by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | September 01, 2004

Coming in 2005: a film staring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn called The Wedding Crashers. The plot centers around two womanizing men who skillfully crash weddings to meet their next conquests.
    Planners watching the film likely will just nod and smile, as crashers are a worldwide epidemic, affecting every type and shape of event.
    People crash events because they are curious, hungry, thirsty, cheap, competitors, on the prowl, networking or just because they enjoy the thrill. They are drawn by high-profile entertainers, keynote speakers, products samples and high-end F&B.
    Some cultures outside of the United States (such as some Latin countries) have removed the taboos of crashing, driving unsuspecting American planners mad. Others (like many Asian cultures) are highly offended by crashers of any kind.
    Here are some suggestions for prevention and, if a crasher gets through, advice on effective removal.

Assess the scene.
During the first site visit, examine every possible access point a part of the checklist planners often overlook on an inspection. If your event is proprietary and/or attractive to competitors or the general public, don’t use a venue that has hard-to-control entryways or multiple entrances, or is adjacent to highly trafficked areas.
Call in backup. It seems like an obvious fix to simply hire security, but most of the security hired by event planners is trained to watch valuables, not to keep out hungry passersby, paparazzi or an undercover competitor. Make sure you not only have adequate security but appropriately trained personnel.
Prepare in advance. At the preconvention meeting, prime the hotel staff for crashers. They should all rehearse the same procedures for dealing with interlopers.
Scan badges. Insisting on IDs for entrance is not enough. Upgrade your system by using badges with chips in them that will allow attendees swift access through an unobtrusive barrier. Participants without the encrypted badge will set off an identifying light when they try to walk in.

Even though you’ve gone to such extremes to keep out unwanted guests, some still might show up.
    Strong-arm them. It is almost always best to have a third party ideally the venue’s security deal with a crasher you want removed from an event. You should be present, but stay safe and politically neutral.
    Deflect drifters. When dealing with members of other groups at the property who simply prefer your Continental breakfast to their own, be coy. Assume they are simply lost. “Hello. Are you with Group X?” When they are unable to confirm they are with your group, direct them back to their own turf or call venue security.
    In many cases, the venue should be watching and therefore liable if you get moochers. Let the facility’s management know in advance that you are not willing to cover the costs of stray nibblers.

Companions and children: Are they crashers, or do you have to factor them into the budget? This is one exception where it is often better to expect to pay for a few extra heads if senior management decides not to charge for guests who happen to show up with a legitimate attendee.
    Most importantly, if several guests of company employees or association members end up dining on the group’s dime, make sure senior management gets a postcon debriefing regarding the reasons for increased F&B costs. It’s very likely that you will be able to argue successfully for charging for spouses and children at the next event.