Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Probably something that hasn’t come to mind since your Psych 101 uni course. And almost certainly something that hasn’t been mentioned in your event planning. A Two-minute Refresher

To jog your memory, Abraham Maslow’s theory suggests that humans have many different needs which often compete. These needs fall in different categories which form a hierarchy.


The idea is that when needs compete, humans will attempt to satisfy the lower, more basic needs on the pyramid. When needs from one category are satisfied, humans will attempt to satisfy needs from the higher categories. The categories of needs, from lowest to highest are:

  • Physiological: breathing, excretion, food, water, sex
  • Safety: bodily safety, security, health
  • Social / Belonging: family, friendship, intimacy
  • Esteem: confidence, achievement, respect
  • Self Actualisation: realising one’s full potential

The Hierarchy and Your Event

Now try to think back to your worst personal experience as a spectator at an event – one that really sticks out as a memorably bad day out. It’s more than likely that one or more of the following was a factor:

  • Food or drink was hard or impossible to come by
  • Bathrooms were few and far between, dirty or overcrowded
  • Shelter from the elements was lacking
  • A serious safety incident may have occurred and you may have been hurt or felt threatened
  • Standing in a crowded queue for long periods

So, while the theory suggests that individuals use their free will to determine how they will act in any given moment, it can also be thought of in the following way:

Spectators will take for granted that event organisers will provide an environment in which their lower needs are easily met.

The fact that they’re coming to the event in the first place means they are attempting to satisfy higher needs, such as social ones. This means there is an assumption that lower needs will be taken care of. Yet if these minimum standards are not met then it is likely that any higher order objectives, or a desire to draw spectators’ attention to more engaging, exciting aspects of the event will be compromised.

It should probably be noted that although sexual needs are listed as one of the most basic, we do not necessarily recommend attempting to satisfy those needs of your spectators! This is not a precise model!

Meeting the Basic Values

Basic values of an event refer to the values that the event organiser must address to minimise risk of failing to meet stakeholder expectations. Yet do you alway dedicate resources to consider basic needs as part of event planning such as amenities, comfort and safety?  All too often we see a heavy focus on the ‘sexy side’ of event planning with a reluctant focus on the boring bits. The satisfaction of these basic needs is a consideration that must be built into the event at the planning and development stages.

And in case you think we’re making a big deal about nothing, consider the following:

  • Glastonbury’s 2012 festival has been cancelled due to the shortage of toilets caused by the 2012 London Olympics!

From a risk management perspective, health, safety and basic amenities are critical for achieving anything else in the event.  However the risk program should not stop there. Risk management should minimise any threats to fulfilling goals such as profit or enhancement of image and reputation.