How to Crash any Conference, Event, & VIP Party
8 proven ways to crash any event and blend in with the attendees.
My name is Sasha Eslami & I’m a co-founder of Eversnap.
When we moved to San Francisco two years ago, I was appalled by the $200 “founder friendly event” tickets. Having to bootstrap Eversnap from a shared futon, the only way my co-founder, Davide, and I could attend these high price events was by crashing them.
I’d encourage those who could afford the tickets to purchase them.
But, if you can’t afford the tickets or don’t have the contacts to get in, there’s ALWAYS another way in.
Think it’s not possible?
If a United States White House dinner party with Obama can be crashed, any event is “crash-able.”
When it comes to crashing conferences, VIP Parties, and demo-days, there are two steps: 1) getting in and 2) blending in (e.g. having a badge).
Here are some of the best ways that have consistently worked for me. A “+ badge” means that this tactic will also help you get a free badge.
1. Back Door
Every venue or event room has multiple doors. 99% of events never have all doors guarded. A good tactic to find the back doors is to walk around the building or guarded room. Eventually, you will find doors that can get you in. Sometimes they go inside the kitchen first, but nobody in the kitchen gets paid enough to care.
This way is the easiest and one of my favorite ways to get into most events. It has worked at Tech Crunch Disrupt Hackathon and many events at Missions Bay Conference Center.
2. Identity Theft (+ Badge)
When the check-in person asks for your name, lean in and take a deep look at the attendee list by pretending that you’re helping the staff person to pin point your name. Then, choose a name of your liking. Point to the name and say, “There it is, John Smith.”
Note: If you hesitate, you are busted! Extreme confidence is needed here. Most likely the check-in person doesn't know the attendees. This works great for events with guest lists.
3. Kanye West
Most people are too chicken to try “Kanye-West-ing” an event, and that is exactly why it works so well.
Imagine you are a Very Important Person, e.g. Kanye. Ask yourself, what would a famous cocky alpha male like Kanye do? Would he acknowledge the registration desk? Would he say hi to anyone he doesn’t know? Would he look around to see who is there?
Of course NOT! He’s freaking Kanye West!
He looks straight ahead, ignores everyone in the room, walks tall, and confidently goes wherever the hell he wants to go. Act like Kanye and no one will ever even think about questioning you about your ticket or badge. In other words, do NOT look at the security, staff, or the registration desk. Just confidently walk to your target room.
This tactic will especially work well if you show up after the first half of the event has already passed. Most likely they are not checking badges anymore. It may also be that so many people have come in and out that the staff is not paying close attention to everyone’s badges anymore.
4. Friends with Benefits (+ Badge)
Find someone who is leaving the event and get them to give you his or her badge. One way to do this is to stand outside the building and act like you’re talking on your phone. Get closer to someone who is leaving, hang up your phone, and start a conversation like, “Hey, how was the event?” Continue creating rapport by chit-chatting, asking questions like, “Nice, what brings you here?” After five minutes of priceless conversation, exchange business cards and say you guys should meet later for lunch or something.
Then, as they are leaving ask, “You know what, I’m actually not going to stay long enough to make it worth buying a day pass… is it ok if I borrow your badge to see what’s going on? I can return it to you when we meet for lunch or I can even mail it to you.” and of course he will say, “Oh don’t worry about it, I don’t need it any more.” Most people are boring, and would like to meet new and cool people. Guess what? YOU are a “new and cool” person.
Note: this tactic works well for conferences and conventions and NOT invite-only places.
5. Where’s My Name? (+ Badge)
At the check-in, tell them your name, and when they can’t find it, start acting confused and disappointed about why they cannot find your name.
Usually the registration person feels bad for you, gives you a badge, and lets you go in. But if they don’t, it’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because they don’t have the power. So ask to see to the owner of the circus. “May I speak with the event organizer? I can’t believe this is happening, after so much schedule re-arranging I had to do to just attend this event.”
Tips: Try to show sympathy by understanding that an event like this requires a lot of work and last minute scheduling, so mistakes are bound to happen.
This works really well at high-end events where they have an air of luxury. Caution, this tactic needs believable acting techniques.
6. A Big Camera + NPPA Pass ($110)
For $110 you can purchase an annual membership with the National Press Photographer Association. I haven’t tried this myself, but several friends have used this tactic to get into many bigger concerts and events. I think it’s a brilliant tactic and quite a helpful tool for many different occasions. https://nppa.org/join-nppa
7. Quak like a Duck
Usually, the staff or security people do not really examine to see if the badge you are wearing belongs to this exact event or not. They normally sit at their chair, bored out of their mind, and just check to see if people are wearing any badge similar to the color/shape of this event’s badge. When I realized this, I started saving all my badges and friends’ badges from different events.
Try wearing a jacket and letting it hide about 50% of the badge (just enough that they can see you are wearing a badge but not enough to exactly distinguish if it’s the right badge or not).
While passing the security people, make sure to not look at them (hint: “Kanye West it”). Sometimes I even act like I’m talking on my phone, so they don’t bother me.
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. — The Security Guy’s Mind
8. Abandoned Badges
There are several places that you can find badges that have been left behind for different reasons.
8a. Trash Can
What do some people do with their badges when they leave the event? If you go to the event a little later in the day, most likely you can find real event badges simply in the trash bins outside of the building.
Obviously, you cannot walk around pretending you are Dave McClure. Either turn the badge around so they can’t read it, better yet, insert your own printed name in the badge:
During the networking break most people leave the rooms to enjoy the refreshments. Walk into the rooms and look on the seats; usually, at least one person has left her badge somewhere in the room.
Don’t forget to put your own printed card on top of the badge. (See example above.)
8c. Speakers’ Room
Most speakers prefer not to wear a badge when they’re on a stage, so they leave their badge in the green room. It’s much easier to get into the speakers’ room than most think. If it’s guarded, try grabbing a bunch of water bottles or beers from the main hall and walk in like you are replenishing the room’s drinks supply.
Bonus: Bring all your friends in with only two badges
If you know at least two people who are attending any event, you should know by now that you can get 100 people inside the doors with only those two badges. With two badges, first bring yourself and another person inside. Once your friend is inside, take his badge, go outside, and bring in another friend. Then, have one of those friends take your badge outside and bring another friend. Repeat till you have all your friends inside.
I wrote this article as a resource for people, like cash-strapped founders and students, who have a higher purpose in life but temporarily cannot afford to attend events due to lack of money or the proper contacts. I hope these tactics help you to be able to go to more events and hence expand your knowledge and network. In return, I hope you share your knowledge and success with the rest of the world. Save this article for reference for when you need to crash an event, or if you know someone who could benefit from this post, please send this to her.
p.s. If you like this article please click on “Recommend” below.
Special thanks to many who provided great feedback on this post: Heather @ SalesFlolk, Michelle T, Adrienne C, Wade V, Tavares M, Paiman V, Dayo O, Kumar T, and the ones who will, hopefully, not beat me up since I’m forgetting to mention them.
Co-founder, Eversnap Photography