Fifteen years ago, I was involved in the organization of the G8 summit in Italy. At the time I would have never thought that all of the training and the protocols established for managing that event would someday be applicable in a daily work setting.
In the past, problems that could arise included strikes, schedule changes for the arrival of a head of state, the cancellation of flights, or natural disasters. You only had to think about hiring reliable vendors, making sure they were appropriately insured, and checking that all updates were implemented correctly.
According to the 2017 SITE Index, almost eight of 10 buyers feel that safety concerns will have a significantly increased impact on incentive travel decisions. That is why it is critical that planners and suppliers know how to organize and coordinate security, particularly for phenomena that are more complicated and global in scope, such as a terrorist attack in a city or an airport.
So, how do you best address the needs of clients who may directly or indirectly suffer the consequences of these events?
Here are some basic considerations: Have a plan in place for all staff members and suppliers that serves as a blueprint for how to handle any type of crisis. Provide training so that everyone knows what to do in any type of emergency. Information sharing and raising awareness of security standards will help mitigate material damages and the impact on participants.
Over the last two years, my company worked hard to organize an international conference that brought together executives of the world's largest insurance companies. The goal was to provide exclusive and prestigious venues that would allow the program to be conducted with utmost discretion. The venues were chosen on the basis of aesthetics, exclusivity, and confidentiality, and the choices turned out to be crucial for managing event security.
Working closely with local security personnel, we communicated the details of each day's schedule to the national police and continually provided the client with updates regarding the importance of security personnel presence during all phases of the event. Security was managed discreetly, requiring significant work behind the scenes so that the attendees felt safe and the overall tone of the event was unaltered.
Cybersecurity is another consideration. It is extremely important to safeguard information and sensitive data communicated via email or on an event website. In the case of the insurance conference, none of the schedules or event reminders contained any specific details that could be intercepted and used in ways that would endanger the safety and security of the participants.
For events abroad, I always recommend relying on local suppliers who know the destination and, in the case of a problem or a sudden risky situation, are in a position to resolve it quickly with an innovative solution. Based on more than 25 years of experience, I could choose to work directly with the facilities and infrastructure in the host country. However, it is precisely because of my experience that I always choose to collaborate with colleagues at the event site and rely on local experts.
We have often been challenged by clients who preferred to save money on safety in favor of investing in other aspects that would impress attendees, such as staging, specialty entertainment, etc. Although security can be costly and can affect an overall budget, I always say to my clients, "It's always preferable to have fewer oysters rather than hold an unsafe event."
Annamaria Ruffini is president-elect of the Society for Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE) and president of events for In & Out S.R.L., in Rome, Italy