Does your Meeting have a Risk Management Plan?
Event professionals often consider themselves the masters of detail and organization. Some may even call planners perfectionists. Unfortunately, very rarely do planners have a ‘perfect event’ with no disruptions. That is a dream that will continue to be chased throughout most planner’s careers.
Therefore, until that dream of perfection is met, planning for the unexpected – otherwise known as Risk Management – must remain one of the most fundamental areas of focus throughout the planning process. As much as surprises on programs are unwelcomed, it is essential to realize that they will happen. Preparation is the key ingredient needed to respond effectively and efficiently when faced with the unexpected. When event disruptions occur, they can lead to a negative attendee experience, adverse financial outcomes, and possibly a detrimental effect on a company’s reputation. A planner’s ability to respond appropriately can significantly help mitigate these outcomes.
According to the Events Industry Council, risk management is defined as “the ongoing process of assessing the risks that may threaten attendees, the meeting or event itself, the organizer, or partner-suppliers, and applying appropriate measures to manage the probability of occurrence and consequences of such risks.” According to the 2016 IRF Event Disruption Study, 67% of planners reported spending 25% of their time planning for disruptions. According to the 2020 IRF Event Disruption Study, 70% of planners reported that they had experienced a disruption to their event in the past five years. Based on these statistics, the importance of risk management throughout all stages of an event cannot be emphasized enough.
Risk Assessment for Corporate Meetings
For each program that is planned, risks should be assessed for event areas such as attendee demographics, event location, time of year, budget, and program inclusions. According to the previously mentioned IRF 2020 Event Disruption Study, weather continues to be the primary cause of disruption for events. In addition to weather, other significant causes of event disruption are medical issues, vendor failure, flight cancellations or delays, dietary needs, hotel attrition, program inclusions, and pandemic. While this is not an all-inclusive list, it highlights some of the key areas to be mindful of when creating a risk management plan. It is important to remember that each event is unique. Special consideration should be given to areas of the program that may require additional needs for risk management.
Risk Management Plans for Meetings
The risk management plan should guide how the team will respond to a given situation. While risks should be assessed throughout all stages of the program, including the planning stages, most often the event disruptions happen onsite. Examples of what should be included in an onsite risk management plan include the following:
STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program): When traveling internationally, ensure the travel team is registered with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This allows the US Embassy to know what team members are in a specific country during an emergency. Determine with the client if registering attendees in the STEP program is something they are interested in.
Weather backup: Make sure to have a weather backup plan for any outdoor event or activity.
Flight tracking and monitoring: Make sure to be aware of the flight status of attendees and any potential weather conditions that may impact travel.
Dietary restrictions: Make sure to be aware of any dietary restrictions and allergies and plan meals accordingly for those attendees.
Medical plan: What medical services are available onsite? Where are the nearest hospital, pharmacy, and dental office? What is the best means of transportation to/from these medical providers?
Evacuation plan: In the case of a hotel evacuation, where will the evacuation location be, and what are the hotel’s contingency plans?
Vendor emergency procedures: Make sure to meet with vendors to understand their emergency procedures and communication plans.
Client risk management plan: Make sure to meet with the client to understand their company requirements and communication expectations.
Communication plan: In the case of an emergency, what is the process of communicating with attendees, the client, and onsite vendors?
Emergency contact information: Make sure to have attendee emergency contact information on hand.
Onsite documentation: Make sure the team is prepared to document everything onsite. From the smallest injury to the largest emergency, detailed documentation is of utmost importance for the program files.
3 Common Types of Disruptions to Plan For
The vigilant meeting planner must take precautions for every possible scenario, but there are a few types of disruptions that will demand the bulk of their attention. When creating a risk management plan, make sure there are detailed procedures to handle these three major hurdles:
1. Attrition: Attrition is one of the easiest ways for an event budget to get hit with serious, unexpected penalties. Planners must understand the attrition clause of their agreement and when and how they might be penalized. Be mindful of ways you can negotiate penalties if you find yourself in this situation. Even better if you are able to find a solution that satisfies both your client and the hotel.
2. Vendor failures: Vendor failures include everything from hotels overbooking, equipment malfunctions, strikes, contractual breaches, etc. Vetted partners and a trusted network of vendors are a primary advantage of partnering with a professional meeting planner and help to reduce the risk of relying on unknown variables.
3. Medical issues: There are so many different situations that can account for a medical issue onsite. Examples include a broken leg, a heart attack, a stomach bug, a migraine, a sunburn, or a family medical emergency back home. Having a clear communication plan in place and knowing where the nearest local medical providers are located are ways a planner can ensure they are prepared for these types of situations.
Brightspot Risk Management Services
Brightspot has many tools to assist with ensuring we are prepared to respond in the case of an unexpected event disruption. Examples of some of these tools are:
- Internal Risk Management SOP (Standard Operating Procedures)
- A comprehensive onsite risk management plan
- Emergency communication plan
- Vendor risk assessments
- Flight monitoring and tracking
- Strong weather backup plans
- Onsite first aid kits
- Partnership with global security providers
- Post-program risk evaluation and review
Event professionals have a duty of care responsibility to continue to assess and monitor opportunities for risks and to take reasonable measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of program attendees. Having a risk management plan in place for every program that is operated should not only be the client’s expectation but should also be the expectation set by planners for themselves and their teams. While the perfectionist in all event professionals will never stop dreaming about the perfect event, we must continue to work diligently in planning the details of our beloved programs, ensuring most importantly, risk management is never overlooked. Drop us a line, and we can walk through your meeting and discuss where risk management planning can be implemented without the headache and anxiety of having to do it all yourself!