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What We Learned Planning a 35,000-Person Event


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After hosting a 35,000-person event (huge!), we learned a lot. All events come with a ton of important components to consider and we’re here to help you avoid chaos and gain clarity on logistics and planning. These tips are helpful for big and small events alike, and especially so if you are looking to scale your event.

Let us begin by sharing a snapshot of our example event details:

  • 35,000 attendees

  • 3 days (Feb 1-3, 2019)

  • 24 sessions

  • 9 different ticket types

  • Location: Miami, FL


Event Planning CommunicationIt goes without saying that clear communication is important for just about...everything. It is especially true for event planning. An event of this size lends itself to information getting lost in the shuffle, and it won’t take long to see that you can take nothing for granted. Of course, communicating with your attendees is important and we’re here to remind you that communicating with your team is key! There’s nothing too small to share with the entire team; full transparency is critical. There will be challenges that come up along the way and keeping everyone in the loop will allow for an all-hands-on-deck approach to working through the obstacles, together.

Have a Plan C

You’re well aware that back-up plans are important. But what if somethingRFID Technology at Events goes wrong with your back-up plan as well? At our event, we knew we’d need to usher 35,000 people through security for our kick-off. We were using RFID badges and scanners for maximum efficiency and had to ask ourselves: what will happen if we lose our WiFi connection? 35,000 guests with no organized access point is a recipe for disaster. Knowing that bandwidth could be a realistic issue, our back-up plan was to use cellular. We didn’t stop there, we thought through all of the issues that might arise and created a third, alternative plan, should cellular also be an issue. Pulling from our old school toolkit, we brought green stickers to place on badges to grant access. While we did not end up needing the stickers, they would have been our saving grace had the technology failed. Give yourselves peace of mind by creating both a back-up plan and Plan C.

Venue and layout

When it comes to the layout and space of your event, the goal is to strike the right balance of convenience and comfort. Guests should be able to move freely, without bottlenecking. However, too much space will make for tired limbs and wasted time. In our first year holding this event of this size, our client was concerned with preventing bottlenecking and created large amounts of space between stations and learned that more space isn’t necessarily the best route to take. In year two, the various aspects of the event were more contained and centrally located. We found that tightening the layout made for a better overall flow. It’s important to consider the overall ratio of square footage to number of people to create the most comfortable yet practical layout.

Don’t forget to take a close look at the facilities that your guests will use. From restrooms to parking to dining, considering the space to person ratio will go a long way!


Scale your technology to meet the needs of your attendees. As mentioned, for this event, we used RFID technology to get attendees through the door. This decision was largely based on the number of entering guests. With 35,000 attendees, a manual greeting and access system would have taken too much time. Consider what is most practical for your event (size) and have a conversation with your technology provider about your options.

Human touch

Event Planning Learnings and Brainstorming Ideas

Technology is important, but you also need a robust team of people onsite at an event of this size. For our event, we had over 200 people working on location. Here are some tips for managing a capable team:

  • Set the staff up for success: Plan to have an actual person working at every stage and with every piece of the puzzle. Be sure to assign specific roles to each person. In addition to the “doers,” this includes “floaters.” Floaters can often be the glue that holds everything together as they handle on-the-spot requests, help facilitate communication, expedite issues and keep everyone on track.

  • Create clear chains of communication: Think and talk through anything that might need to be escalated and sketch a plan for how that communication will take place, including those teammates who will be able to assist.

  • Prevent burnout: It’s important to not overwork your team. When you have a big event, the work can sometimes feel endless. Before you know it, everyone is running around, so focused on the results that they don’t realize they’re tired and hungry. Keep yourself and your staff in-check with reasonable working hours, built-in breaks, fun and rest time.  

  • Lean on the experts: Include expert partners at each step. We used an agency to manage our production needs and made it a point to pair this group of experts with our temporary staff working the event. Doing so ensured a smooth and cohesive training, resulting in the most knowledgeable staff for running the event.

How Can MeetingPlay Help?

Remember that hosting any event — let alone one of large-scale — has a lot of moving pieces and can at times feel overwhelming. Use these tips will help to make sure you’ve covered all of your bases. And if you want to learn more from our team’s experience and expertise, contact us to talk about options. We’d love to discuss your next event! 

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