As someone who’s business is to provide services to assist our clients in managing and counting crowds at large public gatherings, I have been quite amused by President Trump’s incredulity at the crowd estimates of the Inauguration. Trump’s delusion of a larger crowd compares with that of some clients that I have had the great pleasure of working with.
Unless you have been hiding in a cave since January 20… you know who you are… here’s the storyline via Twitter:
Obama’s 2009 record-breaking inauguration crowd greatly surpassed Trump’s crowd:
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) January 20, 2017
On his first day in office Trump was dismayed at the reporting of the numbers on The National Mall:
BREAKING: President Donald Trump accuses media of lying about inauguration crowds, wrongly says crowd reached Washington monument.
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 21, 2017
POTUS sends Eric Spicer out to yell at everyone:
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2017
POTUS’s first call of his Presidency was to the National Park Service chief:
Trump called the National Park Service chief to ask why the agency had retweeted photos comparing inaugural crowds https://t.co/G4vLzzMfZI
— The New York Times (@nytimes) January 28, 2017
Crowds on The National Mall are unique. They’re free events and it’s a really big space. The National Parks Service used to publish estimates until they were threatened with a legal suit. This counting conflict resulted in a 1997 appropriations bill, which forbade the National Park Service from spending federal money to count crowds at large events in Washington.
The New York Times posted an excellent history of crowds at large events in DC from Lincoln to Obama. Great read. read more at nytimes.com
Trump is not alone in doubting attendance numbers of large events, especially when those numbers have a high value. The value to Trump is obvious; he wants to appear to be a popular President (good luck with that), but the value of a well attended event to my clients, can be worth millions in insurance premiums and sponsorship dollars.
For instance, liability insurance for large public events is calculated at a per head price. To write a policy for a new event, the broker and the event producer will come to an agreement on how many people will attend. If the number of people is greater than the agreed upon number, then the producer wins, if the number is less then the agreed upon number, the promoter loses and will find a new broker next year.
Another example is sponsorship sales. Producers of an event will negotiate fees for sponsorship deals based on exposure to consumers. Besides logos on promotional items and such… it’s all about the gate count. How many people will be at the event engaging with their brand. Now with the ubiquitous nature of RFID access control at most large ticketed events, getting an accurate count to the event producer is easy. How the event producer decides to ‘interpret’ that data and what they provide the sponsors, is their business, not ours. However at large free events, getting an accurate count can be challenging… and what crowd counting methodology are the event producer, the event sponsor and the insurance broker going to agree upon?
Event Intelligence Group has been deploying a high-end line counting solution to solve this issue, at a series of events that C3 Presents has been producing called Chipotle Cultivate . C3 was familiar with EIG’s counting technology from our work with them on Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Festival and a bunch of other festivals and events.
The counting system is deployed by hanging video cameras at the portals to the event. The video signal is fed back to an analytics system that when properly deployed and calibrated will count with a 98% accuracy rate. Getting the client and the sponsor to agree on this method of counting was easy once both parties saw the proven results.
So now that we understand that there are many people that put a high value on an accurate crowd count, let us focus more on the facts and the technology that can give us the best data and let’s ignore the whining.