It will never happen at my event

Let me preface by saying that the following views on events and safety are mine and are in no way representative of my company’s. 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been personally mulling the frequency of shootings in our country. It was when San Bernardino occurred did I consider the impact on the events industry and even any company gathering.

You’ve probably said it to yourself, “It will never happen at my event.” For the most part, we will be fortunate to never have to deal with violence at an event. However, a part of me doesn’t believe it. Rather it’s

Event Technology’s Role

Within the meetings space, meetings technology helps with duty of care with employees and event attendees in the case of natural disasters.  Michelle Bruno wrote an excellent post on Event Manager Blog titled “Is Your Meeting Safe.” She highlights how technology is an integral part of a safety plan. Here is a quick summary of her article:

  • Access control – While badges are one way to control access, Michelle highlights that paper badges can be easily counterfeited. Using technology, such as RFID, adds an additional layer to match the ID to the attendee’s profile.
  • Surveillance – Like a home alarm system, consider using video cameras outside and inside the venue or asking the venue what type of system is available for your event.
  • Social media – Instead of relying on a few staff members to identify suspicious activity, empower your attendees to report anything via social media.

Maintain Vigilance

I once dated a “hacker” who was hired to find vulnerabilities in corporations. While getting through the computer system or network was one component of the security audit, one of the easier ways to gain access was a ruse to gain access via people or dumpster diving for sensitive information. This also applies to securing events:

  • Shred badges – The incorrect name or title is on a badge, so a new one is created. What happens to the original? Rather than tossing it into the waste basket, have a small shredder to ensure badges are destroyed. This applies to any collateral that provides access – such as tickets, VIP passes, etc.
  • Train staff – Part of the event experience is having friendly, helpful staff – both employees or staff members. As such, the tendency may be to do everything possible to please an attendee. There is a fine balance to “pleasing” an attendee, to ensuring the right people have the right access. Clearly communicate procedures for allowing access and how to quickly and efficiently escalate issues as they arise.
  • Have a plan – Event planners consider every contingency at their event from last-minute speaker cancellations, AV problems to force majeure (such as volcano ash eruptions). Their entire job is to mitigate risk. I anticipate more discussion around appropriate planning in case of a physical attack.


It took me several weeks to consider whether or not to write this post. One thing struck with me – this isn’t the first time, we, as a country, have dealt with crisis. When Hurricane Katrina happened, I read the stories about how companies were helping event attendees get home, chartering entire buses to drive people East, West and North. Katrina informed us how to manage natural disasters. San Bernardino, unfortunately, is another inflection point for our industry.

I anticipate we’ll be resilient and our industry will remain stronger than ever. In fact, an early December Meetings International Review article, Despite Terror Attacks, Signs of Confidence in Events Industry, reported that, surveys conducted after the Paris terrorist attacks indicated that confidence in the events industry remains strong. And that’s good news.

During this holiday season, stay safe and hug your loved ones a little stronger. Here’s to a better, and safe, 2016 to everyone.