Lack of planning won’t avert an emergency

May 20th, 2019 @

helicopter emergency

Flashback to Fall 2001, post-9/11, event organizers everywhere were clamoring for information on how to create an emergency preparedness/crisis communication plan. In just a few short months, the horror of 9/11 faded and other issues bubbled to the surface, as some plans were finalized, others halted midstream and yet others never started.

Fast forward to Las Vegas, October 2017, where, in the matter of 10 minutes, a gunman using 23 weapons fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammunition aimed at country music festival goers, killing 58 and injuring more than 800.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), more than 60 percent of Americans are neither prepared nor practicing for disasters of any kind, be they natural or manmade. Certainly, event facilities and other public places, including hotels, have developed emergency plans. According to Reuters (Sept. 20, 2016), almost 80 percent of school districts nationwide have plans to prevent, control and help in the event of multiple kinds of emergencies, including active-shooter incidents.

Event organizers and other meeting professionals have a duty of care to ensure the safety and security of event participants. If you are among those who have yet to begin the planning process, start today. Start small and work up so you don’t become overwhelmed. Make your plan a living document that is constantly refreshed and rehearsed so it is an effective tool when emergencies happen.

RELATED STORY: Event safety tips from a meteorologist

Begin by Googling “emergency preparedness,” “crisis communications” and similar phrases—that will provide you with a plethora of samples, templates and guidelines. FEMA, OSHA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also have materials you can implement immediately, including online classes that are free.

The process of creating an executable plan is not necessarily simple, but taking it one step at a time, you will become comfortable with creating this plan for your events.

Research and analysis are your first stop on the way to building a plan. Where is your event being held and when? Research the area for any potential threats—natural and manmade—to your event. The likelihood of an earthquake in Louisiana would be low as a threat potential, while a hurricane would be high. Is there political unrest in the city where your event will be held?

Risk management is defined as the identification, evaluation, analysis, mitigation, communication and monitoring of risks. In other words, what can go wrong, how can it go wrong and what can be done about it before it does?

4 phases of risk management

Risk management has four phases, and this is where analysis steps in. Plan for the most credible, worst-case scenarios. Start small and work up (slip and fall, medical emergency, strikes, boycotts, civil unrest, tornadoes, floods, bomb or terrorist threats/assaults and power/technology disruptions to name just a few).

Once you identify your most credible possibilities, determine what you will do to reduce or eliminate risk to life and property. Mitigation also includes various types of insurance your event may have that offers additional protections. (See image below.)

Prioritizing risks is part of your assessment process. Using a grid (example below) rank each risk to the event from insignificant to catastrophic.

Creating a risk probability chart provides a useful framework for deciding what risks need your consideration. When a risk is considered low impact and low probability, you can often ignore it. On the other end of the spectrum, a high-impact/high-probability risk is critically important.

Responding to an emergency also means a well-developed, rehearsed crisis communication plan. The U.S. government offers an excellent, detailed plan that you can adapt as your own. Download it.

The Essential Guide to Safety and Security: Best Practices for Meeting and Event Planning 2018 is free for MPI members, $49 for non-members and will coach you every step of the way.

The final phase, recovery, assumes the incident does not render the event unrecoverable and deals with the ability to restore the event after the crisis has passes. Consider, for example, bond trader Cantor Fitzgerald who occupied the top floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Because the company had a plan in place, and even though they lost 658 employees on 9/11/2001, they were able to immediately shift their functions to their Connecticut and London offices, where surviving traders began settling trades by telephone. Operations were resumed in two days, partly with the help of backups, software and computer systems.

Once you have conducted research and analysis, begin the planning process in six steps.

  1. Formulate a collaborative planning team
  2. Understand the situation
  3. Determine goals and objectives
  4. Develop the plan; identify courses of action
  5. Prepare the plan; obtain review and approval
  6. Implement the plan, rehearse it, maintain it and revise it

The safety and security of participants are the prime responsibility of the organization during an emergency. As situations develop and parameters of operability shift, organizations must provide a safe and secure environment for attendees, vendors and staff.

