You notice him as he walks into the venue on autopilot. One of the security personnel walking, in a nonchalant manner, directly to his post. He looks down on the floor as if to locate his mark, the spot he is comfortable with, the spot that has been worn out on the ground from nights of standing on his feet as he shuffles back and forth during the three-hour concerts of which he has become accustomed. The rest of the venue security is now in place as they are for every show, same location, same posture, same mindset and same personnel.
The roar of the crowd can be heard as the stage crew diligently takes one last look to make sure everything is in place. This is the eighteenth show of a scheduled thirty-two and no two stages have been the same, double and triple checking is a must. The sound tech checks his connections, making sure all is ready. The production manager is running through all of the intricacies of the show in his head as the roar of the crowd increases another decibel.
Meanwhile, the headlining artist, your client, is preparing in the dressing room the same way they do every night and the way they have for the past seventeen nights. Drinking the same flavored tea with the same brand of honey, the same warm towel face wash ritual, the warm-up vocal exercises and the prayer before their performance. Then you hear the tour managers voice over the comms ” five minutes… five minutes”. House lights come down, the stage goes to black, the crowd goes into a roar that doubles the decibel level and the artist hits the stage.
As a protector, you understand the rings of protection, how they work to your advantage and how they aide in your success. However, for just one brief second you ask yourself, was I successful in interfacing with venue security? Did they understand? Did I accomplish my goal in getting them on the right page, the same page, MY page? Or like the original venue security guard you saw walk to his post, are the rest of them on autopilot, virtually sleepwalking, with the same mindset?
The protector is responsible for a myriad of tasks, advance work, transportation, escorting etc. When on tour or traveling from one venue to another it is important for us to remember that successfully interfacing with venue security is an integral part of what we as protectors must keep in mind. We need to understand several things in order to make the relationship between protector and venue security a success. We need to know who we are connecting with, what their mindset is and what their purpose is. We need to know how to connect with them, how we can get them to do what it is that we desire and how to get them on the same page, OUR page.
First, with whom are we trying to connect? If we look at the entirety of venue security we will have to interface with a number of different people. If we can identify successfully identify the different roles, life becomes easier. We may have to deal with the venue operations manager who has a bachelors degree and specialized in security operations. The security supervisor that earned his position after working for the company fifteen years but does not have any formal security training. Perhaps it is the retired police officer who is now working venue security to supplement their income. Then there is the sixty-four-year-old English teacher that works venue security during the summer while school is out. The college student that is working to help pay for his books this semester, and finally, you are likely to encounter the over-enthusiastic guard that wants to be “you”.
Each of those individuals, although they know their purpose at their assigned post, may have a different attitude and mindset. They may be thinking of everything from “I can’t wait for my shift to end so I can finish my research paper, to “I wonder if the kids are in bed yet” and some might even think to themselves, “if someone tries to jump on stage tonight I will beat them like their momma”. Always keep in mind that they have various levels of security knowledge let all of the venue staff may be wearing the same uniform.
Successful interfacing requires great communication skills. If we are going to communicate then we need to talk. When we talk we discover a lot about a persons mindset and understanding. I came up with the acronym T.A.L.K Tactfully Analyze Limited/Lack of Knowledge. You only need to ask, tactfully, a few questions to discover if someone has limited security knowledge or if they are aware of the protocols you requested of management. I could go into each part of the acronym but this article will focus on the “How To” of successful interfacing.
When dealing with administration and upper management you must understand that they encounter more “buddy guards” throughout the year then they do trained professionals. After conducting security briefings, I have been told by many administrators, “I did not expect such a thorough security briefing. Usually, if the Artist’s Protection team even shows up, they just give us a copy of what the backstage pass looks like and leave”. If we keep in mind that management may have a preconceived notion of our position, we can tactfully present our security needs.
So how do we go about getting them to be on our page? First of all, when dealing with administrators, smile. It might not be the norm in our day to day assignments, but it is the first part of breaking down the stern, “tough guy” image that people are intimidated by and unwilling to cooperate with.
When presenting protocols to administration let them know that security is a “team” effort. Make it a point to convey that the success of security for the evening will involve cooperation from both parties. Tell them that you look forward to working with the security team that has successfully provided security at their venue on many occasions in the past. In doing so, you have praised their security team for being a success, something any administrator will love to hear. You have also expressed that you plan on working in conjunction with them, not as a separate unit.
When talking with supervisors and getting an inside look at venue security protocols, show an interest in what they are saying. Remember they have done it their way for perhaps years and do not know any other way. Although you may want to change a few things or even move guards around to where you want them to be, showing interest in what they are presenting makes them less resistant.
Heres a question: How often have we been at a venue, walked by the same security guard, the one who stands at the same doorway every night, ten, fifteen, twenty times and never stopped to say hi or find out their name? Take a few seconds to introduce yourself, shake their hands, ask them their name, tell them you appreciate their help for the evening and then tell them, ” if you need anything let me know”. They may never need anything that you can help them with, but the gesture shows you are interested in them and they are not just a guard standing at the door. This takes all of thirty-five seconds and will make a huge difference in your success, especially if and when you need something that venue security can provide. In following this method you have now personalized the relationship, they know you on a first name basis and they now feel a part of the “team”. Now, if and when you need their assistance, you now can approach them with your request and they will be more apt to graciously cooperate.
In conclusion, to be successful be approachable,(in moderation of course). Express to upper-level management a desire to cooperate and combine efforts as a team that will successfully implement a fail-proof security system for the evening. Show an interest in their current system and security methods, then present your security needs for the night. Never undervalue the venue security, consider them your outer ring of protection and then having them possess the right mindset can make all the difference in the world for a successful night.
By Sam Alicea
Sam Alicea is an Account Manager with ICON Global, Inc. and has successfully managed Protection Teams involved with major US Tours. He can be reached at S.Alicea@Industry-Icon.com