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It’s time for round two of our partnership with MPI, and this time around, it’s all about event safety! As you already know, in the upcoming weeks, we’ll be putting some extra content out there. Endless Events got together with MPI at IMEX America 2019. And the result was an iconic batch of interviews, featuring some of the hottest topics in the industry. And, of course, some of the most relevant professionals out there, who were ready to tackle some very interesting issues.

New call-to-actionSo this week, we’re bringing you two brand new conversations. Picking up on the number one trend in the industry, event safety, our host Will Curran sits down with two amazing guests. Lori Pugh Marcum and Alex Plaxen. And they have a handful of incredible tactical tips for you! Plus, some awesome resources you’ll definitely want to check out! Are you ready to learn more about even safety? Take a look at the interviews below!

Safety And Security In The Event Industry

Kicking things off is Lori Pugh Marcum, Manager of Global Education and Event Production at MPI. Lori is very excited to talk about such a relevant topic, as is the case of event safety, and with a 6-hour event safety course, she is one of the leaders on event saftey in the industry.. So, first things first, what should planners keep in mind when it comes to kicking things off?  “We aren’t expecting any planner to be able to do everything safety and security related on their own”, she says. “We’re already juggling too many tactical things we need to be doing. So, you want to have a good team”.

The Importance of Risk Assessment in Event Safety

According to Lori, “only 53% of event planners actually have an emergency plan in place. So the first thing you want to look at is where you’re going. What are the actual risks associated with going there?”. When you’re assessing what can go wrong, you have to think beyond the weather. There are dozens of other elements that can present a threat to the safety and security of your event! “Almost play the role of the devil’s advocate on what could go wrong”, adds Lori. “That’s what risk assessment looks at. And then from there, really building a team. So you know what the roles and responsibilities are”.

The Chain Of Command

Once you put together your team, you need to know who is responsible for what in case something goes sour. Who can make the calls when it’s time to evacuate? “You definitely need to have a champion in the C-suite level to know that it’s important to have an emergency plan”, explains Lori. “And then going from there, just having an open conversation about how you would manage certain situations. It’s really about just having the conversation about who does what, and then who is going to be the spokesperson for the media should something go wrong”.

And don’t forget the money! Lori advises event planners to budget” between 5 and 10% for safety and security, depending on where they are”.

Resources For Event Safety

What are the resources and things event planners should put in the place to ensure maximum security? Lori says that even if you don’t have a budget, “it costs nothing to have a conversation with the facility and type up a plan”. However, a good example of what to spend those 5 to 10% we just mentioned is to hire another company to deal with safety-related issues for you. Planners are pulled in so many different directions and “We never want our attendees to feel like we don’t care”, adds Lori. “A planner’s number one priority isn’t necessarily creating experiences. It is making sure their attendees are taken care of”.

“Also looking at the app, you want to make sure that people know if there’s an emergency, that there’s a link showing who to contact. So they know who to contact if there’s an emergency”, explains Lori. Even though most events these days do go the extra mile and add apps, “they need to be looking closely at what the event safety capabilities are. Maps that have the fire exits, if people need to evacuate it shows where they’re supposed to go”.

Who You Gonna Call?

Expanding on a point brought up by Will, Lori adds that “a lot of the times people don’t get emergency contact information during registration or they aren’t updating it. And I have to say that’s also very important. Because if something goes wrong, you want to make sure they are able to communicate with their loved ones. And if you have multiple hotel rooms as part of your event meetings and events, you want to make sure at least one staff member is staying at each of the hotels”. Lori then goes on to explain the benefits with real life exprience from being able to verify a guest who has lost their room key with no ID by just coming down to the lobby.

Tips, Tips, Tips!

Lori has plenty of nuggets of wisdom to share with you when it comes to event safety. For instance, “be able to talk strategically when you’re getting some pushback about having a safety and security plan. Don’t be afraid to keep being an advocate for that, and keep asking. Because you never want to be in a situation where you feel like you could have done more, or where you feel like you could have prevented something. So keep pushing”.

She also tackles the issue of feeling like you’re way in over you head. “If it feels a little overwhelming to write an entire security plan, start with little pieces. In case of a hurricane or weather situation. And next time you can focus on a protest. So think bite-sized chunks instead of focusing on making a massive plan”.

And when it comes to the kind of situations you’re not thinking about, Lori has some words for you. A big threat is “Hacking of private information from the hotel. There need to be questions that are asked in the IFP early on about what their takes are on safety and security issues. And also being able to say that you want that hotel to give you their plan. And if they don’t have one, that’s a red flag”, she concludes.  There is so much more to learn from Lori, check out her certificate course it is packed with six hours of information to have you prepared, Emergency Preparedness for Meetings & Events.

