How the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Director of Security, Dave Ellis, built an adaptable security strategy
From political upheaval to a global pandemic, if the past several years has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t predict the future.
For event security leaders, a job that was always difficult is starting to feel near-impossible: How can we build a security strategy that is truly ready for anything?
The short answer is adaptability. The long answer is this article, which outlines the five best practices for developing an event security strategy that I’ve learned over my 15-year career.
1. Focus on guest experience
What’s the difference between good and great event security teams? Good teams protect the people and property they oversee. Great teams do all that while also positively impacting the guests’ experience. As an event security leader, the most powerful changes you can make include both of these aspects, and looking at things from a guest experience perspective can help you surface those opportunities.
For example, one of our most successful initiatives was implementing a contactless guest screening solution from Ceia. While this solution reduced the risks created by dense crowds and enhanced our screening efficiency, the project’s impetus wasn’t a security concern — it was a customer experience issue. The number one guest complaint was the long lines to get through security. We quickly realized that solving that ongoing problem would improve both guest safety and the overall customer experience. It was a true win-win.
For event security leaders, it’s easy to look at everything from a security-first mindset. But seeing things from only that perspective short-changes your team and blinds you to potential improvements you could also spot from a different vantage point. It also makes it more difficult to identify how your initiatives can directly impact revenue.
2. Join or create a local peer group
While industry organizations, publications, and events are great for staying on top of recent trends and emerging threats, don’t discount the value of your local network of security leaders.
For years, I’ve been a part of an informal group of the area’s event security leaders, and I’ve found it to be an invaluable support system. Meeting once a month, our small, collaborative group shares experiences, suggests resources, and helps each other work through challenges. Because security concerns can vary widely by region, the support I’ve been able to find through this local peer group has been uniquely specific to what my team and I face every day — and effective.
3. Master your storytelling skills
It may not be in the job description, but mastering storytelling is essential to success as an event security leader. Unlike marketing, concessions, or the ticket office, the security team does not generate revenue. Consequently, the only way we can achieve buy-in for our initiatives is by telling a compelling story about how they’ll positively impact the rest of the organization.
The obvious justification is by quantifying risk reduction, but that is tricky and inherently speculative. The more effective route is to think through what the second and third-order effects of your proposed change will be on the departments that do make money. For example, investing in facial recognition technology improves the security team’s ability to spot bad actors and find missing persons, but it also helps the guest experience department provide better service to high-value customers like season ticket holders.
For event security leaders, storytelling is about one thing: relevance. To create change, they need to understand how those changes are relevant to the parts of the organization paying the bills. Then they need to communicate that relevance early, clearly, and often. Do that, and you’re more than halfway to achieving your goal.
4. Partner with adaptable tech providers
Like any part of a modern organization, the success of your security team largely depends on the tech stack you deploy. If you hitch yourself to a provider who cannot roll with the inevitable punches, they might bring your organization down with their ship.
To help you make the right choice, here are five characteristics of adaptable tech partners:
Openness: The best tech partners love feedback. Long-term tech implementations are complex and have many points of failure, and a defensive provider can waste valuable time and resources.
Empathy: Your tech partners need to understand your goals, strategy, and perspective deeply. This level of insight makes meetings more efficient, improvements easier to realize, and bugs easier to fix.
Innovation: Look for a track record of innovation — or at least one that demonstrates they constantly improve and update their technology.
Resilience: You want to work with organizations that have the resources and capacity to navigate highly challenging circumstances.
Chemistry: If you’re going to be collaborating with an organization for years, it pays to pick the partner that feels best to work with.
5. Listen to your security staff
One of my best event security supervisors recently pulled me aside to express his concern over an emerging trend among uncooperative guests. Sometimes, when the staff would attempt to address rowdy fans, these guests would put their smartphone cameras in their faces and taunt them. This behavior was highly unsettling to the staff, and he suggested that the team be outfitted with body-worn cameras as a countermeasure.
After evaluating the situation, I decided to work with Axon to roll out a body-cam system across our entire security team. The results of the approach were swift and conclusive: Incidents of smartphone-wielding malcontents declined sharply once the staff began using the new equipment out in the field.
What’s the moral of the story? Your staff can — and should — serve as a consistent source of inspiration for organizational change. These hardworking security pros have the opportunity to spot patterns and identify issues that you can easily overlook while concentrating on the big picture. Everyone on your team has the potential to contribute to the evolution of your security strategy, so make sure they feel comfortable enough to speak up.
How to prepare for the unknown
As event security leaders, we’re charged with preparing our teams to face an unknown and constantly changing threat landscape. Until Silicon Valley develops a machine that can peer into the future, our best option is to create a strategy that provides us with the adaptability we need to overcome any new challenge. This article has provided five pillars of adaptability that helped me lead my team through incredibly challenging circumstances, and I believe they can do the same for you.
If you want to learn more about some of the technology mentioned in this article, like Axon’s BWC system, then contact Axon today for a live demo.