How safe are your meetings and events? The last few years have shown that there is any number of scenarios that can endanger your staff and attendees, from wildfires and hurricanes to mass shootings and power outages, and it may feel like an impossible task to prepare for any of these crises. New disruptions seem to be invented every week: food terrorism means planners need to think about kitchen security and new camera and drone technologies mean proprietary knowledge can be stolen and outdoor spaces can be accessed from the air. Some of you may have already adopted some measures; others may be feeling overwhelmed and not know where to begin.
There is no perfect time to sit down and address all safety issues and threats, but the time that counts most is what military preparedness experts call, “left of bang.” This is any time before the crisis—whether it is an attendee medical emergency or an act of terrorism—because during the crisis it is too late. Here are some action items and ideas that you can implement at whatever stage of your meeting you are in, from Choosing a Location or Venue, to negotiating The Contract, or creating a Communications Policy. Typically, the hardest part of preparing for a safer conference is Developing an Emergency Plan, but there are many resources to draw on and some tips and reminders on creating a plan that covers all your staff and attendees. Finally, if you are already on site at your meeting, it’s not too late to implement these On-Site Safety strategies, and you can start by putting down your phone.
These steps to a safer meeting come from MeetingsNet’s all-day risk management conferences, Risk360, which were held throughout 2019 and included sessions on social media crisis communicationspresented by Kelsey Dixon, co-founder and president of davies + dixon; legal considerationspresented by Tyra Hilliard, Esq., CMP; developing an emergency action planpresented by Alan Kleinfeld, CMP, CMM, director of Arrive Management Group; andphysical threatspresented by David Lau, counterterrorism and security professional. At the beginning of his presentation, security expert Lau said, “Don’t be scared, be prepared.” Can you cover every potential crisis in one day? No, but you can begin to assemble the knowledge and tools to prepare for a safer event.
Professor Hilliard ended a question-and-answer session at Risk360 with these words of advice, “Preparing for a crisis can be daunting but remember that any one thing you can do to make your meeting safer is one more thing. Don’t get overwhelmed.”
So, let’s commit to following Tyra Hilliard’s advice, “To begin with, do one thing. Then one more.”