Fyre Festival🔥Netflix’s hottest new doco has certainly brought to life the many things that are wrong with the world.
The numerous accounts of fraud (or false advertising in the famous words of Ja Rule) made for a definite headliner but what about the management of the attendees? The festival looked more like a prison and with limited food and water, it probably felt like one. For all of you event planners out there, this is a prime example of how not to manage your crowd.
Yes, you might sympathise with the management team, as Billy McFarland deceived them as well as the crowd but remember that their lack of judgment and planning did leave the event in further disarray. Luckily for them, the cameras focus on the more dominant personal throughout the film. For entertainment purposes, this was a given. A hustler, a rapper/singer, supermodels, and Andy King (one to look out for 👀), Netflix knew who the audience wanted to see.
However, everyone involved in the planning phase definitely played their part in assuring the crowd that this was going to be the next big thing. The attendee’s expectations were set high from the get-go with Fyre Festival offering non-existent ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ luxury villa’s for the ultimate Fyre experience. When the participants rocked up to ‘paradise’ they were presented with something slightly different… Instead of the luxury villas and gourmet meals for which they paid thousands of dollars, they received a prepacked cheese sammy and FEMA tents (used for emergency shelters) as their accommodations. Understandably tempers and emotions began to flare, resulting in an extremely hostile environment.
The event’s team had gone into hiding mode, as you start to realise that they were way in over their heads. One of the most concerning things about the management was there was zero crowd control to mitigate the potential risks. Due to the lack of communication and resources, the attendees were pretty much left to fend for themselves. Hints of desperation started to unfold with participants tweeting ‘send help’, ‘everyone for themselves’ and ‘I will survive’. Considering they had limited food and water, it was hard to determine which of those statements were actually fiction or the real thing.
The management team were clearly out of their depth and with no further instructions from Mr McFarland himself, it really was everyone for themselves. If you’re an event planner you’re probably thinking that this is an extreme case and managing a crowd is a lot easier in a less hostile environment. Well yes, of course, this was an extreme case, but if you’re not effectively managing your crowd, a hostile environment can arise from the smallest of incidents.
To help you effectively manage your crowd and avoid certain incidents, check out the following best practices.
There’s no reason why your communication methods shouldn’t work. Do your research and you’ll find several robust operations and communications platforms that can effectively relay the right messaging for your event. A good communication system will also strengthen your relationship with your attendees, in a virtuous relationship of trust.
Acknowledge the social identity of the crowd at your event. If you’re aware of their social stance, you will have a much better understanding of their norms and rules, which will help you work with them and not against.
Funnily enough, your attendees do have a bit in common after all - for one they like your event. Because of their common interests, they do tend to support each other, ranging from the smallest courtesy to helping someone up from a mosh pit. These sorts of things unite the crowd and enhance the atmosphere. If you want to encourage this, try and determine what interactive cues work so that you can get everyone on the same side.
Wayfinding is one of the key crowd control techniques that has evolved over time. Wayfinding can be defined as a system that guides people through physical environments to enhance their understanding and experience of the space. Use this technique to help with foot traffic. Clear signage and markers will help the attendees find their way around. Use things such as stanchion ropes and posters. This will mitigate congestion, resulting in a steady crowd flow.
You may be required to block certain areas off due to renovation, cleaning, safety or repairs. Ensure that the markings and messaging are clear so that it doesn’t turn into a safety hazard. If the area is blocking any major passageway, provide an alternative route.
The Fyre Festival was always doomed from the beginning but this doesn’t take away the fact that the management team had no plan in place for the crowd when things did take a turn for the worst.
Having control over your crowd is imperative to the success of your event. This doesn’t mean you need to become some over the top law enforcer but you should take the time to understand your crowd and know how your venue is set up.
In Fyre Festival's case, the management team were so disorganised that they had no time to empathise with the crowd and they definitely had no understanding of how the venue was set up. If McFarlane wasn't involved, who knows it may have been a success but the result of the festival goes to show that potential risks are just waiting to happen. It’s hard to predict how your event will turn out but having control over your crowd will definitely have a positive impact on the outcome.