The Best Line

I am ready. #LetsGo!

Oh wait. I can’t. I am in line. And as per the story of my life ,I am in the wrong line. The slow one. With no one to blame but me because I picked wrong. 

We have done it, you know, that odd assessment to determine “Which line is shorter?” “Which one is moving faster?”

As if we are line analysis experts somehow qualified to predict outcomes, anticipate speed and account for error.

Not one of us picks the right line, right? We are the frowny faced, scowlers, chewing on our bottom lip, chin in the air, over judging those who inch past us as better-line-picking victors. We stand idle. Feeling like losers. Feeling anxious. Suddenly having a million more important things to do than what we are doing in that moment. (Try being an event planner who is waiting in the slow line…yeah…)

MIT professor Richard Larson, a leading contributor to workplace efficiency, begs to differ with my frustrated logic. He would argue that we actually are experts in line selection. His behavioral research on the subject has determined that the average person spends a full two years of their life waiting in lines. (Not trying to show off my mad math skills or anything that comes to a full 730 days, and yes I did that calculation in my head.) He also noted that the psychology of the line is more influential than the length of the line. (Pausing here for reflection…that was deep…)

Lines are a fact of life. We will encounter them on a daily basis. So, as event planners and human beings going to the same place at the same time, how do we make the most of the time we spend in the lines of life, and how do we make the lines we create at events the best experience for our guests as possible?  (Side note: Is a run on sentence considered a line? I digress…)

Let’s start with the anatomy of the line.

Size, it turns out, does matter but not as much as shape.

  • Straight Line:  Let’s not shall we? If you can avoid a straight line, please do so. This can be challenging in some convention centers or hotels with narrow or vendor crowded hallways. That said, straight lines feel the longest in part due to the inability to see the destination point.
  • Arced Lines: Let’s say your line has to go around a corner or a pillar. The arc will preclude the person awaiting from seeing the destination point. 
  • Turn-Style Lines: Let’s say you have a side space to work with and you want to avoid a long straight line. Setting your waiting people up to wait in a turn style line can accomplish maximizing your space and provide the perception that the line is moving faster as long as those waiting can see their destination point. 

There is one critical determining factor, regardless of the length and shape of your line. In order for the line to not feel endless, hopeless and wasted, the person waiting must be able to see where they are going. The end must at least feel near.

As rabid fans of this blog you know by now that I love signs. The more the merrier as long as they say something helpful, funny or inspiring. Using signs in lines (rhymes…did it again) to empathize with your waiter can provoke patience. “Are you there yet?” “Almost” can lighten the wait. 

Signs also help them know they are in the right spot.  So they don’t end up like me, waiting in line, outside in the dark, cold rain of Brooklyn at the Billie Eilish concert only to find out I was in the “If you didn’t read the sign that said no purses get in line to have yours scanned and checked” I didn’t have a purse and could have waltzed on in.  Making sure people know what they are waiting for will help ensure they don’t barge into your event down annoyed.

There are few things more irritating than waiting over here when you should have been waiting over there.

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