Queues - Are they even necessary anymore?

Picture of a stage with a band playing at a venue. The venue has a skate ramp in the middle and there's a crowd watching.

In all of your planning, are you figuring out what the entrance looks like for your guests?  If you’re running festivals or large scale events, you’ve probably thought about how best to make sure…

  • There’s no bottle necks
  • The line moves as quickly or consistently as possible
  • The check in process is fast and hopefully electronic
  • There’s a VIP or Express lane
  • There’s somewhere for people to be directed if something’s not working
  • That they know what to do or where to go once they get inside
  • The entrance is well signed, lit up and easy to find

I’m talking about this because recently I went to see Tony Hawk at The Fortitude, and it was awesome.  It was such a great event, well thought out, a skate ramp in the middle of the venue!  Pizza, free tattoos, the good old fashioned tech deck games, retro versions (including TV’s) of Tony Hawk Pro Skater, as well as the latest versions on Xbox, plus live music that not only kicked *ss with the variety of generations in the space, but they were also the bands that featured in the games! It was epic!

But just like any #eventprof I can’t help but look at the event and see what works well and what could do with an improvement, and for this event, it was the audience lining up from getting in to getting a tattoo…

The Fortitude is one big open space and they’ve done really well to build platforms on the mezzanine to do what they can to make sure that no matter where you are, you can see.  There are a few bars dotted around the joint, and lots of different spaces to chillout, that I hadn’t seen before.  Some epic event spaces if you haven’t seen it.

We lined up for nearly an hour for doors.  We were just sheep, don’t get me wrong.  No-one told us to line up, we just followed other people.  But once inside it was evident that it wasn’t necessary.  So instead of spending our money in the associated bar, we didn’t spend anything waiting in the line.  Lost revenue, bored customers, not really what you want at the start of your event.

Once inside as I say, there plenty of things to do, eat and drink and the vibe was high.  They announced the free tattoo stand and people rushed – to line up again….  My son was one of these people and after lining up for more than an hour, missing all the pre-show entertainment, me going back and forth getting them food and drink, the line was cut right when it was his turn.  We knew the risks, we knew it was possible, and he was prepared to take that risk, but it still didn’t stop the frustration of missing out. We couldn’t really enjoy the show after that, and consequently left.  It was a bummer way to end the night. Yep, it was his choice, but I reckon the disappointment could have been avoided and here’s how…

Event lines are common, we expect them, most of the time we’re prepared to stand in them, but have you ever really tried to be innovative and consider if you need them?

Lets’ think about this one a little differently…

  • Did the guests need to line up in the Mall before doors – No. There is ample opportunity to communicate with your guest both pre event and on arrival, what will be the best experience for them.  A few signs along the path suggesting we didn’t need to line up, that it was an open venue, with plenty of room to move around, would have encouraged me to ditch the line and find a bar stool.  The added bonus, I walk in the venue hyped with excitement, ready to play, and I’ve spent money in their associated venue on the way.
  • Can you stagger arrival times? Yes, I know you want everyone in so you can maximise bar take, merchandise, etc., but I’m talking as little as 15 minute intervals.  A bit like the red light stop signs on the entrance to the freeway to ease congestion.  Consider if this might work for your event so people get a smooth arrival and just glide on in to your event.
  • Do you even need scanners at the front? Now this is radical and I’ve never tried it, but what if people could just walk in and instead of scanning a ticket, your staff did random ticketing checks like they do on public transport?  For this venue and ones like it, it wouldn’t be long before the reputation would spread.  At your conference or event, it’s sometimes easy to pick the ones that aren’t meant to be there, just ask them for their ticket and if they can’t show it, security escorts them out – easy! I do a couple of big corporate lunches in hotels where this works well.
  • And now back to the tattoo line… OMG this would have been sooooo easy to fix!  Here’s a tip, you have a mobile communication device at your fingertips, as does EVERYONE in the room – no new technology needed, no scanning, no pinging, no extra payments.  Your phone, their phone, it’s all you need.  I’ll break down the steps…
    1. Customer goes to the tattoo line – gives their phone number
    2. Activation says thanks, we’ll text you when it’s your turn, you have 10 minutes to get back here, or you’re at the back of the line
    3. That’s it – no buzzers needed, no new infrastructure, just a text.

And then what happens is they can enjoy the rest of the entertainment, spend their money in the bar, on the merch, etc., etc., and pop on back when it’s their turn.  If they don’t get there in time, that’s on them and you’ve done your best.

Do you have any great ideas to help guests get into your event easily and start enjoying the experience sooner?  We would all love to hear about it.