Security is a hot topic these days. Just witness the proliferation of random acts of violence all over the country. It only makes sense that meeting planners are paying more attention to this issue, too.
To be clear, we’re not talking about disaster management, which is a different discussion. We’re pointing a finger at personal security and what planners can do to include some level of standard presumed protection in their overall program management.
If you’re like most planners, this isn’t only a scary topic but also a necessary discussion that takes us into unknown territory. Do you have a policy about carrying personal weapons into your trade shows and events? If the answer is yes, the next question is, how is this communicated to your attendees? Have you hired appropriate security to enforce the issue?
Are you uncomfortable yet? If so, it might be a good thing. It’s when we become complacent that bad things can happen. So, in an effort to be proactive, here are four things planners should consider in getting their security houses in order. Many come from the experiences of Mike Lynn, a longtime Dallas-based planner who works with L-3 Communications, Integrated Systems Group.
- Don’t just guess at what needs to be done if you’re starting at square one. Hire a professional security consultant with credibility in the meetings industry to meet with your team and lay out some options for your consideration. There are many licensed and credible agencies around, and some like Global Security Solutions and McRoberts Protective Agency, are nationwide. For local listings, contact a CVB associate in your destination city and/or network with your colleagues. Industry organizations like MPI are also a good resource.
- Most hotels and venues have their own security teams. So, meet with them on your site visit to start the dialogue. Planners need to understand, however, that security teams in these venues report to their own management, and usually cannot provide dedicated service to your group needs.
- Consider including a budget line item for some layer of security. Estimates generally start at about 10 percent of the overall budget, but this is a variable and requires that you start educating yourself about options that are appropriate for the size and scope of your event. For example, your attendees might be fine when they’re within the confines of a hotel, but when you move them from that safety zone, you might need to add a layer of support personnel.
- Consider the importance of attendee ID badges and your check-in process. We take this for granted, but in today’s world there are protesters and general crowd disrupters that actively search the universe of meetings in order to further their causes or beliefs. These are not welcome occurrences, and we often find out later they somehow got through the system.
These are a few ways to begin the process. If your planning team is not already having conversations about attendee security, you’d better start now. The issue is here to stay.
How important is security in your planning world? Please share a tip, a concern or a comment in the box below.