Ticketbud Tidbits Episode 4 - Clint Kaulfas
Posted in Spotlights on April 21, 2017
Clint Kaulfas is a professional gate manager that resides in Austin. He loves the festival space and everything that comes with it. He's worked with a lot of big event production companies and has managed the biggest festivals in Austin. In this episode, we talk about (you guessed it) gate management, and we also talk about how to best manage your attendees. You can listen to our interview, as well as read the transcript below.
Clint: [00:00:12] I'm absolutely happy to be here.
Kayhan: [00:00:15] So Clint How did you first get started in the event industry what attracted you to pursue a profession and what's kind of been your roadmap?
Clint: [00:00:24] Well I kind of always have an interest in music and in large shows and growing up in such a small town I never had the opportunity to hear those types of things. Everything is really far away. My parents are really supportive. So I graduated high school I moved to Austin you know looking to go see my first festival at 18 years of I still never seen one. And I came out here I'm going to ACL I started going to shows and this and that and I was going to school for something totally different. And I thought I wanted to be an architect and I was just getting fed up with the math and you know such a long course, I would have been in school for years. I found that A.C.C. had a music business and performance technology Associates degree to go for and I changed my I switched schools and moved A.C.C. save money and get to something they enjoy doing a lot more. And probably it was the second semester I was in school or got an internship with C3 Presents. I got really lucky. A lot of people wanted to intern for C3 at a big company is probably the second biggest in the road. I would think production wise. Yeah and that's what got my foot in the door back in 2011.
Kayhan: [00:01:52] So tell us about the skills and the expertise that you learned in the industry either working at festivals and chose about the skills that you bring to the table when an organization contracts with you to help run the gate or box office at a big event.
Clint: [00:02:10] Well I would say most of the skills I acquired through responding people outside of Emo's and Stubb's and.
Kayhan: [00:02:21] Two of the biggest local Austin institutions.
Clint: [00:02:23] Yeah two of the biggest ones. We got out here helping get the crowd control down out there. It really wasn't part of my job description I was in box office I was just supposed to be ticket coordinating and dealing with guest list and will call and, you know, making sure all of our logistics are right and our tickets. But sometimes security guards couldn't handle the crowd control and we'd get out there and that's where I kind of got good at crowd control that brought me more into the management side of ticketing and handling gates and handling box office. I guess the best way to describe it is like working a couple of shifts at Emo's for a sold out show. It's just a chaotic nightmare of kids lined up hours before, nobody listens. You just gotta know how to get a handle on people and make people look at you and listen to you.
Kayhan: [00:03:23] Is that speaking with authority is that...?
Clint: [00:03:25] Speaking with authority looking professional. You know you walk around and talk and act like you know what you're doing. People will pay attention and listen. I feel like if I feel like a lot of it's like the way you dress too like I like to usually wear all black and you know people see my radio on me and everything and my flashlight, and they go "alright, this guy- He's got a badge on and probably knows what he's doing. And we should listen to what he's saying.
Kayhan: [00:03:52] To walk the walk. Talk the talk.
Clint: [00:03:53] But yeah definitely.
Kayhan: [00:03:55] You just finished a long engagement for South by Southwest. Can you tell us about your role a little bit this year.
Clint: [00:04:04] So for South by Southwest I got recommended to one of the biggest ISPs for you know events festivals. A company called Right Round. I was doing technical support for them as a network technician and I'm just now sort of trying to broaden my horizons and I'd see a networking field. It's always been of interest to me I've always grown up in front of computers and I love the internet it's really fascinating and really powerful thing. I was in charge of about eight different networks throughout the festival. The first network I set up I probably had about 2500 feet of Ethernet cable. We also ran a solid fiber line for them to live stream the home performance to Japan.
We have probably about eight different switches. Ten to 12 different access points it was a huge network it took us about four days to get it perfected but you know that was my first big network. And I think I handled it pretty well and throughout the rest of the festival every other network I had set up you know, it was a lot easier and I had more grasp on things and knew how everything worked from something of that massive network to go on in the 70s one day network for a client for a day party.
Kayhan: [00:05:31] What trends do you see at South by this year. Do you think there are new or different than years past. Either in the attendees or attendance or technology or anything.
Clint: [00:05:43] I would say this year that the difference I noticed was everything was a lot more crunched together.
