When you start to wrap your mind around a large scale event, you start thinking big. Venue tours, entertainment options, food selections, room layouts, and more. As planners, we often fall in love with the larger event aspects that make up the event experience you are giving to attendees. The things that bring in the much sought after “wow” factor. You have to be very careful to ensure that the behind the scenes (but equally important) items don’t get marginalized.
A lot goes on before and during a well run event, but one of the most important aspects is security. When you think of the big picture, it’s an easy thing to forget. Security doesn’t make heads turn, give once in a lifetime experiences, or facilitate an environment for networking and connection. After all, what are the chances that something might happen? Pretty slim. So many people run with what a venue or business requires and ignore the importance of creating a security plan tailored to the needs and concerns of the event and the client.
The unfortunate truth is, no one will question your security decisions until something goes wrong. Even if the final outcome of a breakdown in security is a misunderstanding where no one was harmed, the breakdown itself negatively affects the attitude of those in attendance. It makes you and your client look unprepared. The next time security comes up in your planning process, here are a few tips that will help you make sure you’re covered.
Explore the Possibilities: Consider What Might Happen
Each event has a different set of possible issues that you might encounter. Sit down with your client and your team to discuss these possibilities and an agreed upon set of procedures to follow should any issues come up. What will you do if credentials are required for entry, but someone is missing theirs? There might be certain VIPs at the event that should never be questioned for credentials. Do you know who these people are and does your team have their headshot?
If you are having an event with an open bar and guests have to be 21 and over to attend, what is the procedure if you have to confront an attendee to confirm their age? What steps can you put into place ahead of time to possibly avoid an encounter that puts the client or the planner in an awkward position?
Are you dealing with a company that has specific concerns about a recently dismissed employee or a PR related security concern? Say it again: CUSTOM TAILORED SECURITY PLAN.
The more you explore the possibilities, the better able you will be to put a plan in place that can avoid them, or when they are unavoidable, both you and your client will have discussed how to move forward.
Know your People: Create a Security Specific Chain of Command
Certain issues on the ground are not as simple as asking someone to return to a hotel room to get the correct badge. Procedures already in place for event security often revolve around events that mix lots of people with lots of alcohol. While those concerns are valid, would you follow the same procedure for an unruly guest that you would for a complete power outage? Who would decide if the room needs to be cleared (in the pitch black) and how would you do it without causing mass panic?
A good place to start is designating a member of your team as your security contact. The use of radios makes communication during a security event easier to plan and implement. Have a dedicated security/emergency channel that specific parties turn to when an issue arises. Your dedicated contact will be giving and receiving information from security to relay back to the client and team.
After establishing your security chain of command, take note of who will be on the radio channel with you. If not all parties need to be alerted to an incident, you can use a specific word to alert your team to switch to another channel. In the interest of everyone, the less panic created, the easier an issue is to handle.
Your designated security contact will need a counterpart on your client’s team. This person will be the one to communicate important information to your guests in the event of an emergency. Consider how this information is best distributed. From the stage? Via a push notification on an app? How will you inform a speaker if they are in the middle of a presentation?
Knowing who to communicate with and how is critical for keeping things under control. As we stated above, even minor misunderstandings can lead to a security intervention. When issues that arise are handled quickly and quietly, it is because a solid plan with a simple chain of command is in place.
Knowledge is Power: Arming Your Team and Your Attendees with Information
No one likes expecting one thing and getting another. If your attendees will need to have their credentials with them at all times, make sure they are aware of this. At check in, you can have staff review the most important details for them, or you can print out a card with necessary information.
If you have guests staying in a hotel, offer to provide them with the hotel security plan upon request. Most hotels in major cities already have this document and it can help inform guests as to the best practices if an incident occurs while they are on the premises. If your event is at a venue where exits and pathways might not be clear, make sure you communicate this information with them in a way that best suits your event. If you have a custom app, it’s always good to have your security plan posted there for easy reference.
Familiarize yourself, your clients and your team with the security procedures of your venue. If you are having a special guest or speaker, do they have a security team that will need to sweep the rooms and areas prior to their arrival? Will they need meals or a place to sit? Do they need to be in touch with the head of any additional security you have in place? The only way you can prepare for incidents and accommodate the people involved is by knowing what is needed and what is expected. Get as much information as you can so you are prepared for anything that comes your way.
In this day and age, event security is no longer a side item where you check off the minimal requirements. Each event and client will have their own particular set of concerns. Consider what could happen, consider your response, decide who needs to be contacted, and know and share the important information. If you invest the time and attention needed to create a custom security plan for your event, the only thing guests should be talking about are the seen items that are the most fun to plan..
Wherever there are truly successful conventions, meetings, or events, there are planners behind the scenes considering what steps will be taken in any number of security scenarios. The difference is in the details. And that’s why we’re here.