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Risk Management for Corporate Meeting Planners

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I tell them I am a corporate meeting & event planner, their response is almost always “Wow! What a cool job!” And they are correct. I am so fortunate to have had an incredible career so far. I have worked on great accounts and traveled to amazing destinations. It’s the reason most of us get into the industry in the first place – to work hard and to have fun while doing it! What people don’t always realize is just how stressful corporate event management can be. In addition to our responsibility to have every detail ironed out for the program, we also have a duty of care responsibility to ensure the safety and security of our attendees. This responsibility is paramount to the overall success of the program and is one we cannot afford to take lightly.

risk management for meeting planners

Planning for Every Possibility

In our industry, as in most, risk management has become a significant buzz word over the last several years. We are consistently talking about and reading about all different types of risks that can be associated with our events. We most frequently hear about travel-related risks – mass shootings, terrorism, health-related risks, etc. – that we need to be prepared for. But certainly, those are not the only risks that we are faced within our industry. What about the weather catastrophe that forces a program cancellation? Or an airline or labor strike? What if an attendee gets hurt or sick onsite? Do we know who to call and where to go to get them help? What if our CSM leaves the hotel? What if our transportation breaks down or an activity cannot operate as planned? As event planners, we must put into place a plan for each specific program detailing how we will respond should a situation arise.

In today’s world, not having a risk management plan in place can no longer be considered acceptable. We should expect that our clients are going to ask us if we have a plan in place and should be prepared to brief them on what that plan is. A great way to start is to prioritize what risks are more likely to occur, given the state of your program and the destination you are traveling. Once that list has been put together, we can begin thinking through how we plan to respond should any of those risks become a reality. The truth is that there is no way we can plan for all possible risks, but we should be doing our part to mitigate these situations as they present themselves. The more we plan, prepare, and communicate about those plans in advance of the program, the more likely we will be able to respond effectively in any given situation. We are not medical professionals or law enforcement, and our responsibilities should not include taking on those roles. But they can, and should, include knowledge of who to reach out to in a situation and a clear communication plan between yourself, your client and your onsite vendors and partners.

Hiring a Risk Management Expert

At Brightspot, we take risk management very seriously. We have put together an internal SOP (Standard Operating Procedure). This comprehensive guideline is a great tool for our team to use when thinking about our events and where we need to evaluate risks. It ensures we don’t miss a step during our pre-program planning, onsite operation, and post-program follow up and documentation. We are consistently updating and adding to the SOP so that it always remains up to date. In addition to our SOP, we work with our local partners to ensure that we are clear on what their risk management plans are and that our plans are in line with theirs.

We have developed two important risk assessments – a Hotel Emergency Assessment form and a DMC Emergency Assessment form – that we ask each of our partners to complete and return to us. The hotel emergency assessment collects information such as current and future concerns at the hotel and facility medical capabilities. Whether or not there is an onsite location to purchase over the counter medications, what onsite security measures are in place at the hotel with regards to guest rooms and overall hotel security, what are the capabilities and services of the onsite security team, what is the communication plan in the case of an emergency, and where are the closest medical facilities (emergency, pharmacy, dentist, etc.) to the hotel are very important to be aware of.

The DMC emergency assessment collects information with regards to transportation, activities, offsite venues, and any other specific item the DMC is managing for us. This information includes current and future concerns within the city and for our contracted providers, medical capabilities and life-saving systems available for each of our contracted providers, safety procedures and transportation services for each of our activities, communication plan in the case of an emergency, and confirmed insurance coverage for each of our providers. These documents provide a great starting point for gathering information and are updated by each program manager as needed to make them specific to our destination and/or needs. Obtaining this information allows us to finalize our internal emergency plans for each program and provides peace of mind to our team and our clients that we are all keeping risk management top of mind for the program.

Another great tool that we use at Brightspot is STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This allows the United States embassy to know that we are traveling to a specific country, should there be an emergency. It also notifies us as soon as something is happening in the country which we are traveling to. This helps to ensure we are staying on top of current local happenings in our program destination. For those of our clients who are currently using a program app, this becomes a wonderful tool when considering a communication plan in the case of an emergency. For those who are not using an app, risk management alone might be a great reason to consider implementing one.

risk management light bulbKeep Sharing Experiences

All of this said, what do I find to be the most essential key in providing risk management education to our team? Conversation. Sharing experiences, situations, outcomes, and opportunities to grow from those situations is a great way to learn from one another and to strengthen our risk management plans and processes. Conversation helps to ensure we are keeping our best practices up to date. Talking about risk management with your team and with industry peers keeps the subject top of mind, makes it easier for us to respond as needed, and provides an excellent opportunity to learn, grow, and prepare. (Feel free to share your tips and experiences in the comment section below!)

There is so much that can be written on the subject of risk management. It is hard to know where to start. To summarize, if you don’t have a risk management plan in place, make this a top priority. The hardest part is getting started. If your third party does not have a risk management plan in place, have a conversation with them about putting one together for your next event. We need to ensure that risk management is not an afterthought in the event planning process but instead is a key area we are thinking about and preparing for throughout the entire lifecycle of the event. Event management is fun and rewarding, but it is not all fun and games. Our ability to think on the spot logically, professionally, and with a level head in high stress and demanding situations can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful program.

If you have a corporate meeting or event coming up that could benefit from a risk management consultation (or more bright ideas in general), then drop us a line. We are happy to evaluate your current plan and develop new solutions to fill in any gaps.


Kim Dierks

Author Kim Dierks

Sr. Program Manager | Expertise is my eye for detail, contract negotiation, on-site event management, and relationship building.

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