RELATED STORY: 8 essential event security details

And while you are in a risk-management frame of mind, why not also consider creating a plan for yourself and your loved ones.

Planning for protection

I asked a friend and colleague, Eric Rozenberg of Event Business Formula, for his views since he emigrated to the U.S. from Belgium for his family’s safety and security due to the explosion of antisemitism in Europe. In his words, “In an environment where danger exists, you cannot deny the reality to move. Lead, follow or get out of the way.” Eric went on to say that incidents can happen anywhere and at any time: “Preparedness is an attitude we must live by. Prepare your children without stressing them.” Keep a positive attitude. Even though Eric’s daughter was in school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and is safe, Eric’s attitude is that “despite the Parkland event, the U.S. is the greatest country in the world. Whether for business or for family, prepare yourselves and your family to defend themselves mentally and physically.” Rozenberg’s daughters were trained in Krav Maga (a form of self-defense and physical training first developed by the Israeli Defense Force) on the use of reflective responses to threatening situations. The first thing taught by Krav Maga is if you CAN run, run.”

Eric concludes that “preparedness is a mindset to enjoy life and be prepared. Prepare by training your brain muscle.” Sound advice for business and personal plans.

The post Lack of planning won’t avert an emergency appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Contract trends: What’s old may be new again

September 10th, 2018 @

shaking hands

MPI’s Meetings Outlook 2018 Summer Edition planner responses indicated that while “66 percent predict favorable business conditions, only 3.1 percent say negotiations are becoming simpler.” In contrast, 54.9 percent of respondents claim contract negotiations are becoming more complex. Today’s hotel meeting contracts are getting longer and longer and that would certainly indicate more specificity, if not more complexity. Whether contract trends are new or old, it is the meeting professional’s responsibility to read every single word of the contract carefully and seek advice from their legal counsel as warranted.

What should be keeping you up at night?

In August, Electronic Arts (EA) secured the GLHF Game Bar, for its Madden Football Gaming Tournament. Someone planned that event, but no one checked to see if the pizzeria/game bar complied with local ordinances. It had not, failing to secure building plans and being issued three fire code violations. A 24-year-old gamer walked into the venue with a gun, killed two, injured 11 others and then took his own life. Lawsuits are beginning to surface, naming both EA and the pizzeria as defendants, claiming that it was the responsibility of both to provide a safe place for the participants. This is not the first time a venue has been sued for failing to provide a safe place. In 2012, in Aurora, Colo., a man walked into a movie theater and killed 12 people, wounding more than 70 others. Victims sued but ended up owing the venue hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of the building and fire violations, these lawsuits may yield a different decision.

RELATED STORY: Firearms at events…and your liability

What does your contract say about safety and security protocols? Do you have procedures in place to ensure compliance? This is a complicated issue and most likely one you should seek professional guidance to protect your organization.

What about boilerplate clauses?

Attrition, force majeure, cancellation and liability clauses are just a few of the clauses considered by most to be boilerplate clauses. When you receive a contract, is your inclination to start reading a clause and stop part way through it because you are sure you know what the rest of it says? Don’t glaze over them. Read them thoroughly and check them against clauses in other contracts you manage. Is there something different between the two?

For instance, if the attrition clause in another contract sets out your room nights as cumulative, does the draft contract describe them as being on a “per night” basis, such that you could oversell your room block on three of four nights but undersell one night and face attrition penalties?

RELATED STORY: Gotcha! Attrition clauses to address in your next hotel contract

2018 has seen a fair share of weather-related deadlines, with many meetings and events affecting around the globe. Do you know what your force majeure clause contains and whether it is adequate to deal with storms, hurricanes, volcanoes and other weather events? With weather reports being delivered to inboxes daily, are your attendees more likely to cancel attendance for fear of a projected weather event? Even if you don’t want to cancel the event, is there wiggle room in your force majeure clause to minimize or waive attrition and/or food and beverage minimums.

cyber security

How does the venue handle cybersecurity issues as they deal with your attendees’ personal information? While our industry has been focused on GDPR and related privacy policies, where does the venue stand on your guests’ personally identifiable information? Hotel privacy policies are quietly changing. If you don’t think so, check their website for their privacy policy and the next time you check into a hotel as a transient guest, pay attention to what you are signing—you may be signing away your right to pursue action against the hotel in the event of a data breach. If you are asked to sign anything at check-in be sure to pay attention to the 5- or 6-point type at the bottom. Does it say something like this?