Kayhan: [00:05:51] In terms of time or space?
Clint: [00:05:52] In terms of timing. Like I feel like I'm pretty sure they have the week a little bit shortened they just called it South By South West Week this year.
So there's a lot of stuff overlaying on top of each other with the tech and the film. And the music. I was expecting on my first day that the streets would be empty but I was already seeing Batchelor's way before South by Southwest Week even started. Also a lot the bigger. A lot of the bigger clients for South By backed out this year that you know there is no...I never saw a lot of the big huge free parties.
You know the Thrasher party wasn't there with Converse and all that at Fader Fort you know. A lot of the big free stuff wasn't there. And they try to make more of a, you know, smaller band local venue type thing which I think is great for the city.
Kayhan: [00:06:47] Back to sort of the earlier roots of South By.
Clint: [00:06:49] Yeah. Absolutely. And. I recently read an article of South By and they had written about them wanting to do that and I'm kind of glad they're taking steps to get it more in that direction.
Kayhan: [00:06:59] So as an industry professional you think that change is well received.
Clint: [00:07:03] Oh yeah and I think that a lot of the local the local patrons are a lot more satisfied and that. You know. A lot of the people that come in from out of town from all over them. I'm not so sure but. I feel like more of the people that come from out of town or other countries are here more for the tech side of it and I still saw a great turnout. On the tech side. There's a lot of good attendees from all over the world.
Kayhan: [00:07:34] So switching off from South By just back to general Gate management . When you're thinking about a large scale event that you're doing game management for. What do you look for when you're building an onsite staff for a large event or do you look to call these professional networks and volunteers frameworks. How do you build out the staff to make sure that gate management is executed.
Clint: [00:08:00] Well. Whenever I build my staff for data management I usually have a handful of guys that I've worked with in the past that they have experience with dealing with lines and responding.
That's where you can really slow down or sometimes is just dropping wristbands all over the place or bumbling here and there. Just people that have a voice people they can know, they aren't afraid to raise their voice "Hey guys you need to come this way or this way come this way for this coming this way for that. Have your IDs out", you know just the common sense things. A lot of people will show up to the festival, well it may be their first time and they don't know that.
So you can't sound rude to people you start out I hold down a professional and welcoming vibe to your patrons. They're paying money to come and spend time at your festival so you still want them to be happy when they come to the gates. I feel like you know you can. You can kind of. Be a little bit lenient on people that are just you know checking to see if some scans of the gauge you're just scanning. But. I usually like to go with people that have more experience but I will give people a shot. It's not really hard to do. You know you just got to be the right person for the job.
Kayhan: [00:09:15] So what makes for great onsite operations. Do you have a game plan or best practices do you huddle up with your team the night before the week before? What's your recipe for success?
Clint: [00:09:27] I feel like everybody knowing how everything works where every patron is supposed to go. You know there's usually a lot of different entry points for different types of credentials at festivals. Signage is a huge key and must for me I love signage everywhere. Also if it's a late festival lightings for wherever the entry points are so. If it's any type of QR reader or you know RFID chip scanners or different types of things. You want to have good lighting so all of your scanners and your hardware works. Making sure your network set up right, strong Internet connections that all for our scanners to you know relay all the information back to your Logistics of everything else. I feel like those are the main things and just making everybody's on the same page and prepared and has everything they need - well rested, fed.
Kayhan: [00:10:20] Order pizza a couple hours before.
Clint: [00:10:23] Yeah I mean it's sometimes it's long days and some people you know they can't handle standing out in the cold for 10 hours. But. This is not for everybody. And you need to know what you're signing up for.
Kayhan: [00:10:34] So some gate personnel for more community events tend to be volunteers. What are the most important things that you need teach volunteer in order to prepare if they've never done game management or checking people in before how do you prep them, pump them up.Give them you know the coach's speech in a locker room so to say.
Clint: [00:10:54] Usually if it is somebody new like that I'd like to you know type them out a little reference you know, to most commonly asked questions. Where certain patrons that aren't allowed in an actual entry point need to go where that is, how to get there. This and that.
Kayhan: [00:11:11] So a little cheat sheet.
Clint: [00:11:12] Yeah just pretty much make sure that they're going to know how to answer just about any question. If not there's my number or my radio channel right there and you can give me a shout and I'll be right there and on the situation.
