As kids, we loved to see behind the scenes and we loved the to see how things were made. This is why we were so excited to continue our series on credentials and accreditation with Deborah Cahn Scott and Rick Scott of EC Solutions. Deborah and Rick manage credentials for high profile events like the Academy Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, College Football Playoff National Championship, Live Nation Hard Summer, and many more. They specialize in on-site, on-demand printing.
Here are some key topics from our conversation:
- Credentials are the first line of defense for any event.
- Key questions to ask when designing an access control system.
- Advice for configuring credential types and zones.
- Advice for dealing with last minute changes
- The importance of a unified database to the overall credentialing process.
- How on-site, on-demand printing can cut costs.
- Best practices for managing credential printing and pick-up on-sight.
How did you start credentialing events?
It all started in 2001. I was working at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as the Operations Manager. I was asked to oversee the accreditation for the Academy Awards which had segued to a RFID system. After years of working in film production with great work opportunities, I finally found the work I’m passionate about; managing credentials. In 2006, I started EC Solutions and transitioned to a seasonal employee for the Oscars. In 2015 after 20+ years working at USC, Rick joined me full time.
How do you decide what type of access control to use at an event?
Credentials are the first line of defense for any event. One of the first questions we ask “Is this an event that will be broadcast live and how large is the audience.?” From there, we work to understand how the event is run: the venue, the number of credentials to be issued and the client’s budget. These factors help dictate the level of access control we can provide. Ultimately, it comes down to the event itself.
The client may want a simple badge with a name and affiliation. Other events like the Oscars require many more security measures with their credentials. The Oscars are among the most secure annual events in the world.
Our key objective is to be vigilant and on the lookout for anyone attempting to crash the credential process and breach security.
Since the credential management process is a key step in securing our events, are you at all surprised or concerned about the way many events still manage credentials?
What surprises us the most is when a client makes a large investment in credential operations, but lacks the proper vetting or distribution to know who receives a credential. It can be part of our job to explain the importance of this process.
What do you think it will take to create higher standards to keep more of our events secure?Educating event planners and producers on the importance of keeping up these security measures is a really critical step in helping create higher standards.
What are the things that you're thinking about when you're designing the access control for an event?
We’re thinking about a number of key details and asking questions like:
- How many access points are needed?
- Will we use technology to scan on load-in and/or show days?
- Will the client provide an ODO or uniform security at the entrances?
- Are we printing photos on the credential?
- What is the number of people that we will credential on any given day or hour, and the flow of people? If it’s a convention or conference style event, there could be the need to credential 500 or 1000 people in a very short span of time.
- If the event calls for scanning a barcode or RFID credential, you always want the credential to provide a visual verification at the access points, for backup. If you lose power or have equipment failure you need to know you can successfully switch to a visual check without compromising the security of the event.
Do you have any advice for configuring the different credential types and zones?
For credential types, it’s important to define the role and function of each group to help determine the credential types that will be needed.
When you map the zones, create a flow through the venue that will not impede the movement between the zones. If you have an area that needs restricted access during the event, create a hot zone. Then identify who can access the hot zone and what time they can access the zone.
When do you like to be brought into the planning process?
As early as possible. We like to start with data collection and designing the credentials or mapping the zones. Especially if we are managing the entire credential process and if it's the first time for the client at the venue.
It is an ongoing process with regularly scheduled events like the Oscars. As soon as one ceremony is over, we start planning the next one. We discuss the process we had in place, what worked well and what we can do to improve the operations.
Do you have any tips or best practices on how to deal with last minute changes or last minute requests?
We make sure to Identify the key players who are the decision makers to ensure a smooth approval process. These key players usually have direct control over specific physical areas or departments. When a last minute request comes in, we know the specific people that can approve those requests and how to contact them at all times.
It's really important to be flexible enough to accommodate whatever it takes to get the job done. You have to adapt quickly to maintain security and integrity.
