I first sat down to write this article as the tragic news was breaking about the attack near the British Parliament that left five people dead, including an American on vacation, a British teacher, a Romanian architect, a police constable, and the assailant. At least 50 other individuals were hurt.
It doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine some of your attendees on that Westminster Bridge enjoying a free afternoon during a conference in London … or on an incentive trip to Nice enjoying the fireworks on the Promenade des Anglais last summer … or relaxing in a Parisian bar after a convention (Read Airbnb founder Brian Chesky’s account of hosting his company’s annual meeting in Paris during the 2015 bombings.)
The likelihood that any individual attendee will be affected by a terror attack or catastrophic weather event like a tornado is quite miniscule, but talk to seasoned meeting professionals and its hard to find anyone whose organization’s meetings haven’t been touched by a serious emergency at some point. On site at Pharma Forum last month (the conference we co-produce with CBI for pharmaceutical and life sciences meeting professionals), I heard one planner say he had attendees at the Zaventem Airport in Brussels during the bombing in March 2016, and another who said he had “people running for their lives” in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport when the gunman opened up last January. Yet another noted she had needed her meeting registration software to find out where people were staying during the earthquake in Italy last August.
A theme that repeated itself over and over in the research for this month’s cover story: Your risk management plan needs to come down off the shelf. It’s not just about having one; it’s about understanding, updating, and practicing your plan. Our article aims to help you do that by walking you through best practices, offering resources, and providing some food for thought. (Have you integrated social media into your crisis communications strategy? Do changing gun laws need to be addressed in your meeting policies? What are your response tactics if protestors target your event?)
While emergencies, by definition, are almost impossible to predict, it’s unfortunately far too easy to know that you will face something, sometime. Be ready and be safe.