The hotel and its providers of products and services are not liable for injury, loss or damage to your computer, or interception or use of our credit card or other personally identifiable information.

Take special care to ensure, as a meeting organizer, you are not similarly being asked in the contract to assume responsibility for responsibilities that clearly rests with the venue or its owner. Other, similar concerns arise when your draft contract contains language that shifts responsibility for damage to the property from the individual attendee to the meeting organizer.

Do you know who owns the venue you have chosen for your event? While a property may have a well-known hotel brand’s name, it may be a franchise, owned by another company. Ensure that ownership of the property is spelled out in your contract and what the property’s obligations are to notify you should the ownership change.

Once a contract is signed, revisit it every year to ensure that things have not changed at the property since the contract was executed. That gorgeous spa you were counting on to wow your attendees may no longer exist. Likewise, monitor your chosen venue to ensure there are no new fees the property has instituted since your contract was signed. A good practice is to ensure the property discloses all mandatory fees at the time of the RFP and a statement included in the contract that no fees can be added or modified without being agreed to in writing.

RELATED STORY: Partnering for successful contract negotiations

One of the newer irritations is the urban destination fee which is not a resort fee but acts like one. A bundle of items such as a specified dollar credit in a restaurant, an internet fee and similar, so-called enhancements are added to the daily room rate—enhancements you may never use but are charged for. Be sure to include a request for disclosure of these fees in your RFP and detailed in your contract as to whether they will be charged and in what amount.

In the end, how successful you are in getting the contract you want depends on establishing a relationship with your venue partner so that both of you work in unison for the success of your event and satisfaction of your attendees. Successful events are founded in successful partnerships between the meeting professional and the venue representative.

Marriott International disturbed the status quo earlier this year by cutting third-party planner commissions by three percent. Other brands followed suit, while some brands refused to do so. Is that a bellwether of other hotel-favorable changes to meeting and event contracts? In a seller’s market, anything could happen. Be vigilant!

The post Contract trends: What’s old may be new again appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Contract trends: What’s old may be new again

September 10th, 2018 @

shaking hands

MPI’s Meetings Outlook 2018 Summer Edition planner responses indicated that while “66 percent predict favorable business conditions, only 3.1 percent say negotiations are becoming simpler.” In contrast, 54.9 percent of respondents claim contract negotiations are becoming more complex. Today’s hotel meeting contracts are getting longer and longer and that would certainly indicate more specificity, if not more complexity. Whether contract trends are new or old, it is the meeting professional’s responsibility to read every single word of the contract carefully and seek advice from their legal counsel as warranted.

What should be keeping you up at night?

In August, Electronic Arts (EA) secured the GLHF Game Bar, for its Madden Football Gaming Tournament. Someone planned that event, but no one checked to see if the pizzeria/game bar complied with local ordinances. It had not, failing to secure building plans and being issued three fire code violations. A 24-year-old gamer walked into the venue with a gun, killed two, injured 11 others and then took his own life. Lawsuits are beginning to surface, naming both EA and the pizzeria as defendants, claiming that it was the responsibility of both to provide a safe place for the participants. This is not the first time a venue has been sued for failing to provide a safe place. In 2012, in Aurora, Colo., a man walked into a movie theater and killed 12 people, wounding more than 70 others. Victims sued but ended up owing the venue hundreds of thousands of dollars. Because of the building and fire violations, these lawsuits may yield a different decision.

RELATED STORY: Firearms at events…and your liability

What does your contract say about safety and security protocols? Do you have procedures in place to ensure compliance? This is a complicated issue and most likely one you should seek professional guidance to protect your organization.

What about boilerplate clauses?

