Crowd Control – Sizing up (or down) the Competition


“When you can’t change the direction of the wind — adjust your sails.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Early Summer, 2017 – During the first day of our game “Relentless”, my team corralled 128 individuals into the first of seven weekly events.  The inspiration for the event was taken from a daytime talk show and involved musical chairs with beach balls – 60 or 70 beach balls to be exact.  We utilized a megaphone with loud music pulsating from speakers across the game field.

Late Summer, 2017 – Contrast the beginning of “Relentless” to the end, when we had a total of 6 players remaining.  The final challenge involved a number of stations, each with it’s own intricate challenge to complete, including working with the Science Center of Iowa and a ball of fire to kick off the finale.

The point of my examples is to show the gulf that exists in planning for a lot of participation vs. planning for a small group of individuals.

What’s the BIG idea?

When working with a large crowd (particularly a non-profit event), work to limit the budgetary expenditure needed to pull off a challenge that is inexpensive but still fun.

With “Relentless”, we chose an activity that created a big enough splash to serve as the kick-off of our whole event.  We purchased the beach balls on sale at our local Menard’s home-improvement center.

To avoid overtaxing our small committee, we enlisted an army of volunteers to assist with the day’s event.  They directed participants in and out of our arena, kept the game moving, and were our eyes and ears when it came to rules.

The nature of the challenge was easy to explain, easy to participate in, and was something over a hundred players could be a part of in under an hour.

LITTLE did I know…

On the other hand, when you’re working with a small group of participants, as we did on the final day of “Relentless”, we were able to make the challenge much more elaborate and still complete it in the hour we had allotted.

We began our finale with the science center’s ball of fire to signal the remaining three teams of two that they could begin.  We’d set up an arena outside that included 9 individual stations that the teams had to complete in any order they chose.  As each station was completed, they received a clue to the location of their final challenge.

The stations themselves included a variety of tasks (some harkening back to the prior week competitions), and involved teams:

  • Successfully reaching a certain level of a game on their iPhone
  • Consuming a non-alcoholic beer
  • Locating poker chips in a huge tub of slimy sludge to spell a code word (with extra chips with wrong letters included add to the tension)
  • Completing a video quiz pertaining to previous weeks of our game
  • Obtaining 2 dog biscuits (edible for humans) and convincing strangers to eat them on their behalf
  • and more…

Once the clue from each of the stations was in hand, the teams then had to translate the numbers (which were in hexadecimal) into a code that would unlock the final step of the game to win.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Controlling a Crowd

In concluding this entry, I’ll leave you with a few things to consider to make sure you (or your committee) remain in control of your competitive event:

  1. Communicate to your volunteers that they are responsible and should focus on their specified role only.
  2. It’s better to have too many helping hands than not enough.
  3. Test…test…test your events, but especially those involving a super large crowd.
  4. Expand your plan if you have less people involved to fill the time you’re working with and keep the office talking about the crazy things they witness there.
  5. Invest in a megaphone to make sure all participants (and volunteers) know what’s going on and the expectation(s) you have for them during the contest (check out Amazon for low-cost options).
  6. Allow a moment or two to clarify for participants any questions they may have before beginning the event.  Nothing is more awkward than a false start!
  7. Ensure you have the right space and the right supplies for the crowd you’re working with (including spectators).
  8. Use barriers, rope, tables, etc. to define your space and any space needed for your audience.
  9. If you are working with an outside entity (the Science Center in our example above), make certain someone on the inside escorts them and makes them feel comfortable in the role they play in your event.
  10. Keep entry and exit spaces defined and to a minimum.
  11. Check with your security personnel to make certain you are aware of any requirements or policies that would apply for your event.  Example?  Liability insurance in case of an unexpected accident.
  12. Don’t allow for players to sabotage or interfere with the equipment you are using during the game/event.  Everyone should have the same opportunity to win or simply finish the task.  Secure the right volunteers to keep the game fair.

What other tips or rules do you suggest adding to the list?  Note them in the comments.

Until next time, thanks for your continued interest in MotEventure!





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