always aid communications
- Having staff who are aware of what suspicious might look like is again helpful in resolving or preventing an incident
- Checking the information given to you is always wise
- As the event manager you should make a point of introducing yourself to key personnel – after all if you are going to be telling them what to do it nice to know who you are
Running an event is tough: I know, as do many of you, but there are a few things you can do to help make event day a little less stressful. The above will help ensure your event day is memorable for all the right reason.
Of course event control should also contain a box of chocolates and access to coffee!
What do you think makes a good event controller?
Chris Powell, The Event Expert specialises in helping accidental and occasional event planners develop the skills and confidence to design, programme, promote and deliver their own exceptional events. I deliver In-house and on-line event management courses and consultancy services covering all types of public and business events. www.theeventexpert.co.uk