It only takes a few minutes of perusing news headlines to grasp how important event security is in this day and age.
“Safety and security is one of the biggest issues we have in our business currently and people are talking about it continually,” said Ben Goedegebuure, Vice President, Global General Manager of Maritz Global Events. “The good thing about the conversation is that everybody’s engaged in it.”
Event security is by no means a new issue.
Unfortunately—due to an alarmingly increased number of tragedies where large groups are gathered—it’s become an issue that must be thoroughly addressed.
“Our budgets are going up in that line item [event security], but it affects everything,” said Gregg Talley, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO of Talley Management Group. “It affects everything from the site selection process right through to delivery. This has probably become—in discussions I’ve had with clients and colleagues—item number one.”
Keeping Event Security Top of Mind
Regardless of an event’s size, the safety and security of guests, exhibitors and staff has to be a constant priority.
“We do have a duty of care as event managers, so there is this issue of risk mitigation everything it entails,” Talley said. “God forbid anything happen, but if it did, we have to demonstrate that we took due diligence and care in assessing and managing the level of risk.”
Thankfully, this burden shouldn’t fall squarely on the shoulders of event managers or show organizers.
Both Talley and Goedegebuure agree that it takes the entire event community—from venues, hotels, DMCs and more—to help ensure guest safety.
“You have cities engaged, the companies that are taking care of guests and clients are talking about it,” said Goedegebuure. “Everybody has it top of mind and it’s not about taking responsibility for your clients or for your client’ guests, it’s about providing the information that people need.”
Even though the major players in hosting an event individually make security a top priority, how well they collaborate could make all the difference.
“I’m not sure we’re there yet,” Talley said. “Obviously this is still something in motion, but I think there’s a lot of room for the destinations, the venues, the hotels to really come together better and help us look at this holistically.”
For example, the convention center hosting the event may have one way of dealing with safety and security issues, but that may be entirely different from how the hotels or city may handle it.
“From a community standpoint, I think that’s an area where there’s some room for improvement,” Talley said.
Steps for Improving Safety and Security Procedures
It may seem counterintuitive, however, Goedegebuure says it’s actually smart not to “over plan.”
“You need to embed risk mitigation into the procedures you normally have,” he said. “Whoever takes responsibility in a normal situation, needs to take responsibility in a crisis situation. The chain of command needs to be clear; there needs to be clarity over issues.”
While some have taken dramatic steps such as bomb-sniffing dogs to increase security at their events, communication is the most crucial aspect of any plan.
It’s nearly impossible to prevent every possible threat from occurring, however, keeping the lines open between all parties can help improve detection and response.
“The key thing for me,” said Goedegebuure, “is the communication between communities that have our guests as their guests and making sure we have the right measures of communication in place. We’re working towards that.”
Keeping open lines of communication between managers, venues, etc. is critical. The question then becomes: how aware should guests be of these safety measures?
Like the bomb-sniffing dogs, allowing guests to see the physical precautions taking place can make them feel safer—seeing these lets them know no chances are being taken.
But it can also put them on alert. “What’s happening? Why’s there so much security? Was there a threat? Should I be worried?”
On the other end of the equation, having security protocols hidden from the guests can either keep them from thinking about possible threats or make them worry that there’s not any security measures in place.
“There’s a delicate balance going on that I don’t know we’ve quite figured out how to play it,” Talley said. “What do we need to do to establish that level of comfort and let our attendees know that we have thought about it and are taking care of them without making this an even bigger issue than we all want it to be.”
According to Goedegebuure, mega measures for security probably don’t make anyone feel safer and will likely affect people’s behavior.
To him, the best security running in the background; knowing what you need to communicate, when you have to put things in place and it’s also knowing not to create a sense of fear.
“It’s a very important topic for meeting planning companies because we are definitely not alone in something like this,” he said, “and the bigger the event is you need to be sure all the authorities who have the decision-making powers are involved.”
Mitch Cooper is the Content Marketing Manager for Experient. A former journalist, he is passionate about crafting stories that enlighten and engage audiences.
When he’s not writing and editing, he enjoys spending time with his wife and one-year-old son, playing and watching sports and making people laugh.
Gain insights regarding how planners are dealing with safety and security issues and where this conversation should be going as we develop effective plans for future global events.