Preventing Gatecrashers - Top 5 Access and Identification Tools for Events

Running an event is hard enough without the constant threat of gatecrashers. Whether your organising a small party for 100 people, or a large music festival for 100,000, gatecrashers are never far behind and will go to extreme lengths to enter your event.

The key to preventing this is determining how you can identify visitors and patrons who are authorised to attend your event. The main criteria for any means of identification, and the things that you must consider carefully are:

1. Transferrability - how important is it that the means of identification cannot be transferred from one person to another. Why? Because it is common at festivals for one person to enter, obtain a wristband and then find a way to get that same wristband off their wrist, over a fence and on to a friend, who can then enter the event for free. Lost revenue alert!

2. Difficulty to replicate - how likely is it that your means of identification will be forged/replicated? You would be amazed at how common this is. Some festivals report that replica wristbands appear at their event within 3 hours of the genuine wristbands being released. The key here is that some styles are far easier to replicate than others, and we'll cover this below.

3. Cost - what is your budget? How long is a piece of string you ask? Identification products come in a wide range of price brackets, but the most expensive options are not always the most secure.

Key tools to prevent access to your event

So, keeping the above in mind, what are the 5 key tools available to prevent unauthorised access to your event?


Wristbands are used at almost every festival in the world, as well as parties, business events and others. They provide a cost effective means to identify patrons, but it should be noted that not all wristbands are created equal! So, what wristband options are available to you?

1. Tyvek wristbands - Tyvek is a synthetic material but is commonly referred to as 'paper wristbands' much to the annoyance of those companies that manufacture it! It is textured and generally available in 1 inch (25mm) and 3/4 inch (19mm) sizes, and in a wide variety of colours and patterns, depending on the supplier. Tyvek is popular because it is cheap, non transferrable (if you buy good quality) and waterproof, because it can be custom printed quickly and easily, allowing for fast turnaround times if you have left your order a little late. Use Tyvek when your event is a single day event and when you don't need your wristband to be 'sexy'.

2. Plastic and vinyl wristbands - Ideal for multi-day events, they will generally come with a single use clip that means it is non transferrable. Be mindful to ask your supplier whether they use UV inks, as this will prevent smearing of your logo and text on the wristband. These bands can also be printed in full colour to provide a digital quality print, perhaps ideal for your VIP's or a small party.

3. Woven wristbands - Now we get to higher security level wristbands. Woven wristbands are used at big festivals and events, though primarily those held over multiple days. Key tips are to make sure you only use properly woven wristbands, not wristbands that have simply been printed on - the design must be physically woven in to the wristband to prevent replicas appearing, and to only utilise secure slide locks/toggles. Woven bands are secured using a slide lock/toggle that cannot be reversed, but even within this category there are wide discrepancies in the quality of slide locks available.

4. Barcoded wristbands, and RFID wristbands - see sections further down.

Lanyards with ID Cards

Lanyards and ID cards provide the simplest form of identification, but remember that a lanyard is, of course, very easy to transfer from one person to another. It is best to therefore keep these limited to staff at events, or for conferences and business events. Custom print your lanyard to increase it's security and to prevent replicas.

ID Cards are more versatile that you may first think. Ask your supplier to propose a completely unique card with options for a totally different size, or with holograms, transparent sections, barcodes, metallic inks, signature panels, sequential numbering, variable data (including photos) and more - a simple ID card can be taken to another level, attached to a customised lanyard, and form part of a very unique identification solution.


Whatever wristband or ID card you choose, the additional of barcodes can increase your level of security immensely. Commonly, two methods are used here:

1. The dummy barcode - a barcode can be added to an identification product purely to scare away parties looking to replicate the product. It is not used at the event, or scanned at any time, but it is placed on the wristband to deter forgeries.

2. Genuine, unique barcodes - each wristband or ID card can incorporate a completely unique barcode that ties in with a scanning and access system at your event. Unique barcodes can be placed on almost all wristbands, and certainly on ID cards, but the main challenge here is sourcing a low cost barcode scanning system and equipment that can run this for you. But, with online apps and smartphones improving all the time, this is getting more affordable all the time.

RFID technology

Ah, the holy grail of event identification. RFID refers to Radio Frequency Identification and it has primarily been used in the past within the logistics industry to track stock. In recent months, festivals and conferences have started utilising the technology, but only until recently has it become genuinely affordable to do so. So far, only big events with even bigger budgets have taken this step, but lots of event organisers are beginning to ask the question - is RFID right for us?

In this article, we're talking about preventing gatecrashers, so let's focus on that. Yes, RFID wristbands are excellent tools for this. Each wristband is encoded to a visitor either prior to, or at the event, and from that moment on, the access control system at the event remembers that wristband A belongs to visitor A. Event systems can therefore record where patrons are at any given time (assuming they have scanned in), and it means that replica bands are taken off the table completely.

The problem still remains though of transferrance. Even with the RFID chip, the wristband may still be removed and passed to another patron over a fence, or via other means.

The above are 5 core identification products used at events. All have strengths and weaknesses, and their relative costs vary greatly. So what other tips and hints can be passed on to help keep your event as secure as possible?

Additional pointers

1. Keep your identification designs within a close knit group at your event. The more people that have access, especially to the files, the greater chance there is of a leak and of the design becoming public knowledge. This equals disaster!

2. Release your identification to patrons as late as logistically possible. At all costs, try to avoid sending out important ID prior to the event.

3. Change your designs from year to year - this will keep potential gatecrashers on their toes! Use different colours and change your artwork.

4. Ask your supplier about additional security features such as microtext, sequential numbering, metallic inks and threads etc

5. Use a supplier that does as much of the work as possible in-house. Be wary when a supplier sources the product from one place, prints at another place and does design work at yet another place. Too many groups involved!

6. Be creative - have fun with your designs and artwork. Remember, everything you produce is also a mini advertisement for your event and brand!

Stick to these tips and tools and your event will be secure!

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