Attrition, force majeure, cancellation and liability clauses are just a few of the clauses considered by most to be boilerplate clauses. When you receive a contract, is your inclination to start reading a clause and stop part way through it because you are sure you know what the rest of it says? Don’t glaze over them. Read them thoroughly and check them against clauses in other contracts you manage. Is there something different between the two?

For instance, if the attrition clause in another contract sets out your room nights as cumulative, does the draft contract describe them as being on a “per night” basis, such that you could oversell your room block on three of four nights but undersell one night and face attrition penalties?

RELATED STORY: Gotcha! Attrition clauses to address in your next hotel contract

2018 has seen a fair share of weather-related deadlines, with many meetings and events affecting around the globe. Do you know what your force majeure clause contains and whether it is adequate to deal with storms, hurricanes, volcanoes and other weather events? With weather reports being delivered to inboxes daily, are your attendees more likely to cancel attendance for fear of a projected weather event? Even if you don’t want to cancel the event, is there wiggle room in your force majeure clause to minimize or waive attrition and/or food and beverage minimums.

cyber security

How does the venue handle cybersecurity issues as they deal with your attendees’ personal information? While our industry has been focused on GDPR and related privacy policies, where does the venue stand on your guests’ personally identifiable information? Hotel privacy policies are quietly changing. If you don’t think so, check their website for their privacy policy and the next time you check into a hotel as a transient guest, pay attention to what you are signing—you may be signing away your right to pursue action against the hotel in the event of a data breach. If you are asked to sign anything at check-in be sure to pay attention to the 5- or 6-point type at the bottom. Does it say something like this?

The hotel and its providers of products and services are not liable for injury, loss or damage to your computer, or interception or use of our credit card or other personally identifiable information.

Take special care to ensure, as a meeting organizer, you are not similarly being asked in the contract to assume responsibility for responsibilities that clearly rests with the venue or its owner. Other, similar concerns arise when your draft contract contains language that shifts responsibility for damage to the property from the individual attendee to the meeting organizer.

Do you know who owns the venue you have chosen for your event? While a property may have a well-known hotel brand’s name, it may be a franchise, owned by another company. Ensure that ownership of the property is spelled out in your contract and what the property’s obligations are to notify you should the ownership change.

Once a contract is signed, revisit it every year to ensure that things have not changed at the property since the contract was executed. That gorgeous spa you were counting on to wow your attendees may no longer exist. Likewise, monitor your chosen venue to ensure there are no new fees the property has instituted since your contract was signed. A good practice is to ensure the property discloses all mandatory fees at the time of the RFP and a statement included in the contract that no fees can be added or modified without being agreed to in writing.

RELATED STORY: Partnering for successful contract negotiations

One of the newer irritations is the urban destination fee which is not a resort fee but acts like one. A bundle of items such as a specified dollar credit in a restaurant, an internet fee and similar, so-called enhancements are added to the daily room rate—enhancements you may never use but are charged for. Be sure to include a request for disclosure of these fees in your RFP and detailed in your contract as to whether they will be charged and in what amount.

In the end, how successful you are in getting the contract you want depends on establishing a relationship with your venue partner so that both of you work in unison for the success of your event and satisfaction of your attendees. Successful events are founded in successful partnerships between the meeting professional and the venue representative.

Marriott International disturbed the status quo earlier this year by cutting third-party planner commissions by three percent. Other brands followed suit, while some brands refused to do so. Is that a bellwether of other hotel-favorable changes to meeting and event contracts? In a seller’s market, anything could happen. Be vigilant!

The post Contract trends: What’s old may be new again appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News

Understanding the event grant and program funding process

July 23rd, 2018 @

Thousands of event grants and other funding sources are available each year in the United States alone from a variety of sources. Grantmakers include the U.S. federal government, state governments and a variety of other organizations including pharmaceutical companies. Major companies (Microsoft and Target to name just two) offer grants to local communities, especially in disadvantaged areas. Nonprofits also offer grants and other funding, often through a sister foundation.

