Real World Events and Impact on Client Meetings – Risk Management and Crisis Preparedness
By: Kelley Atkinson, Director of Conference Services
My previous blog detailed my experience with event cancellation due to Hurricane Irma. In the weeks after my real world experience with life threatening weather, another life threatening crisis took place and made national news. On October 1, 2017 the tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival shook the meeting and events industry and made me take a harder look at crisis preparedness.
Since last October I have read many articles concerning risk management and crisis preparedness, I found that in many cases meeting planners didn’t have adequate plans in place to manage risks, yet the safety of their attendees was of the most importance. Their lack of preparedness was in part because most their meetings had never faced a major crisis. While we all hope to never face a major crisis at a meeting, not one of us can predict what could happen. As a planner, it’s beneficial to consider the experience of other industry colleagues and start the conversation early with your team members and clients. Being prepared, whether your meeting is small and closed to the public or large and open to the public, is vital. Consider the following key items in your risk management plan:
Location, location, location
Typically when a venue and location are being considered by a client it’s due to the nature of the meeting. Do you need a venue near the airport? Do you need a venue in a versatile downtown? Or perhaps a venue on the coast for family-friendly meetings that allow for some vacation time. While all of these aspects of a meeting location are important, we also need to consider the location of the nearest hospital or urgent care clinic. For larger venues, it may be imperative for you to report an emergency directly to the venue’s event manager so that he/she can dispatch first responders instead of waiting for your cell phone to connect to the local 911 operator.
While your meeting may not need police in uniforms, you may have a need for security. It’s important to make sure the security personnel are properly vetted. Most venues will hire the security on the client/planner’s behalf or at least provide the planner with a list of preferred & local security companies. Even with a list of preferred vendors, do your own research. I have personally experience security personnel hired by the venue sitting down on the job, putting their head down, walking away from their post to Facetime a friend, etc. It’s not what they are being paid to do and it opens the opportunity for risk to take place. If you see this happening, report it. Before hiring a security company, meet with them in person or schedule a call. Provide a list of high traffic areas, high traffic times and expectations. Get everything in writing and don’t sign off until your expectations are covered and agreed upon.
Discuss potential risks with your client, the venue and stakeholders early in the planning process. Consider other events taking place locally that could affect your meeting – riots or protests. Assess the risk and put a plan in motion. Budget appropriately for security and consider overtime. Keep a notebook on site with a list of staff, attendees and their contact information. Think of worst case scenarios and plan appropriately. Consider crime rates in the area. Talk to your venue’s meeting manager and ask about issues that other clients may have faced. Talk to other meeting planners and compare experiences and outcomes. Know your liability and insure your staff and company. The list goes on and on.
Kelley has been employed with Association Services Group since 2013 and has previous association and meeting planning experience with the March of Dimes, Georgia Chapter. Kelley is earning her final education credits and plans to apply for the CMP certification exam this fall.