The complexity of today’s world has compelled us to reevaluate the way we live, rethink our priorities and reflect on the complicated balance between freedom and security in our personal and professional lives. Fifteen years ago, I was involved in the organization of the G8 summit in Italy. At the time I would have never thought that all of the training and the protocols established for managing that event would someday be applicable in a daily work setting.
In the past, problems that could arise included strikes, sudden schedule changes for the arrival of a head of state, the cancellation of flights, or natural disasters. You only had to think about hiring reliable vendors, making sure they were appropriately insured and checking that all updates were implemented correctly. Today, it is critical that event planners know how to organize and coordinate security, particularly for phenomena that are more complicated and global in scope such as a hypothetical terrorist attack in a city or an airport.
So, how do event planners best address the needs of clients who may directly or indirectly suffer the consequences of these phenomena?
Here are some basic considerations: have a plan in place for all staff members and suppliers that serves as a blueprint on how to handle any type of crisis. Provide training so that everyone knows what to do in any type of emergency. Information sharing and raising awareness of security standards will help mitigate material damages and the impact on participants.
Over the last two years, my company worked hard to organize an international conference that brought together executives of the world’s largest insurance companies. The goal was to provide exclusive and prestigious venues that would allow the program to be conducted with utmost discretion. The venues were chosen on the basis of aesthetics, exclusivity and confidentiality and the choices turned out to be crucial for managing event security.
Working closely with local security personnel, we communicated the details of each day's schedule to the national police and continually provided the client with updates regarding the importance of security personnel presence during all phases of the event. Security was managed discreetly, requiring significant work behind the scenes so that the attendees felt safe and the overall tone of the event was unaltered. Choosing experienced, discreet and professional event vendors and using the client’s own staff and internal security helped ensure that the event was operated successfully, from start to finish.
Cybersecurity is another consideration. It is extremely important to safeguard information and sensitive data communicated via email or on an event website. In the case of the insurance conference, none of the schedules or event reminders contained any specific details that could be intercepted and used in ways that would endanger the safety and security of the participants.
For events abroad, I always recommend relying on local suppliers who know the destination and, in the case of a problem or a sudden risky situation, are in a position to resolve it quickly with an innovative solution. Based on more than 25 years of experience, I could choose to work directly with the facilities and infrastructure in the host country. However, it is precisely because of my experience that I always choose to collaborate with colleagues at the event site and rely on local experts to provide enhanced security to ensure the event’s success.
We have been often challenged by clients who preferred to save money on safety in favor of investing in other aspects that would impress attendees such as staging, specialty entertainment, etc. Although security can be costly and can affect an overall budget, I always say to my clients, "It's always preferable to have fewer oysters rather than hold an unsafe event."
Annamaria Ruffini, CIS, CMP, is SITE President-Elect and President & CEO Events In & Out S. R. L., Rome, Italy.