The Expert Parking Manager’s Guide to Successful Large-Scale Events

There’s a synergistic relationship between parking facilities and large events. Parking facilities play a key role in the success of any large-scale event, and large-scale events can generate big revenue for parking facilities. From sports games to concerts, festivals, conferences, and more, parking is often a guest’s first and last impression of an event – so as a parking facility manager, it’s important that you ensure it’s a good one. Parking also plays an important part in creating an experience that makes event attendees want to return to the venue in future. Nothing spoils a customer’s mood quite like being stuck in a half-hour line to park their vehicle!

Efficient and effective parking management is a big job, especially when it comes to big events. Accommodating massive volumes of vehicles in a short window of time can be extremely complex and have massive implications if handled incorrectly – from traffic congestion on the roads and highways surrounding the venue to vehicle, pedestrian, and staff safety.

Luckily, the biggest challenges with facilitating parking for large-scale events arise as a result of poor planning and insufficient foresight. This means that, with proper planning, you can strategically ensure a successful, safe, efficient, and profitable parking experience for any substantial event.

Here’s what you can do to drive a successful event at your facility.

Get to Know Your Neighbours: It’s integral that you gain an understanding of the types of venues in the neighbourhood of your facility and become aware of upcoming events that might have an impact on your space. Develop an events calendar so your entire team is aware of what’s coming up and when.

Take Initiative to Get Involved: Parking shouldn’t be an afterthought for events. It’s key to connect with venues in your area to become part of their integrated team. You want to gain understanding of their communication protocols and their event execution procedures. This way, you can work collaboratively for upcoming events rather than scrambling at the last minute. Getting organized for an event together from the outset can make event parking a well-oiled machine and can make the difference between an “OK” event and a great one.

Keep Your Facility in Great Shape: Conduct proactive pre-event maintenance on your space, from power-washing to re-painting lines and ensuring all equipment is in good condition. When charging a premium price, it’s important to ensure your facility feels like a premium space.

Make Sure You’ve Got the Necessities: Check your inventory to ensure you’ve got all necessary directional assets and signage, including mobile delineator posts, fillable barriers, trailblazer signs and mobile signs, sign covers, reflective vests, and safety equipment for your staff. You’ll also want to make sure you’re fully stocked up on all necessary money-processing products.

Treat Your Staff as Ambassadors: The staff you keep acts as the face of your facility and can be the difference-makers when it comes to creating a great experience. Ensure your staff are personable, friendly, and professional. You should also consider providing uniforms so that your staff can be easily identified should your guests have questions or need help.

Equip Your Team with Adequate Training: Ensure your staff is properly trained to identify and resolve issues, including customers trying to access restricted parking areas or avoid parking payment. You should also provide staff with adequate training on the specifics of your facility, including typical traffic flows, parking parameters, and pedestrian safety so that they can quickly mitigate issues and keep things flowing properly.

Conduct Daily Team Briefings: It’s ideal for you to get together with your team on a daily basis for a quick daily briefing meeting so that everyone knows what to expect for the day. This doesn’t have to be a long meeting. Even a five-minute touch-base will go a long way. This briefing should include a calendar of nearby events as well as pre- and post-event activities and locations, and anticipated crowd size. This will give you an idea of whether to expect an influx of customers from guests heading out to popular post-event activities in your area, even if an event isn’t taking place in your immediate vicinity. You should also cover off any information on things to watch for, including suspicious activity and how to handle common incidents.

Prepare a Tailored Operational Plan: There isn’t always a one-size-fits-all approach to handling events. Gaining visibility into an estimated number of attendees, the type of event taking place, and the start and end times for the event can give you insights into what to expect when it comes to flow and capacity so you can plan to use your space accordingly.

Proactively Make Information Available: Communicating information to your customers is key in keeping things running smoothly. This can be done electronically, via social media or your website, as well as through physical signage on-site. In doing so, you can guarantee that the majority of your facility’s guests will know where they need to go and how to efficiently get there, in turn allowing your staff to handle helping the remaining guests.

