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Security and Risk Management - MICE

Date: Sunday 22nd May 2016

Our EMA May event took place on Monday, 16th May at Brand Exchange (, a private members club tucked in the alleys of the financial district by Bank station. This serious and important topic looked at the global economic climate and the power of creating and following strict protocols with regards to risk assessment and security management in the lead up and during our local and global events.

Kate Scully and Gareth Bowers shared best practices gained through their experience, working on some challenging events in high risk locations, in one of the leading oil and gas companies in the world, Petrofac. Phil Matthews, a former Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency, also took a place on the panel.


We started the session off with some facts about the UK, a country considered to be safe and fairly low-risk destination:

  • 7,000 cyber-attacks each week
  • 3,000 terrorist threats
  • 30, 000 organised crime groups
  • 5 /6 people kidnapped in the UK each year

What do these threats mean for us event planners? This is a question we should be asking ourselves and the companies we work on behalf of, and start assessing what we are doing at present to address these versus what we should be doing.

-understand the threat

-check if you have a protocol in place

-what actions are in place

-understand how law enforcement responds to such threats and what to expect (i.e. don`t get offended if law enforcement representative throws you on the side while trying to clear their way or gain access to the venue/outside/somewhere else)

The facts above could be very useful for those organising events in the UK. Remember however, that the UK is still considered to be a safe country but for the veent you hold outside the UK threat facts could look much different. Make sure you familiarise yourselves with the local situation to be prepared.

Cyber, Tech and Personal Security

We are lucky to be living in a well-connected technological world where engagements and information gathering and sharing are simplified to a level accessible for everyone. Being so easy is the exact reason why we should be cautious when promoting our events and sharing sensitive information about location, venues used, delegates attending, etc. Kate said it right “There is no use to be talking about discretion if you are going to transport your delegates in limousines or wait for them at the airport holding a big sign with their company name on”. It is the same with social media. Sharing too much is somewhat too easy. In our excitement about the big day of the event we have worked so hard to put together finally being finally here, we forget that there are people out there who aren`t trustworthy and don`t think the best for us. Those criminal minds are the ones we want to protect ourselves and our delegates from. This is a very important message about attention to detail and being careful when mentioning locations and names of cities, hotels, and people.

We all use twitter and Facebook on daily basis. They are the ultimate peak of the technology evolution when it comes to social media engagement. If used right, they can be extremely useful to attract attendees and to raise the profile of our event and brand as a whole. However, they expose us to threats in a million ways. Showing our location in real time and sharing insights about the programme are just a few things. Looking at event pages on Facebook and people who have “showed interest” is a dangerous route. It is a knife with two ends – enabling us to attract more attendees and fostering the “must attend because my peers or the competition is there” thinking, and enabling intruders to see who will be attending and drawing unnecessary and potentially harmful attention.

Another technical advancement being widely used are apps. We touched on apps briefly considering whether they are well protected and generally safe to use. The overall consensus was that apps can be very well protected and many of them are hard even for police force to break through. All mobile devices and applications that have been developed bring a range of risks and a range of advantages. It is however a common practice to shut connectivity in a situation of evacuation or attack in a specific area/region.

In all examples above we should be considering the events we run and the people attending but we shouldn`t forget about us and our personal security. How do we position ourselves and could we put ourselves in risk unintentionally?

Working with Security teams and suppliers

An essential part of the planning process of an event is the risk assessment. This is a process that starts from day one and continues to the very last day before the event with assessing the current political and overall climate at the destination. It is extremely important for the event manager to work with the security team from the beginning and ask questions for clarification on the topics they may lack information on. From that point they should involve all other counterparts such as travel agency, local DMC and venues involved. The more parties are involved, the more likable it is that they will all be on the same track and will be prepared for any risky and unexpected situation that may occur.

Don`t be afraid to ask questions to your security team. Be proactive rather than reactive and don`t expect them to always come to you but rather you take the initiative in order to clarify things for yourself and be confident that you know how to act in a risky situation and that you have briefed your team.

Big company vs Small company

What happens if you don`t work in a big company and don`t have a security team to support you with their expertise? What protocol do you follow then, if any?

It is very hard when you are on your own and have to be prepared on all points above without having the teams to consult and work with – whether you work in a small company, or you are a freelance event planner, actions must be taken. There are many free sources that can be reviewed and used as a reference when preparing your own assessment or action plan.

  • Speak to the foreign office in the country where your event is being held
  • Speak to the embassy in the country where your event is being held
  • Use open source websites from the Security Industry Authority and the UK and US Gov websites

US State Department of travel

Overseas Security Advisory Council

Centre for Disease Control for Travellers Health