what to do when your event gets too crowded

what to do when your event gets too crowded


Every planner wants their event to be a success and that often means a full house. But what happens where there are too many people? Or when it feels crowded because everyone arrives at once?

An event planner wears many hats, and one of those hats is crowd control. First and foremost, crowd issues can be a safety concern. But aside from safety issues, when there are crowds or long lines, your guests can become unhappy or uncomfortable.

Here are just a few scenarios where crowds can get out of hand and what you can do.


Long lines at registration are always a pain. Luckily this is one of those things where your procedures can be streamlined in order to help with crowds. Make sure you have enough registration stations and make sure stations are labeled appropriately. For example, if you want guests to queue based on last name, make sure those signs are easy to read. Make sure your registration process is smooth and flows logically. For example, if guests will receive their nametag and then a book, have the book in the location you want guests to go next, so the lines flow in the right direction. If there is a snafu with someone’s registration, have a staff member address the issue off to the side so that the line can keep moving.

Buffet Lunch

It’s common to have a buffet lunch during a conference, but it can be tricky if the entire group breaks at the same time and hits the buffet stations all at once. Work with your caterer on this one to provide as many buffet lines as possible – double lines as well! Preferably set each buffet line with the same exact spread and repeat that to guests so they know to get on any line. Have staff direct guests to shorter or further away lines to keep everyone moving. Address specific diet meals (such as Vegan or Gluten Free) at a separate line and communicate this to guests this will affect.

what to do when your event gets too crowded

Cocktail Reception

At some events, an open bar can mean a mad rush for a free drink and endless lines. I was a guest at an event recently where there were two double bars and no more than 200 guests but there were still consistently long lines the entire night (it was a heavy drinking group). And unfortunately, it was one of the things that many guests I spoke to remembered: how long the lines were just to get a drink.

In order to combat this, make sure you have enough bars to serve your guests. The standard is 1 bartender per 100 guests, but if you know your guests are frat boys heavy drinkers – or alternatively, if the reception is very short, you might want to lower that ratio.

Other ideas: place the bars deep inside the space (but not totally hidden). You want to draw the crowds into the space instead of creating a bottleneck near the entrance. I also love to have tray passed drinks, at least during the time when most guests arrive, so some guests don’t have to wait in line. Consider having a self-serve station for non-alcoholic drinks, so guests aren’t waiting in long lines just for a soda. Ask bartenders to pre-pour drinks and pre-mix signature drinks.

What about food at cocktail receptions? Try passed hors d’oeuvres instead of or in addition to displays. Spread displayed food around the room rather than having it in one central location.

Other Ideas

No matter what kind of event you are working on, make sure you have the appropriate number of staff.  It’s helpful to have extra people on hand just to guide people in the right direction. The caterer or venue staff may be able to assist with this if you’re short on volunteers.

When you are choosing a venue, be realistic about how many people can fit in the space. Take note of any obstacles, such as pillars or décor. Always do a site visit if possible and walk the space the way a guest will and determine the flow. If there are any pressure points, work with the venue to rearrange furniture if possible to work around the obstacles.

Those are just a few quick suggestions on managing crowds. Always make sure you share anticipated numbers with your venue contact so they can help. And remember, safety is always a priority!

Photo Credits: { Momentum Marketing | Toronto Comics }