Posts Tagged ‘risk management’



April 28, 2010

Little did I know last February, when after a disappointing local ISES chapter meeting, I blogged about risk management in “The Over-Looked Competency”, that ISES and its media partner, THE SPECIAL EVENT would soon have an opportunity to demonstrate to all members, attendees and followers their expertise level in that discipline. This morning, we have a live and un-folding case history, that handled effectively, could become a break-through to elevate our level of professionalism as event designers and producers.

Today, in the context of S.B. 1070 just passed by the Arizona legislature, the selection of the theme of TSE 2011 seems foretelling of a significant situation that will impact the show.

No matter which side of the immigration discussion we each represent, we now have a “risk situation”. For two days, we have witnessed reactions in the national press, and by last night we learned that the first upcoming conference planned for Scottsdale had cancelled. By this morning, our industry on-line trade publications have started to run news and opinion articles about whether groups planning conferences, meetings or events in Arizona should cancel and rebook elsewhere. What initially may emerge as an ethical vs. financial discussion, most likely will be discussed and rehashed for some time, but I expect that cancellation and attrition clauses will so heavily impact the financially-challenged conference organizer, that after much discussion, the TSE will remain in Phoenix.

And so, the Dawn of a New Beginning in Arizona based on immigration crises initiated by the passage of S.B. 1070 can become The Dawn of a New Beginning in providing some significant learning opportunities at TSE – if the organizers are willing to look past the standard learning levels of their conference and make this a powerful learning experience.

ISES in its name alone reflects the multi-culture and multi-racial makeup of members and many attendees of TSE. There will be those that may be threatened by the risk of racial-profiling. I expect there will be those in the international community that will question who we are as a country. And there may be those that could conceivably fall into the net cast widely in Arizona, and for one reason or another may not have proof of citizenship or international documents showing visitor status on their person at all times.

This may well impact the TSE on two levels.

The first, of course, after negative PR, is the potential negative impact on attendance from those that feel threatened or wish to protest the law. Setting aside the emotion involved in that, this could represent a major financial risk to TSE and potentially an educational risk for those among us that recognize that our International members, just by the nature of being international, represent a large body of the forward-thinking members of our organization. If they don’t attend, why would I go if my purpose is to engage with and learn from these people?

The second impact comes on-site during that conference, and the exposure attendees may have to the implementation of this law. If one’s path crosses those of a law enforcement officer, and there is reason to believe you are not a citizen, it will now be illegal for that enforcement officer NOT to ask for your papers. If you do not have them with you, under S.B. 1070, you may find yourself apprehended.

This Arizona law represents to TSE a first level of risk – that which can be minimized with good planning practices. Any failure to assess, evaluate, create contingency and emergency action plans, and develop communication plans broadcasts incompetency within our industry.

I urge TSE to give serious thought to this situation, renegotiate as you can from a position of strength, then focus on contingency planning and worst-case scenarios to minimize these risks. And then, add the situation to your education track – not to broadcast how well you handled it and tell attendees how to do it right, but to start a dialogue between organizer and attendee – reach out to those who questioned, or have been impacted or have expertise to question and share points of view so that all involved leave TSE with an impactful learning experience –that Dawn of a New Beginning that gives us all something to take away that we can begin to implement back home to start making a difference.

It would almost be worth attending the TSE 2011 Out Reach Meeting next month as a spectator to witness how plans to step up to the challenge emerge and are shaped in a responsible and effective manner.



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!



February 23, 2010

Despite much of the meeting and event industry’s certification focus being placed on the logistics and accoutrements of our business, I assess an event or, for that matter, a member of the event industry, based on the three broader competencies of our business – design, evaluation, and support elements.

Thought-leaders in the industry are concentrating on the expanded definition of design-that essential first step in the process. Others have directed efforts to portions of the cost/worth/risk evaluation, and most of us are familiar to some degree with support elements from technology to décor, entertainment to floral, and that always illusive “WOW”-factor. But mostly overlooked is that primary obligation to our clients – assessing the risk of the event and of our plan.

So I was looking forward to a recent ISES chapter meeting with a program that advertised a panel discussion on logistics and security issues. It dove-tailed well into the recent State of Industry keynote by Eisenstodt and her positioning of future trends and the core competencies we will need to be successful in that changing environment (see blog posted 02/05/10). Unfortunately, I left very disappointed-despite the excellent efforts of the panel moderator and the input of police and fire panel members.

The report on the local state of the event industry while professionally done, was the first indication that as a chapter, we may still be “living on the surface”. The impact of the economy dominated the study, of course, but I was disconcerted to hear little about marketing, message, needs and outcomes, and a whole lot about difficulties of tight budgets and pleas for don’t cut the food; don’t cut the décor; don’t cut the linens. That coupled with an emerging planner vs. vendor mentality raised a red flag that perhaps we are not quite as “collaborative” as we would like to think we are! It also signaled that it may have been beneficial for more ISES members to hear the Eisenstodt message that understanding the economy-driven pressure on both sides helps maintain ethical negotiations and provides a formula for a win-win solution. (see blog posted 02/04/10).

Nevertheless, as the panel discussion commenced, I was engaged and ready to participate and learn. And I was disappointed- not by the preparation or presentation done by the moderator – but by the responses from ISES members sitting on the panel.

We blew it. This was an opportunity to learn more about one of the most important thing we do as members of the broader event community. This was an opportunity to engage the many, many new faces of corporate event planners that were drawn to the meeting looking to increase (or perhaps share) their knowledge. And we did not get the job done.

We are better than this. ISES Boards and members have worked hard to gain recognition for our chapter in the ISES world using ISES-based measurements. Now it is time to earn recognition in the real world as strategic players delivering low-risk, meaningful results- arm in arm with our client partners.