February 24, 2010

Early in my professional life, I learned a phrase – “Real-Win-Worth-Risk”- that has served me well over the years. It reflected a means to evaluate a potential sales opportunity as a brain jogger to ask and evaluate answers to the key questions before launching automatically into developing a proposal response. As significant, it was the first time in my career that I was forced to objectively think about that term risk and its importance to my company, to our clients, and to me personally.

Over the years, experience after experience reinforced its validity. Eventually, I learned to give risk its proper due and place the correct amount of emphasis upon it rather than to simply dismiss it with a cursory “it will never happen to me”. On the contrary, unplanned and bad things happen and we need to be prepared. In fact, along with good overall event design, it is a competency far more essential than any knowledge or understanding we may have of the many support functions upon which we tend to focus.

Based on the probability of an incident and the magnitude of loss if it happens, risk can be placed in three general categories:

• Risk that can be minimized with good planning practices
• Risk that can’t be controlled, but with small magnitude of loss
• Risk that can’t be controlled, with a large magnitude of loss

It should be no surprise that the third category automatically signals we must go back to the drawing board to change our overall event design and plan. However, most risk incidents fortunately fall into the first category and, with our proper attention, can be minimized. Failure to assess, evaluate, create contingency plans and properly communicate them only broadcasts our incompetency as a member of this industry.

Passing the responsibility for risk assessment and action to a vendor, our legal department or our risk management officer is not an option. Yes, they are valued advisers and in many cases, the decision-makers during the planning process. Listen to their input; ask them questions; learn from them; but we cannot abdicate our own responsibility.

An effective response to a disruption of our event calls for the coordinated execution of a pre-determined emergency action plan. We must evaluate overall risk and create an emergency action plan as well as on site communication channels and protocols, division of duties and responsibilities, and plans to link communication systems.

I personally have experienced situations involving each of the following general categories. Please ask yourself – do you have a plan for:

• Attrition, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Clauses
• Weather –a rain plan, a snowstorm, earthquake, hurricane, flood, landslide or avalanche depending on location
• Venue Disasters including fire, roof collapses, power outages, a loss of water, technology issues; labor strikes including housekeeping, culinary and bar staff, others
• Missing or Damaged Materials essential to the event
• Data Security for client proprietary information and attendee information
• Liquor Liability Understand dram shop and social-host laws; protect yourself with indemnification clauses and ensure bartenders and servers are TIPS trained and can communicate between beverage stations
• Illness or Death, especially in a foreign country. Think about a flu pandemic, other disease issues or food poisoning within your group
• Loss of Documents passports, visas, similar
• Robbery or Kidnapping
• Shooting, Bomb Threat, Nuclear Plant Explosion, or Terrorist Attack

Contingency planning means planning for the “what ifs” and the worst-case scenarios to minimize loss of life, property and income. You or your business could be held legally responsible for damages that occur during an emergency such as a natural disaster, fire power outage, environmental accident, strike, or terrorism-activity for which you are not adequately prepared. Conduct a risk and security assessment and plan ahead!

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