Top 10 Foreseeable Risks for a Meeting Crisis – Have You Considered Them All?

Meetings are risky business, especially in today’s world. A crisis can happen at any time, anywhere, to anyone. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have meetings: They are an unparalleled opportunity to create bonds, strengthen relationships and build your business.
Hurricane at your event
As meeting planners, you have a duty of care to each and every one of your attendees. What that means is that you are responsible to take reasonable precautions against any foreseeable risks that could happen on your watch. And not just for employees, but also sponsors, vendors, exhibitors, spectators, journalists, speakers and invitees.


Fail to meet this duty of care and the consequences can be grave – financially, legally and reputationally.

We routinely sit down with meeting planners, just like you, to help them think through how they would manage a crisis. Are you prepared? Even though you typically can’t prevent these crises, you can be aware that they are possible and know how to act if they should occur.

Here are 10 potential crises that every meeting planner should be prepared to address.

Winter Blizzard in the City
1.  Weather Instability

Well we surely can’t control the weather, but we can help mitigate effects that could ruin the meeting. Think through all the eventualities: Can you quickly gain access to tent the area should rain fall? Would a crate of bottled water and sunscreen help make an outdoor event more tolerable if the weather is unseasonably warm?

2.  Travel Snafus

Half the attendees were caught up in flight delays. Can you provide synopses of the first day so they don’t feel as though they missed the entire docket of opening sessions?

The keynote speaker misses her connection…and is going to miss her address. Do you have a backup plan for someone who can take her place or can she present the topic remotely?

Flight Delay - Departures and Arrivals Screen
Traffic Sign under water in flood
3.  Natural Disasters

Preventable? Of course not. Foreseeable? Not exactly, and yet there are still ways to mitigate the effects of a natural disaster, from explaining an evacuation route to providing suggestions for where those affected can shelter in place.

4.  Active Shooter

Again, not preventable and not foreseeable…yet that doesn’t mean you can’t take every measure to ensure safety in any way you can, from providing an exit strategy to offering medical, security and law enforcement contacts to all attendees.

Active Shooter Walking Down Hallway
Riot Police in LIne
5.  Civil Unrest

Are you traveling to an area known for potential danger? While moving the meeting might be the best outcome, sometimes that isn’t possible. In that case, smart strategies are to warn attendees of the increased risk; provide clear directions on specific areas to avoid; offer emergency contact information; and provide additional security as needed.

6.  Power Outage

Just ask attendees at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES): A power outage can cause major disruption. Knowing how to find alternate sources of power can help shorten the length of the event: CES’ power was restored in two hours – an eternity for those on the show floor, but a relative miracle compared to what it could have been.

Electrical Grid Outage
Fire Truck Ladder reaching to fire in building
7.  Fire

Ensure attendees know safe escape routes and how to contact emergency personnel.

8.  Medical Emergency or Death

Is there a doctor in the house? There better be… or at least some way to contact one fast. Furthermore, you’ll want to have a plan for short-circuiting the rumor mill and protecting the privacy of those involved. 

Medical Emergency in the Street
Fire Truck Ladder reaching to fire in building
9.  Theft of Personal Property

Is someone swiping phones out of purses or walking off the show floor with expensive equipment? Create a plan for victims to swiftly report the crimes so that you can raise awareness and encourage attendees to be extra vigilant, while working with local law authorizes to apprehend the criminal.

10.  New Laws that Threaten Meeting Outcomes

The state of North Carolina quickly felt the sting of the “bathroom bill” which cost it billions of dollars in lost business. And surely there were meeting planners caught in the crossfire; worried about forfeiting deposits and changing plans, which in retrospect can often be a small price to pay compared to attendees refusing to participate. While all new laws can’t be predicted, meeting planners are wise to consider the political climate and work with their vendors to have smart clauses that can protect them from unforeseen circumstances.

Medical Emergency in the Street

Planning for disruption and mitigating risk is now a critical part of the event manager’s job. What can YOU do to be more prepared? The first step is engaging your legal, human resources and risk teams to assist in developing your policy and your playbook.

And the next step? Contact us today to find out how we can help.

Brenda Rivers


Meeting Professional – Lawyer – Consultant – Trainer - Author

Brenda Rivers, President and founder of SAFE LLC, is a risk management expert who frequently speaks at major meetings industry events.

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Mitigating Meeting Disasters: Creating Safe Meetings in an Unsafe World

The safety of attendees and security of events has always been a key concern for all event and meeting professionals, who recognize that people are an organization’s greatest assets. And while there certainly can be many threats whenever large groups of people gather, the meeting and event industry remains strong, given the importance companies place on face-to-face meetings to foster business development, social ties and cultural cohesion.

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