Kayhan: [00:11:24] So it should always be accessible in case something needs escalation.
Clint: [00:11:27] Absolutely.
Kayhan: [00:11:29] What are some of the best practices for managing the line. We talked a little bit about walking the walk talking the talk, is there you know, when you're setting up a gig, are you putting a specific direction or are you are you putting signage up or are you putting barriers up combination of all the above?
Clint: [00:11:45] Oh yeah definitely. You know bike racks. Bike racks are my best friends during you know huge festivals. It depends on how many people were there and. What the plot of the land is. It just depends on how it is, if I'm going to set up like a maze to you know, slow people down. Or I'm just going to have straight lanes and just let them come flying through.
Kayhan: [00:12:06] Talk a little bit about that. What's what's the advantage of having a maze to slow people down versus straight lines.
Clint: [00:12:13] So I would say straight lines are a lot better for whenever you're actual entry point is not one time. You know like like for instance Trail of Lights people show up on the same route. Well I mean if they buy ZIP ticket they're all going to show up at one time in between like an hour and a half span. And that's only about a quarter of the festival. So the rest of the patrons are just going to go out there through normal GA or they're going to have as it passes and get there late. And it doesn't really it's not really necessary to zigzag the lines.
Because I mean most of the time we have two people per lane I might have one person scanning at one person wrist banning. I've had our first 20000 people do that line with six lanes and about the longest wait was probably four minutes. For them to get it as long as pretty good for that amount of people. You know and they're paying to get there early so you want to make sure they get in early. It takes some trial and error sometimes you know. I've had some bad wait times back when I was starting out and I was new. But you know you figure it out and see how people move when you see other people notice the signage. It's always good to have volunteers all throughout the park directing people when they're coming off the shuttles when they're heading into the fest. That helps a lot too because a lot of people don't know where they're going.
I mean a zigzag line is good for, I say like a box office where we are picking up will call and you're picking a guest list. Everybody is antsy to come pick up their credential and try to get past everybody else because they're not going into the festival yet they still got a walk from the box office to the festival entry point. So I feel like zigzags are a lot better than that or like the maze set. Or they just have to slowly walk around all these corners. By the time they do there will be a representative ready to help you and usually that helps us out on our backside and helps the patrons keep calmer and you know get through and get their credentials.
Kayhan: [00:14:15] Straight lines for moving people fast through a gate, zigzag lines for slow or customer service.
Clint: [00:14:19] Yes.
Kayhan: [00:14:21] So a bit about ideal ratios when you're looking at event attendance and you know that you have a 5000, 10000, 20000 person event. How many how many personnel do you have to staff do you think about how many personnel per thousand or do you think about how many gates or do you first determine how many gates you want or access points you want and then staff accordingly. What's your what's the plan.
Clint: [00:14:47] Well it depends so if it's just one entry type and I have 20000 people coming through and it's just one credential. Or maybe some small credential going into other the entrance but mainly they say the 20000 are coming through one main gate. Or most likely just. My round about number is probably like six to every 15000 you know.
Kayhan: [00:15:12] Six staff members for every 15000?
Clint: [00:15:14] Per like at a flow rate of about 15000 per hour. You know my six guys can easily handle that. If it's coming up to like 20 hours I'd like to have a eight to 10. So. I usually go along those rules like around 20000 if it's going to be a fast pace. I like that 10:7 made it out real quick and. Get them through and then cut some guys get them off my production clock and make sure everybody gets in quick you know and you know the next couple days guys go home early guys get to stay late as a team and for everybody and the patrons get in as quick as possible.
Kayhan: [00:15:52] We have one person doing the scanning and a separate person doing the wristbanding.
Clint: [00:15:55] Usually if that's how it's going to be if we're going to use actual paper wristbands and that works the best for me because somebody's holding wristbands and then holding a scanner at the same time and trying to fly back and forth. It can get a little hairy. You don't want to be dropping wristbands on the ground because you know what you're charging for these wrist bands and who knows who's going to pick it up and run off with it and.
Kayhan: [00:16:17] You want to create that seamless customer experience at the entry point smoothly. So in regards to onsite operations and best practices what advice can you give to someone who's newly in an industry or maybe having their own event on a smaller scale.
