Whether your team wins or loses may be the most important thing. But there is no escaping the reality that the event-day experience also is a big influence on whether fans choose to return or stay away from your venue or event. In the event security realm, technologies continue to evolve and so do fan expectations. The year ahead will bring challenges and opportunities to meet those expectations.

CHALLENGE: Developing a security experience that is tailored to individual fans, with an understanding of how many fans interact through digital means, while not leaving behind legacy fans who are used to more traditional information sources.

OPPORTUNITY: Recognize there are many avenues and layers to connecting with fans to set security expectations, and use multiple methods that range from the traditional (radio/TV, newspapers, posters, flyers) to more contemporary (text, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat) and everything in between (Facebook, keeping website information current at all times). Digital interaction has many upsides, including immediacy and the ability to personalize the fan interaction. But don’t neglect the broad spectrum of fans. Most college football games sell out thanks to attendance by faithful alumni, not students.

CHALLENGE: Fans want to feel safe, but when that means mandatory use of metal detection for all bags and other materials carried into a stadium, the potential for gridlock could sour attendees on the whole experience.

OPPORTUNITY: To supplement communications prior to an event about what can and can’t come into the venue, a triage approach can move those attendees who got the do’s/don’ts memo quickly through the entry points, while diverting fans who will require additional scrutiny to an equally efficient secondary screening process. That way, nobody gets stuck in a long line worrying about missing the kickoff.

CHALLENGE: Providing fans with positive experience that doesn’t feel like they are being screened at the airport.

OPPORTUNITY: Recognize that security staff also are in the customer service business. Appropriate recruiting and training – including run-throughs that challenge employees to address a range of live scenarios – will go a long way towards molding a team of employees who know how to put your brand’s best foot forward. In addition to developing a professionalized staff, use of the command center concept that enables the security team to gather, analyze and respond to data in real time can provide the flexibility to adjust and redeploy resources so bottlenecks don’t crop up suddenly and negate the good time that fans expect to have. The data gathered also can help assess trends and provide lessons learned that inform future events, as well as be shared with partners in the security process, such as law enforcement.

CHALLENGE:  Retaining event security staff.

OPPORTUNITY: Focusing on staff needs at all levels can help develop best-in-business employees who want to work for you. Your employees are your first line of defense and a crucial part of the fan experience. Your retention strategy should include investing in training, which will both empower your staff and demonstrate a commitment to their professional development. Ask them what they think. Building a workforce culture requires engagement, and your staff are your eyes and ears. Surveying them communicates that you value them, and may also yield important operational insights you might otherwise miss. At a more basic level, focus on their workplace needs and quality of life: provide them with cold drinks and a meal during their shifts, for example.

Make no mistake: the fan experience has become an integral part of establishing and growing your brand. It requires a dynamic, professional approach that keeps people safe while also responding to the business interests and customer service needs of the team, league, event or venue.

Backed by decades of experience that includes supporting the Olympics, University of Alabama football and many international sporting events, S2 Global’s Event Security brand offers a managed-service approach to screening and security. This includes providing operational procedure development, communications services, command center operations, staff recruitment and training, and tailored approaches that deploy state-of-the-art screening technology, all of which ensure the fan interactions are frictionless, reassuring, and professional.