Risk management may not sound the sexiest of topics, but with duty of care so high on the corporate agenda and the increasing budgetary scrutiny of events, it is vital to take steps to try to ensure that nothing goes wrong on the big day.

“There are four commonly used strategies for managing risk at events:
• Avoiding those elements and activities which could carry a risk.
• Accepting some or all the consequences arising from a particular risk.
• Transferring the risk to a third party (eg taking out insurance).
• Reducing the risk associated with a particular element or activity by developing an effective contingency action plan.

In order to assess which strategy applies to your event, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out, identifying potential issues and the likelihood of their occurrence, who may be affected and how severely. In each case making a decision as to how to approach the hazard should be taken. This assessment should take the form of a written document, monitored regularly for shifts and developments which may alter the status of a risk, and clearly detailing with whom
responsibility for it lies.

Here are six things to consider in the plan: Location. The destination should be chosen with consideration as to how far delegates need to travel, as excessive distances can be damaging to the corporate reputation both from an environmental as well as a cost point of view. Equally as events become increasingly international, other risks may arise. Many emerging destinations, for example, are compromised by political unrest and inequality, and more than ever delegates need to be aware of cultural protocols, etiquette and personal security. There must be processes and technology in place to act efficiently in managing group safety remotely and on the ground. There may also be visas to consider if delegates are traveling internationally.

Plus consider increasingly extreme weather patterns. Look at the predicted seasonal forecast and weather pattern, and examine any aspects of the location that might obviously present problems. Is it prone to flood, hurricane or earthquakes, for instance? And finally, how will the destination be perceived by stakeholders – does it convey the right messages about your brand or are there legislative or compliance issues to consider? All of these need to be carefully evaluated as part of the risk assessment when choosing a destination.

Site inspection. Is the venue fit for purpose? Regardless of where it is always ensure that
the venue is up to scratch on its health and safety policy and procedures, for example in the event of fire breaking out, and ask to see their emergency procedures plan. Plus if you have attendees with disabilities, check that the venue can accommodate them.

It is not unheard of for a venue to claim accessibility when doorways are too narrow for wheelchairs, or when “accessible” means via a route meant for vehicles. Or you may have attendees with special dietary needs – is the venue capable of dealing with these? Should a delegate fall ill is there a first aid trained individual onsite?

Technology. Use of innovative technology to facilitate more impactful events is increasing, but with it the potential for problems. Think of how many times a PowerPoint presentation hits a glitch or the WiFi won’t connect – there is even greater uncertainty when adventurous AV solutions, smartphone technology and complex presentation formats come into play.

Expert back-up technical support onsite is crucial to ensure swift resolution of issues. Timing. It is worth researching what other events might be running alongside your own, and which might cause transportation disruption or an increase in the cost of putting on the event. For example, if a large exhibition, sporting event or fair is taking place at the same time you may be at risk of there not being sufficient taxis, of hiked room rates or even simply heightened local community tension which could affect the atmosphere of a business conference. Another aspect of timing is when an event is held at short notice, in which case it is important that sufficient attention is given to risk when there are time pressures.

Content. Should the content of your event hold a high degree of sensitivity or confidentiality, it is necessary to ensure that proper security systems are in place. VI Ps may require protection for example, or there may be confidential data or information involved.

Cancellation and attrition policy. It is important to negotiate reasonable terms with suppliers should circumstances prevent an event going ahead or if numbers change significantly. Sensitivity on both sides is critical here, but problems can be limited with a professional approach and careful, timely communication of any changes. If you have an ongoing relationship with suppliers they are more likely to be flexible and take into account the value of future business when deciding how to respond to sudden changes of plan. In the event of cancellation, for example, you may be able to reschedule within a reasonable space of time and put some charges towards it.

To conclude, for a small and simple event, a checklist approach to risk management may be sufficient, but with larger audiences you may benefit from help. Risk management is a specialist area, and it may be that a company’s own resources are not sufficient to adequately identify and respond to challenges, in which case it is wise to seek expert assistance. Event management agencies are experienced in thorough risk assessments and mitigation processes, and their strength and diversity of supplier partnerships, manpower resources and established communications processes may justify their involvement.”

Anthony Coyle- Dowling is Director of Sales for Zibrant. Joining Zibrant in October 2010 he is responsible for delivering the UK and International Sales Strategy with the vision of becoming the No 1 Event Management and Venue Finding Agency. Zibrant ... (Read More)

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