When organizations think about their travel risk management plan, the attention usually is on business trips made by individual employees. Duty of care policies have been established and updated, there are firm guidelines for how travelers should book their travel so itineraries are captured and protocols are in place so a firm can respond swiftly during an emergency. But one aspect that often is overlooked or not managed as meticulously? A company’s risk management program for meetings and events.
Natural disasters, travel disruptions, medical emergencies, political protests and other security threats — these are the sorts of crises that can unfold at corporate events. So today American Express Meetings and Events (M&E), a division of American Express Global Business Travel, is offering some ways meeting owners can get prepared.
Create a formal policy
Corporations should establish a comprehensive duty of care policy for its meetings and events that encompasses a variety of elements, from travel arrangements to safety and security procedures. While the duty of care policy that’s in place for business travel will not be a perfect fit for meetings, you still may wish to review it to see what you can borrow.
Risk management planning for meetings and events can be complex. Multiple vendors are used, and there may be different processes for attendees when booking their hotel and transportation. Plus, these events generally take place in a hotel or another venue where the public has access. So be sure to take all this into account when establishing your plan. For events with high-level attendees (e.g., C-suite for major corporations) or larger events, it’s recommended to consult with the security team where the event is being held.
Consult your security team(s)
Organizations with either an in-house security team, a third-party risk management provider or both might seek their counsel on how to best manage security related to specific meetings. For example, there may be special security requirements when the entire senior staff will be attending a meeting at a single location or when large groups of employees are heading to the same conference.
Security departments also may have special knowledge of the risk factors of a particular destination or what on-site security coverage is needed at a specific type of venue.
Choose the site carefully
When narrowing down the options of where to stage your event, it’s prudent to perform risk assessments on potential destinations, taking into consideration crime trends and travel alerts. Reach out to local law enforcement or the embassy with any questions and check out the US Department of State site, where you can find travel advisories for each country, and touch base with the on-site security staff at the hotels and convention centers.
Once the city and venue have been selected, inform meeting attendees about the destination they’re heading to. This may include customs information if they’re traveling to a foreign destination, tips on safe transportation and contact details for the local police, hospital and embassy. You also might work with a risk management company such as our partner WorldAware (formerly known as iJET), which can offer travelers country-specific security updates.
Obtain and provide key contact information
In case a crisis does strike, it’s essential everyone knows whom they should contact. Meeting attendees should be given contact information for the on-site event staff as well as an outside emergency number they can reach 24/7 for assistance.
The on- and off-site meetings staff also should have contact information for every single attendee, including their phone number, email and emergency contact, collected during the registration process.
You also should have and share 24-hour contact information for all members of the on-site team, including the manager and security officials that the vendor will have on duty during your event.
Promote group air bookings
If a large number of employees are traveling to the same destination, we recommend they book their air all together. (Our specialized group air team at American Express Meetings & Events can assist with this task.) Not only will this provide a single, centralized manifest with all your travelers’ information so you easily can keep track of them, but if there is some sort of travel disruption, it will be easier to assist them. And as an extra bonus, group air travel can drive greater savings!
Develop on-site emergency procedures
Before the event, we recommend reviewing with the venue’s security team their own procedures for various crisis situations and establishing a clear chain of command for emergency management and response activities.
Procedures to be followed in each type of emergency instance should be set and clear directions given to vendors, management and on-site and company staff.
Emergency procedures should be shared and reviewed with all event staff prior to the meeting, and safety instructions should be communicated to attendees at the start of the event.
Managing attendee information
Consider using registration technology to capture attendee information all in one place, which will prove invaluable if a crisis arises. (This is something else we can help with.)
By having all your participants’ air and hotel information in a centralized place, you easily can keep track of them. This information then can be shared with your security team in case it becomes necessary to reach out individually to people impacted by a crisis.
We also suggest keeping a hard copy of the list somewhere safe on-site for easy reference.
Get help from an event management company
A company like American Express Meetings & Events can be a critical resource when a situation develops, helping with rebooking hotels and flights if there are travel disruptions, finding alternative or extended stays if that becomes necessary and managing other travel and meeting management logistics that you likely will be too preoccupied to handle during an emergency situation.
Depending on which third-party suppliers you choose, there may be a separate meeting management company and travel management company involved in coordinating the event and travel, which can create gaps and confusion over who takes responsibility for what (not a breakdown you want to have during a crisis). This is why you might consider American Express Meetings & Events and American Express Global Business Travel as your partners to be there when teamwork and coordination are essential.
For more information about how American Express Meetings & Events can assist with your meeting planning and duty of care needs, contact us here.