Soft targets: 8 steps to protect participants

June 6th, 2017 @

It started with the Bastille Day attack in Nice almost a year ago. Eighty-four people were killed when a driver deliberately drove his truck into the crowd of revelers. Ten children were killed that day. This was not the first attack of this nature. In 1981 and 1983, there were similar incidents in Beirut. However, since the Nice Attack, there have been similar incidents at Ohio State University as well as in Berlin, Jerusalem, the United Kingdom (Westminster) and Stockholm. The May 18 Times Square incident has led to speculation that cars will be banned from Times Square. In the most recent attack on London Bridge over the weekend, a van mounted the curb and the driver deliberately mowed down pedestrians and three attackers then stabbed random innocent people nearby, killing seven (more than a dozen victims are currently hospitalized).

warning you are making a difference
(CC) markheybo

The recent bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester (UK), in which a 23-year-old man detonated a shrapnel-laden device, injuring 116 individuals and killing 23 (including children), was another reminder of the vulnerability of soft targets.

What are the implications for event industry professionals? One thing is certain. These incidents are a HUGE wake-up call.

With soft targets becoming increasingly vulnerable to attacks by terrorists, lone-wolf attackers as well as individuals who have severe psychiatric disorders, it is extremely important for event planners to heighten their vigilance. Whether it’s a conference, trade show, sporting event, concert, festival or corporate event, anywhere crowds gather can become a target.

At minimum, the following steps are recommended:

1. Conduct security audits and risk assessments

This is becoming a MUST DO not a nice-to-do—and should be undertaken by a team of security professionals (no time for amateurs).

2. Background checks

Perform thorough background checks on all staff and volunteers, both temporary and permanent.

3. Control access points

This should not be limited to entry and exit points. Take steps to control access to stage doors, staff entrances, delivery bays, emergency exits and parking (both outdoor and underground).

4. Erect barricades

Remember to also provide protection in areas where participants are boarding shuttle busses and accessing event venues from public transportation and pedestrian walkways. Venue owners should consider erecting permanent barricades.


In some incidents, attackers have ploughed through barricades and attacked the crowds. So set up very sturdy barricades far from the crowd.


5. Consider armed security

Do you need armed security at your event?

6. Use metal detectors

7. Conduct bag searches

It is unfortunate, but frisking, which has become a common precaution in many nightclubs, may soon become necessary at run-of-the-mill meetings and events.

8. Ban weapons

When possible, bar the possession of weapons by attendees and participants—as we’ve seen, this should include knives and other bladed objects, as well as firearms. U.S. jurisdictions present special challenges in view of the Second Amendments. Please consult the following blog posts.

Getting a grip on event firearms policies

Firearms at events…and your liability

Gun laws & event venues interactive state-by-state map

Soft target attacks are a game changer for our industry. Unfortunately, they are not going to go away any time soon. If anything, indications are that it is not a matter of if they will come to your jurisdiction but when. As the Latin saying goes “Praemonitus, praemunitus.” The translation? “Forewarned is forearmed.”

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Category : Blog and Industry News

5 fabulous ways to use drones in the event industry

May 15th, 2017 @

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have been around for a lot longer than most people realize. The first drones were used by the Austrian military in their attack on Venice in 1849. Quadcopters have been around since 1920. Mini-drones and quadcopters have been used for photography for almost a decade.

As drones have come down in size and price, they have become accessible to event organizers. There are many different types of drones but some of the most popular include DJI Phantom 4 and the Parrot.AR Drone 2.0.

1. Sporting events

They are often used at sporting events as they make it possible to follow fast action across a large field. Drones can get much closer to the action than any photographer.

2. Resort and site tours

Drones make it possible to provide panoramic views of resort properties and zoom in for close ups of some features. Here Sandals provides a drone tour of its Whitehouse property in Jamaica with stunning results.

3. Destination tours

It’s helpful for event and meeting planners to have a way of quickly viewing the key attractions that a destination has to offer so that they can build those that will appeal to participants into their itinerary. Tourist boards and convention bureaus are making use of drones to showcase destinations from unique vantage points.

Here drones provide an overview of Dubai’s top attractions.

4. Meeting highlights

Drones can be combined with footage from traditional video cameras and GoPros to capture highlights from corporate meetings. Lions Club International blended footage of their 2016 convention from various sources together seamlessly to produce a very engaging video.

5. Entertainment

Always ground-breaking, the CCTV Spring Festival Gala for the Chinese New Year is enjoyed by millions of viewers around the world. For 2016, the show featured 540 dancing robots. Zerotech Dobby actually created a dance routine involving drones for the 2017 show.