Crisis Communications For Events

Our second guest is probably not a stranger for those of you who are familiar with Endless Events. Alex Plaxen, President and Founder of Little Bird Told Media, and #EventIcons host. Alex has sat down with us for several conversations, and today we’re going even deeper into a topic Alex is very passionate about, crisis communications for events. And what does it mean, after all? Well, for Alex, it’s all about “if there were a crisis, before during, or after your event, how do you plan to communicate with your attendees and stakeholders?”.

Why Crisis Communications Matter In Event Safety

“I think it’s important to have a plan because very often we shoot from the hip”, says Alex. “I think the fact that we don’t have plans in this industry is scary”. This fact propelled Alex to create a six-hour course that goes deep into the specifics on how to go about creating a fool-proof crisis communication plan.

Who To Talk To?

One of the downfalls of event planners is often forgetting who they should be talking to. “I think one thing we forego is how to work with our partners. Our AV partners, our venue partners, our speaker partners”, says Alex. “Everyone has a role to play when it comes to crisis communications, and we don’t think about that or have those conversations. If you’re at a venue, and there’s another event sharing that venue space, you need to know who that event is. And not only be monitoring your social media, but also theirs. Because if something happens at that event, and you’re sharing the same space…if you think that’s not going to impact your attendees, you’re wrong”.

It’s surprisingly easy to get caught up in our own little world and disregard what’s happening outside of our bubble. Even when those things have the potential to be somehow harmful to us! Alex makes a point to share the quote “fear is healthier than ego” in all of his presentations. “Fear is actually healthy, it propels us to act”, he explains. “The only organizations who take me up on the offer to prepare crisis communications are the ones who’ve actually experienced a crisis. Because the ones who haven’t don’t think it can happen to them”.

I’m Not Getting Paid For This!

On the other side of the spectrum, we have event planners who tend to think crisis communication is not part of the job description. And that’s not a good way to go about it. “First of all, no one knows your event better than you”, says Alex. “You have a role to play in the creation of the plan. It’s two-fold: first, if you handle a crisis poorly, you won’t have your event next year. Which means you don’t have a job. It’s job security for you as an event planner. But on the other side, it’s also an opportunity for promotion. You’re bringing something new to the table, you’re talking to your higher-ups and your organization about something that’s really low-hanging fruit. But it’s something they’re not doing, that’s going to save them money in the long-run”, he adds.

Creating A Team: The Road To Event Safety

“The first step in creating a crisis communication plan is auditing your vulnerabilities for your event. That’s your foundation”, explains Alex. Many people come to Alex asking for a template to help them make this assessment, which is the wrong step. There are too many variables, and any blank that you fill, if something does end up going wrong, “it might be the wrong action for your organization or for your event”. In order to audit your vulnerabilities, you will need to have a team in place. “That’s going to include your CEO, your C-suite, your PR team, your legal team”, adds he adds. When it comes to the two latter ones, if you don’t have them, you will want to subcontract them for the creation of this plan.

“Then you need the head of every department of your organization”, continues Alex. “You need these heads of departments because everyone is going to have a different perspective on what is a vulnerability for your event. And it can’t just be you, because you’re going to be thinking logistics. You need all these people in the room at least when it comes to the vulnerability audit”.

What To Look For To Ensure Event Safety And Preparedness

So, what are the tips Alex can give us when it comes down to awareness? “One of the keys is knowing your plan”, he says. “Assessing the vulnerabilities, that’s your foundation. Having a plan, that’s your house. And then knowing the plan is the key to that house, that’s what lets you inside. You have to realize that if you’re training your staff, if you’re talking about this from a fresh perspective, you are going to know your plan, and it’s going to be second nature”.

In his course, Alex always asks three questions. Who’s in charge of your social media and communication during the event is the first one. “And typically you hear it’s the marketing team. But do they know crisis communications is part of their job?”. That’s the second question because more often than not, they’re unaware of this fact. And then the third question is “are they trained in crisis communications?”. According to Alex, the norm is that “in a room of 100 people, one or two hands will go up” when asked the last two questions. This means that the majority of the events we attend don’t. And that’s slightly terrifying.

That’s A Wrap On Event Safety and Security!

We’ve reached the end of our amazing interviews tackling the issue of event safety and security. Are you ready to start taking this topic even more seriously? Make sure you check out MPI’s Emergency Preparedness For Meetings And Events and the Event Crisis Communications Certificate Programs. You can rest assured that both of these incredible courses will equip you with a fresh new perspective on event safety and crisis communication. And check out all the other amazing resources we have for you below. Tune in next week for more amazing content!


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Mariana Fernandes

Author Mariana Fernandes

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