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02 Dec 2016

re:invent - A Masterclass in Crowd Control

AWS re:Invent is a mind bogglingly big event, but they have organising the delgates down to a fine art

Jaakko Kontiainen

AWS re:invent is a massive event in so many ways. The content and announcements are the annual highlight of the AWS world and the whole ecosystem is here with partners, customers and AWS employees.

What is mind boggling in itself is the sheer number of attendees and organisers present.

We have all possibly had experiences with arranging parties or smaller events. This scale, however, is a whole different ballgame. In order to be able to keep schedules and avoid frustration, the organisers have to attend the masterclass in crowd control.

Let me give a few examples:

  • The registration was opened a few days before the whole event started.

  • Registration was purely self-service - up to the point of ID check and handing over the badge.

  • SWAG collection was optimised with different lines for different men’s and women’s hoodie sizes.

And inside the event is even more impressive. On Thursday breakfast was set for 13,000 people at the massive garage in The Venetian. The sitting has over 1,200 tables and food is distributed from well over 100 points. The people flow is managed through a channel created by personnel smiling, dancing and high-fiving those seeking nourishment for the day’s conference.


Entry to the keynote sessions is an artform. Imagine a massive hall seating 10,000 persons (Yes. Only the first 10,000 will fit in) with people pouring in as a steady flow. The pathways are filled with dancing people with glowing sticks waving people to continue to the desired direction. People, who I now think of as packers, are making sure people swiftly move to the open seats. When every single one is filled they then guide people to the next available row. Jumping queues or going rogue to a free, more desirable seat is a big no-no. I have an image of filling 100 buckets with a garden hose - you point the hose to one bucket until it is full, then move to the next one until all are done. There are also a few overflow halls for those that didn’t make it to the “first 10,000”.

In an event like this, there are always crowds and surely an occasional human traffic jam. However, the hundreds of people standing at intersections with flags, answers to your questions, a massive smile and friendly attitude carry a long way.

The scale of re:Invent creates the possibility of it collapsing in on itself. But the incredible event organisation and people power have not only helped us all get the most out  but have been a joy to watch. 


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