How do you think technology should support the credentialing process?
A clear database process is critical. It is important to understand how the data is being collected, how it’s being filtered, and where it’s being stored. The data should be in one format and housed in a live database that key people and security personnel can access. The database should have a great reporting system that breaks down all the fields into a report that will provide focused data for key people and departments. You should also be able export and print reports from the database.
What would be on your dream report?
We generally work with two or three programs to collect the data, print the credential, and read the RFID chips and/or barcodes. Our dream report would integrate all three into one system.
Are there any manual processes that you would like to see technology replace or automate?Data collection is a perfect example. It’s not working off of emails and people handing you lists or sending PDFs. The data should come in a format that can be manipulated and stored in a database. Again, we would love to see one program that can collect the data, print the credential, and be the access control system to read the barcode or RFID.
How do you print credentials quickly and efficiently for thousands of people?
We divide up the operation and give people specific roles/stations in the process. These people are very adept and they continually train in each of the different roles. We pay close attention to plan the necessary number of people at each of the stations to support the anticipated flow based on the schedule of events or production.
Whenever possible and necessary, we split up the credential operations by department. For instance we may have one for security, one for production, and another for talent. Each is staffed with a great team. Everyone knows their role and respects their part in the process. The team is a well-oiled machine. It’s also a matter of scheduling. We make sure we have the personnel in place during peak times. Our number one goal is to get people in and out of the process as efficiently and quickly as possible with the best customer service that we can offer.
What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the process?
My favorite part of the process is designing the credential, it’s a piece of art.
My least favorite part of the process is dressing up in a ball gown while working a very busy day after we've been working for 1-3 weeks at the event. We’re tired but focused on our role on show day. We don’t have much time to get ready.
Do you prefer printing on-site versus pre-printing and if so, why?
We prefer to print on-site. It eliminates many of the reprints due to last minute changes and increases the overall security if the individuals are responsible for obtaining their own credentials.
Do you think biometrics and facial recognition will be the future of access control?
It can be. It’s already implemented on a couple of our events. The number one thing that inhibits biometrics and facial recognition is the cost. It’s an investment to install, train and implement the technology. The use of biometrics and facial recognition can provide a more secure and precise identification process for larger groups.
What traits are you looking for when you hire consultants to work at your events?
The number one thing we look for is a person that has great customer service skills. We want people that are proactive and willing to troubleshoot when necessary. We aim to process everyone through the credential system with a “how can we help you” attitude and a smile.
We have an amazing group that we have worked with for many years on different projects. Each person has a skill that they bring to the project. We’re really proud of our group and customer service.
How do you keep your consultants happy while working on-site?
Everyone has a role within the process. We put a lot of thought into what that is and what is that person’s forte. When we start on a project we remind everyone if there is something you're not comfortable with we want to know, because we want everybody to be happy and enjoy the process." We also like to make sure everyone steps away, gets fresh air, and comes back with a positive attitude.
Have you ever made any fun or unusual credentials?
We made credentials for Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. The most unusual was R2-D2, C-3PO, BB-8 because they were on the Oscars. We’ve also made credentials for search dogs and the K9 dogs. That is a fun credential.
Why do you think it is so critical to have an experienced credential partner like EC Solutions?
The environment and the venue of the client can vary greatly, whether it's U.S. Soccer, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the SAG Awards, a Live Nation Festival, etc. So we think it's critical to specialize in customer support and have a proven ability to adapt to the ever changing needs of the event.
I once had a client tell me that anyone can print a credential, and they’re right. We provide a high level of professionalism and dedication to the event as well as a beautifully printed credential. We put a lot of effort into planning our set up and the credential pick up process. These are the methods that we believe put us ahead of the competition.
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EC Solutions offers a variety of services and products to simplify physical identity management and create an efficient credential process. Our solutions vary from bulk distribution passes to the highest level of fraud protected RFID credentials.