Meetings Risk Management

by John Rose

Internal meetings and client events are essential sales and marketing opportunities and have the potential for sky-high ROI. Your top producers, top clients, and company executives are all gathered to plot the path to success. But my job is to consider the real risk when a large group of high-value employees gather together.

Some companies have strict policies about the number of employees that can fly on the same plane. But since the risk of a plane crash is shallow, that can’t be entirety of the risk management policy. What HR should be thinking about is what’s happening on the ground during a big meeting or company event. When planning a meeting of any size, a risk assessment of the entire event should be conducted and plans for mitigating those risks should be implemented.

In a large-scale event, there are many vendors involved, and it can be unclear as to who is responsible for an event’s security. The resources and entities engaged in an involved meeting might include a travel management company, a meetings registration and booking platform (like Cvent or Aventri), possibly a separate meetings management company, and the coordinators who work for the venue itself. Having so many players involved can limit visibility, making it challenging to perform key safety-related responsibilities such as traveler tracking, pre-trip briefings, and other risk management activities.


When companies outsource meetings, they consider particular up-front logistics like catering, audiovisual capabilities, check-in, room quality, and proximity to the airport. These are coincidentally the things that people tend to complain about when they don’t meet expectations. But Meetings & Events planners need to think about some critical issues beyond whether the microphones work. The area where many companies miss the mark is security. Not only should you consider the security at the venue and off-site events, but you must also evaluate the transportation there and back. Planners generally don’t think about the risk of having 50 employees on the same bus. No one checked out the bus company’s fleet or ensured that their drivers are properly licensed. These details not only have to be checked but also must be shared with the first meeting coordinator.


Many assumptions can be made about location security when meeting plans are being made. Event managers may have had training, but their staff needs to be trained to handle security situations as well. The entire team should be empowered to handle an emergency quickly. Whether it’s calling 911 or de-escalating a drunken situation, if you prepare for these scenarios in advance, the chances of something going wrong is low.

Another aspect of event security involves regulating access to the event. Your meeting could require badges with photos, and entry into individual meeting rooms or venues could require positive ID verification – meaning the attendees provide a driver’s license, and it matches their badge. Adding this level of access control will improve security, but the flip side is that ID checks make for long check-in lines. So your planners will need to find that balance.


Faced with an emergency, meeting hosts may need to communicate with attendees. But many companies don’t put in place crisis communication plans for meetings. When companies develop a crisis communication plan, they should be shared in advance with their organization’s security officer, the Meeting Planner, and of course, the attendees. It’s not a bad idea to share the plan with the hotel and venue.


Companies need to think about the inherent risks that female travelers face every time they take a business trip. According to a GBTA survey, 83% of female travelers said they felt they had encountered a security situation during a business trip. That’s an astronomical number that demands to be addressed. Fifty-percent of business travelers are female, so companies must mitigate their risks.

Female travelers can feel vulnerable in a variety of situations inside their hotels. It starts at the front desk when they must guard against someone in the lobby from listening to their room number. Many reception staff are trained to write the number and point to it, but there are exceptions. Other common areas at the hotel can contribute to uncomfortable and awkward encounters: in the bar, in the elevators, or the gym.


Any employee who feels like their security is at risk should immediately call hotel security. If you’re unsure how to reach them, start with the hotel manager or even the front desk. As a hotel guest, if you feel uncomfortable or experience an incident, bring hotel security into the situation as soon as possible. They’ll ask you to try to identify the individual by watching surveillance video footage to find out about the bad actor. If the person is not a hotel guest, security will likely ask him to leave the property. If they are a guest, then security can continue to watch that person during your stay.

Risk management of meetings and events is a growing priority for many companies. If you do the preparation, the odds that you have to take action is low. A well-informed traveler is one of the best weapons an organization can use to combat threats to traveler security and safety.

Want to talk about how to manage risk for your Meetings & Events? Contact us.

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