What Are The Safety Risks Every Event Professional Should Plan For?
As event planners prepare for upcoming live events, they think through every detail of the event — from beginning to end — including all the things that can go wrong. When it comes to the possible issues that can happen at a live, virtual, or hybrid event, there is always the question, “What if….?”
The risks are there. Safety issues can come out of nowhere! Before you begin planning an event, event production professionals need to take time to develop a risk assessment before they get into the nitty-gritty details of the event. A risk management plan — or emergency action plan — is one of the most important parts of a risk assessment. Any preventative actions or planning can help strengthen your event and keep your team and guests safe.
Your goal is to create the perfect event experience for your guests, but you want to make sure you have the safety and security measures in place and that the event staff knows what to do should something go wrong.
Here are some risks to consider and ideas to help reduce event risks as you plan for your next live events.
Mother Nature has a mind of her own! Inclement weather can affect events, particularly outdoor events. There are many ways to approach weather contingency plans for your live outdoor event:
- Talk with your venue to determine if there is an option to move the event indoors or find a vendor to provide tents or other structures to keep guests safe and comfortable in case of bad weather.
- Make plans for a secondary date to reschedule your event if the weather-related dangers are too risky.
- If there is a large budget at risk, protect your financial risk by purchasing event insurance.
Health, Accident & Disaster Risks
You should be prepared in case someone has an accident on-site at your event. If a public health threat becomes apparent, it might be best to make adjustments to your event to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved:
- Ensure that you have dedicated event staff that can provide first aid and administer any public communications regarding health-related incidents on-site at your event.
- If there is an infectious disease outbreak that risks the public’s overall health in your community, you might want to consider rescheduling or canceling your event. If there is any possibility that you can allow your guests to remotely opt-in to your event, there are live streaming services available to accommodate your speakers, performers, and guests on a virtual event platform. This service provides your guests with the same experience at home as if they were attending your live event.
- Be sure that all of your event staff and event security are able to find the emergency exit routes in case of an accident or fire. Event staff should be familiar with the venue inside and out.
COVID-19 Health Risks
As we have recently experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic, virus outbreaks dictate a lot of your event programming, policies, and procedures. The coronavirus has made event professionals think outside of the box after the initial shutdown of all public gatherings across the globe in early 2020. From beginning to end, it’s important to clearly communicate safety measures and event policies to keep your attendees safe and happy. Many event planners have opted for virtual events in recent months, but many are returning to live, in-person and hybrid events. Here are some recommendations for COVID-19 safety precautions at your live or hybrid event:
- Follow CDC and local health officials’ guidelines. This includes, but is not limited to, mask recommendations, capacity restrictions, and travel guidelines.
- Consider outdoor venue spaces, filtration systems for indoor events, and regularly scheduled cleaning processes and procedures. These are all planning factors that can make your attendees feel more comfortable during the event. You will also want to share proper signage on-site at your event to be sure attendees are reminded of their duty to upholding a clean, safe event.
- Communicate any screening procedures. If you’re requiring rapid COVID tests, temperature checks, proof of vaccines, or any other type of health questionnaire at your event, don’t wait until the last minute to let attendees know. They will want to plan on this being a part of their event experience. These screening procedures have been a controversial issue in many areas, so be prepared to explain your why behind your decision to require such screening procedures.
- Prepare for the fact that your COVID-19 precautions don’t end at the closing session. You will want to prepare communication for if someone at your event tests positive for COVID-19 after the event is over.
In the current state of the pandemic, attendees will understand if you need to make adjustments to your event, including a complete move to a virtual event platform. With the constantly changing COVID-19 statistics in communities across the globe, you have to do what you think is best for your attendees.
Even the most basic events have some type of technology. To host a successful event, you need at least a basic laptop, microphone, and projector or TV screen to share your information. With even the basics, there is risk for technology to misbehave and cause issues at your event.
There are a variety of scenarios and solutions to consider as part of your risk management plan:
- Double-check and triple-check every laptop, tablet, projector, etc. before the start of your event. Avoid any issues before they happen. Keep your AV team close by in case on-site troubleshooting is needed.
- Review any slideshows or videos before the event to ensure they display correctly. It may be helpful to also bring a duplicate copy of your presentation, in case there are any issues with the original.
- Check your internet connection before the event. You will want to ensure that you have a dedicated internet connection for your live streaming or any internet-based content playback.
- Create a backup plan for any AV equipment that may be faulty or if someone accidentally breaks the equipment during the event.
- Host a FAQ or tech support contact by call, text, email, or instant message to help virtual attendees. There are always basic tech questions that come up that can be easily answered in a Frequently Asked Questions feature on your virtual event platform, and there may be some more difficult questions that need extra attention during the event. Have both options available for attendees to help themselves work through any technology issues that come up.
Technology isn’t perfect. Even if you test everything 100 times, there is always a chance that something will cause an issue. The important thing is to reduce any technology risks you can for any live, virtual, or hybrid event.
There are three types of security risks: physical security, information security, and personnel security. While security is everyone’s responsibility (not just law enforcement’s), it’s appropriate to have a plan to coordinate with your event venue’s security staff and vendors:
- Conduct a physical threat assessment based on the venue’s design, including doors and windows. Whether you have 30 people or 3,000 people coming through your doors, you want to secure them against all forms of threats. For instance, it might be appropriate to have security personnel at the entrances or cameras and metal detectors to protect your staff and guests even more.
- We live in a dangerous world where cyber criminals or “hackers” can attack anything connected to the internet. This includes any electronic door-locking features at your venue or attendance apps on your registration tables. If you are hosting an event with proprietary information, you might want to have a non-internet based presentation for your event. This would reduce your risk for hackers to access any information being presented.
- Keeping your staff safe is just as important as keeping your guests safe. Every one of your staff members should be vetted to ensure they have no malicious intent towards your event and they should participate in a training session to ensure that all staff members are properly educated on how to handle the risks associated with the event.
Event Planners, Speakers & Guest Risks
There are many risks to hosting an event that directly relates to the event planners, speakers or presenters or even the attendees. Not only is communication the most important tool to ensure the safety of everyone, but having a strong contingency plan for the actual people involved in your event is critical.
- The worst thing happens: your event organizer is missing in action! If your organizer steps away unexpectedly, have a designated person who is able to step in. This individual should fully understand the details of the event and should be able to handle any questions or issues that arise while the organizer is away or unavailable.
- The other worst thing happens: your speaker is late (or doesn’t show up at all). You might consider developing generic content to provide useful, valid information in substitute for your speaker or presenter. This could include an informational video or a backup presenter. It’s always a good idea to have your speakers arrive at your event a few hours before they are presenting to reduce this risk. You can also plan ahead to have a virtual connection option, if they cannot physically be in attendance at the last minute.
- There is always a chance that you host a disruptive guest…or maybe you host too many guests or you don’t host any guests at all! Help yourself by providing appropriate information about the event prior to the start and offer signage with all the basic information your guests may need, including registration, restrooms, smoking areas, and restricted areas. Remember, the more guests, the greater the risk. Always consider your limitations and be considerate of what the safest maximum guest count is for your event.
There’s only so much that pre-planning and insurance can do to minimize the risks at any live, virtual, or hybrid event. It’s important for all event professionals to consider all threats and to be prepared for the worst at the drop of a hat. Preparing for a safe and organized event creates happiness and peace of mind for your event planning team and your guests. Event safety matters!