Clint: [00:16:35] Well. I guess most of my advice comes in ticketing and I've seen a lot of people sneak in the festivals and I've seen a lot of people's fake badges.
Kayhan: [00:16:44] How do you handle that. How do you handle those people?
Clint: [00:16:48] I've got a lot of stories about that last year.
So probably the funniest I would say is at ACL a couple of years ago we had these guys going around and they would take a picture of our pressboard and they would do it right in front of a security guard the security guard you know these guys are making $10-12 an hour. They don't even realize or probably don't care. So these guys they will go home and they would print out a picture of a picture of our passport. And you know our badges they have RFID chips in them so they would wad up a little piece of paper put it in between the two print outs and laminate it. You know, when we caught them, their badges were at least an inch and a half bigger than ours so you could obviously two other fake they're a little pixelated it did not look legit it one bit.
And we caught some guys and we go back to the guards and show them and I say,"How do you let this go by you, know" One of the guards said "Oh I think I've seen a guy taking a picture of this." And I'm like really, man? But you know like I said that they don't make that much money. They're not.
Kayhan: [00:17:53] Their skin is not in the game.
Clint: [00:17:54] Yeah you know. It's not on anything off their backs. I've seen that. I've also seen kids jump gates. And usually that's a security guard's job job to caching em but if the security isn't paying attention. I don't care I'm still chasing myself. I have a security guard come in I'm not going to touch you but I have security to handle that. But you're not going to jump a gate at my festival. I've never snuck into a festival so don't expect that other people will sneak into my festivals.
Kayhan: [00:18:19] So always have a vigilant eye out for fraud I guess.
Clint: [00:18:22] Yeah. That and people with passing off. I hate when people pass off wristbands.
Kayhan: [00:18:29] So tell me what what does that mean to pass off a wristband and how do you catch it and how do you prevent it.
Clint: [00:18:36] I mean I saw some people during Trail of Lights handing wristbands over the gates. I saw people cutting them at ACL and they were put put a little pin at the bottom and his put it back together and walked through and just covered it up with their hands leaving just click it on the RFID scanner and boom it flashes green there and security guards don't care. They're not really visually checking every wristband. Some do a lot of them do but some of them don't. One thing is I wish is the Security would get better security companies that pay their guys better so they would care a little bit more and they can get all that more training on this. But you know that's a whole 'nother can of worms, yet a big one.
Kayhan: [00:19:20] So how do you stay current about your industry. What resources do you look for?Do you have a peer network that you go to? How do you keep your ear to the ground when it comes to the industry.
Clint: [00:19:31] I feel like I have a good way to keep my ear to the ground and learning new things and just, you know just like learning from other companies just as I worked for about four or five different production companies out not just with C3 anymore. So I worked with a lot of different people I meet new people and they always have something new to teach me and I have something new to teach them. That's pretty much learned from working with peer to peer environment. Yeah.
Kayhan: [00:19:59] Any words of advice to someone who's interested in getting started in the industry.
Clint: [00:20:06] Think about it think if you like traveling. If you like a lot of long hours and late nights but sometimes you're off work for a long time and that's really cool too. You got to really have a thick skin. Be able to deal with irate customers when you have to keep a smile on your face. You got to be very well organized on top of the game know what's going to happen at all times. Be prepared for anything.
Other than that it's just getting out there and learning how everything works and getting hands on experience. That's the best way to learn. Start from the bottom and work your way up to the top.
Kayhan: [00:20:47] Any parting thoughts or words of wisdom or advice for an event professional out there who's maybe having their first event or putting on their first festival to a small degree something like that.
Clint: [00:21:01] I would say keep an eye on all of your departments. Make sure everybody is doing things legitimately. I've seen a lot of people inside of. New festivals and companies just handing out wristbands here and there to friends and stuff and that going on unaccounted for and kind of take advantage of things. I just keep an eye on everybody. You'll learn. You'll see things will go wrong and you'll learn how to prevent them. But I think you'll be alright. You'll get it down and after the first one and the next one and it will get a lot easier and smoother.
Kayhan: [00:21:38] Clint thanks very much for joining us today on Tidbits with Ticketbud. Everyone, Clint Kalfas, professional gate manager.
Clint: [00:21:45] Thanks for having me.