The most important thing to remember is that using drones is not about the technology. The focus should be on the results and type of footage you want to create. That will drive the decision about whether or not drones are appropriate for your event.

Drones can’t be used everywhere, however. To begin learning about the logistics and laws of using drones at meetings and events, check out The Meeting Professional’s “Game of Drones.”

And if you’re REALLY interested in the future of drones, you can always attend one of the many UAV-specific conferences going on around the world (such as the International Drone Conference and Exposition, this September in Las Vegas).

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Category : Blog and Industry News

Beware: Third-party procurement can cost you your commission

April 25th, 2017 @

It happened to me—has this happened to you, yet?

achtung warningCaution: Always have the person who contacts you on behalf of a company check to see if the organization uses a third-party procurement company or agency.

I have posted before about third-party procurement models coming to North America. They have been popular in Europe for some time. I have just had the most horrendous experience so I am sharing it so you can avoid similar drama.

On our company website, I indicate that, if prospective clients require venue searches, detailed budgets or detailed event plans before making a decision, there is a deductible charge. I haven’t always stuck to this but from now on, I will. Here’s why.

In early February, a top luxury brand contacted me to submit a proposal to facilitate and plan their executive retreat. In this case, I didn’t charge for the venue search, budget or detailed event plan as it was a high-end brand and I am always keen to add blue chip clients to our roster.

Suffice it to say, I spent six weeks working on this, had to call a slew of venues and other suppliers to pull the budget together. Also, the client wanted special payment arrangements so it was back and forth with the hotel for weeks to work out the details. It took well over a week to finalize the contract. I sent it the client for review and signature.

A few days later, I received an email from a company executive indicating that she had to run it past their internal event planning group for approval. The executive and our contacts didn’t realize that this was necessary.

More days went by. Then, I get a call from the hotel. A third-party procurement agency had contacted them and indicated that they have an exclusive contract to do all venue searches for this organization. Their role is to negotiate, review and sign all hotel contracts. All contracts have to be on their template with their own clauses.

So, after I worked our tail off for more than six weeks, I will not be getting even one dime of the commission. The third-party procurement firm will get the commission for simply reviewing the contract and signing it. How is that fair or ethical?

The whole reason the company approached our firm was they want something “out of the box” and creative. The procurement company, which also offers an event planning service, had planned their retreat in previous years and it was boring and lacked impact.

Our contacts from three levels of the organization didn’t realize that there was an exclusive contract in place.

5 best practices to avoid working without compensation

1) Always charge the client up front for venue searches, the preparation of budgets and detailed event plans.

2) Make it a retainer that you can deduct from the final invoice if you secure the business and receive your commission.

3) Ask upfront is a third-party agency is involved.

Sometimes, the person who contacts to request a quote has no idea that their company has an exclusive contract with a third-party agency. Ask them to double check if any such arrangement exists before you do any work on behalf of the prospective client.

4) Be sure to adjust your fees so that your company receives adequate compensation for the extra red tape involved in dealing with a third party.

Remember, some companies pay the third-party procurement firm and they pay you. This could result in unfavorable payment terms and significant delays in payment.

5) If you do decide to proceed, be prepared for the extra work and red tape that will be involved. Build this into your plan.

No wonder event planning regularly makes the list for top 10 most-stressful occupations. Just when event planners think they have it all figured out, someone throws them another curve ball.

Sometimes, it is better to pass on business altogether. Life is just too short. That’s easy for me to say. Fortunately, our company’s core services are the design and facilitation of executive retreats and team building. If push comes to shove, we can focus on that and leave the event planning to another firm or internal employees. It won’t be a smooth execution, but at least it will save some headaches and gray hairs.

If event or meeting planning is your core business, definitely take the time to clarify exactly who you will be working with and the terms of engagement before investing a lot of time and energy into a project that may go nowhere.


My story has a happy-but-then-sad ending. The client decided that my company added enough creativity and value to justify paying us extra for the event planning. This would have compensated for the loss of revenue from hotel commissions. Unfortunately, after eight weeks of work, the entire project was cancelled as the organization had to engage in mandatory company-wide training. I did not collect a dime for the many days I invested in venue sourcing, budget development, contacting suppliers and customizing an agenda.

Adherence to tips No. 1 and No. 2 for all clients would have avoided this. Lesson Learned.

Have you ever lost your commission to a third-party agency? How did you handle it?

If you have not experienced this yet, beware. It could happen to you. Third-party procurement, which has been popular in Europe for a long time, has now come to North America and it will not be going away any time soon.

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Category : Blog and Industry News