As a planner, what do you think is your most important function as you plan each meeting/conference/event? Is it the food and beverage? The décor? The speakers? The location? The technology? The entertainment? It is all of those, but without a clearly defined request for proposal and a clearly defined risk management plan a planner cannot ensure they are meeting the goals and objectives of the organization and event participants.
You, professional planner, are responsible to ensure the decisions based on the proposal for city and/or venue help meet the goals and objectives of all stakeholders. And that your risk management plans meet the safety and security needs of all who attend that meeting/conference/event.
If either don’t meet objectives, I suggest the event is not a true success. In the end, the meeting/conference/event is a collaboration with the venue and the discussions that surround risk and safety for all.
It all starts with the request for proposal or RFP. It must contain more than dates, rates and space. It is at this basic starting point that the planner begins their collaboration with the venue. It needs to contain the basic requirements and much more. Each request will contain different questions as well. For example, if the planner is aware that many of those attending have severe food allergies, the planner must ask in-depth questions about how the venue (or caterer) manages severe food allergies. The results will form a part of the risk management plan. Another example: the group is very high level government members from around the world. Top security questions need to be asked and answered in the responses to the RFP.
What other risk, security and safety questions will you ask when you send out a request for proposal to venues? The questions can be as generic as, “Where do people go when the building has to be evacuated?” or as detailed as the questions above.
Before moving to contract with a venue, ensure they have answered all your RFP questions. If not, is this really a team you want to collaborate with for your event/conference/meeting?
Move the responses to your risk management plan. Work with your venue to ensure all bases are covered: What to do if there is an emergency? Who is the main contact? Do you call 911? What if there is no 911 in the country, city where your event/meeting/conference is being held? What do you do? Your risk management plan is far more than the basic what to do if the sound fails. Yes, this is important and you need that in your plan. You also need to remember the planner is ultimately responsible for the safety and security of everyone coming to the event/conference/meeting.
Start at the beginning to incorporate questions in your request for proposal about safety, security, and risk. At the contract stage, move the responses to your risk management plan. At all stages, work with the venue in collaboration to ensure safety for all and you will meet everyone’s goals and objectives
–Sandy Biback, CMP Emeritus, CMM has been a member of the meetings industry for more than 30 years. From 1990 to 2016, she owned and operated her own independent meeting planning firm—Imagination+ Meeting Planners Inc. As a teacher, she taught meeting planning at George Brown College, Centennial College, Conestoga College and online for UNLV.