Consider How to Adapt Your Facility: Once you understand the event capacity and have estimated how traffic will flow in and out of your facility, think about how you can adapt it to maximize the efficiency of traffic flow. For instance, are there exits that can be used as entrances as guests pile in to get parked? Can you convert those entrances into exits when it’s time for people to leave? This can easily be done with the right types of signage and with directional traffic cones, so consider what you will need and plan accordingly.

Strategically Fill Your Facility: Once people are inside your facility, think of the best possible flow. How do you get them parked? Which areas do you want to fill first? And how can you ensure people are going to the right place to avoid hold-ups? This can be done strategically through an in-depth understanding of the layout of your facility as well as with the support of your staff and the use of guiding signage, pilons, barriers, and cones.

Implement the Right Payment Process: Most pay parking facilities are designed with a gate at the entrance and minimal room to queue vehicles. This can be problematic when you’re trying to fit large volumes of vehicles into the space in a short span of time. For large events, consider how to get vehicles off the street and into the lot quickly. This might mean tweaking your payment process and positioning parking attendants and cashiers at different locations in the facility. For events with scheduled end times, it’s also wise to collect payment upon entry rather than when people depart since you can expect a mass exodus of customers in a short timeframe once the event wraps up. If you have input on parking pricing for the event, you may also want to consider a flat rate to save time and avoid confusion. Easy denominations like $10.00 or $20.00 will minimize the time it takes to distribute change, in turn getting vehicles into your facility faster. It’s also important to make sure you’re fully stocked on receipt paper and spitter tickets. During a major event, the last thing you want is to run out of stock for providing proof-of-payment to your customers!

Offer Prepaid Parking Whenever Possible: If possible, try to offer prepaid parking.  You can do this in a few ways. The first is to do so in collaboration with the event planner, who can help provide options that allow parking to be purchased at the same time as event tickets. Another option is to do this online through your website so you can mail or email a printable ticket that guests can display on their dashboard. By doing so, you can limit cash transactions, which will in turn help reduce time expenditures.

Connect with Local Law Enforcement and Parking Control: The same way it’s wise to work collaboratively with the venue when it comes to planning large events, it’s also a good idea to connect directly with local law enforcement and parking control agencies to see if there are ways you can work together to ease street traffic and alleviate congestion.

Think of Pedestrian Safety: Once people have parked, they will need to get out of the facility and to the venue. And when you mix large volumes of vehicles with mass amounts of pedestrians, things can get a little bit tricky. Consider developing makeshift pedestrian walkways whenever possible in order to maximize safety and minimize congestion caused by foot traffic. Even things like makeshift crosswalks using quick-deploy stop signs can help create an orderly flow of foot and vehicle traffic in your facility. Effective pedestrian walkways can also be easily created using cones and signage.

Take Steps to Ensure the Safety of Your Staff: With a large volume of parking customers comes a large influx of cash. This makes it especially important to consider the safety of your staff – and your revenue – during large events. Your parking attendants will be handling large volumes of cash throughout the duration of the event, and the sad reality is that this can make them a target for thieves. As a parking manager, you should develop a strategic cash handling plan for the event. For instance, you can consider collecting cash deposits in increments of $200 – $500 throughout the course of the event to ensure your staff are never in possession of substantial amounts of currency at any one time. Keeping the right type of cashier float bags and money-handling products on-hand can make this process more efficient and less stressful.

Be Adaptable and Act Fast: It’s not uncommon to find that your operational plan needs to be changed on the fly. The key is to ensure you have a strong communication system in place to update your staff, and to ensure customers are made aware of changes quickly. Any time your operational plan is changed, make sure somebody goes out and updates it from the customers’ point of view to avoid confusion – whether that’s switching signage or proactively communicating with the customers.

Conduct Thorough Debriefs: Once the event has concluded, connect with your team for a debrief meeting to establish what went well and where there were opportunities for improvement. Doing so will allow you to implement tweaks and changes to ensure that your parking facility is even better equipped to deal with the next large-scale event.

The ability to effectively handle big events at your facility can mean big bucks in revenue. With some pre-planning and foresight, you can ensure it’s a smooth and successful process – for your team, your facility, and your customers.

At Northern Specialty Supplies, we offer a wide range of parking solutions that can help support the efficiency of your parking operations. To learn more, or if you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.