RELATED STORY: 3 tips for focusing events, including nonprofits and NGOs

Types of event grant and program funding opportunities

fundraisingTypes of funding include emergency funding, debt reduction, faculty/staff development, fellowships, program evaluation, endowments, scholarships, sponsorships, research and even conference/seminar grants. Overarching the multiplicity of funding available are four main types: Competitive Funding, Formula Funding, Continuation Funding and Pass-Through Funding.

  • Competitive Funding, also known as discretionary funding, is simply a competitive process of proposal selection based on the merits of the application, evaluated by a reviewer or team of reviewers, where the recipients are not pre-determined.
  • Formula Funding is given to pre-determined recipients and are non-competitive.
  • Continuation Funding is where grant recipients are given the option to renew grants for the following year. Some restrict their programs to existing grantees, while others accept new applicants.
  • Pass-Through Funding is given by federal governments to state governments for further distribution to local governments.

Although the four types are different, most programs share the restriction that funds received may not replace existing resources. Think here in terms of an MPI Chapter Grant. This would be a competitive grant because others apply for grants as well. If awarded, the funds are designated for a specific purpose, such as membership recruitment. The funds do not replace existing chapter funds; they are earmarked for use with the specific purpose of member recruitment.

Who is the fundraising professional?

The person responsible for any type of fundraising, be it sponsorships, donations or other funding programs has a degree of accountability for the revenue-generation within the fundraising process and are directly responsible for fundraising.

In some instances, this person may be designated as a grant writer. The individual may be an independent contractor or an employee of the organization, both of which are compensated for their services. In other instances, the individual is a volunteer who has similar responsibilities in his or her volunteer role but is not compensated.

Members of the event grant and project funding team

Just as the meeting professional has a framework for competencies to do one’s job, so does fundraising require skills necessary to apply for, execute and comply with the requirements of the specific funding program. Depending on the type of grant or other funding, the team may include:

  • the person responsible for managing the grant,
  • the individual or team responsible for conducting research and writing the report,
  • and the individual ensuring compliance with all aspects of the funding program (this may be the same as the person managing the grant)

Those in academia are well-versed in these types of projects and often collaborate with others both in and outside of the educational institution to which they belong. This post focuses only on the management and compliance issues of the event grant and funding process and not on the research or subject matter expertise aspect.

Why you need an event grant or project funding project manager

In every project that requires adherence to deadlines, deliverables and compliance there must be a manager. This project manager is responsible for setting up the structure of the project, including timelines, action plans, deliverables and compliance measures. The project manager is an essential member of the team and keeps the group focused.

The responsibilities of the project manager are not dissimilar to those of a meeting professional planning a meeting or event. The manager must do/consider the following.

  • Ensure there is a strategic, program-centered approach to the project.
  • Is the project right for your team or perhaps too big, too small, beyond the scope of subject matter expertise?
    • If the project is too big, can we find a partner?
    • Ensure uniqueness.
  • Does the project align with your mission and vision?
  • Research all opportunities.
  • Will it benefit your customers/members?
  • Connect what you want with the funder’s needs.
  • Clearly state your proposal and include supporting data.
  • Don’t rely on emotions—determine what will capture the funder’s attention (this is all about the funder).
  • Funder must believe that your proposal is something that can be done before agreeing to pay for it.

RELATED STORY: Using storytelling to create successful fundraisers

Key elements of a event grant or project funding proposal

You will need to describe the program or event that requires funding. Make sure to include the following elements in your proposal:

  • Overview
  • The Needs Statement
    • Summarizes the problem the action, and the solution
  • Needs Statement process
    • Define the problem
    • Describe implications
    • Relate your organization’s mission and the funder’s
    • Identify gaps
    • Provide supporting data
  • Data and statistics
    • Key sources are federal agencies, state agencies, foundation website, articles and journal collections and news outlets
  • Bibliography
  • Websites or other resources consulted
  • Brief bios of the authors

RELATED STORY: 5 tips for speaking confidently and influencing undecided stakeholders

What should be included in your program design description

Don’t forget to mention what the program’s S.M.A.R.T. goals are, what success will look like and describe the program or event using a narrative framework, as outlined below.

  • Goal-setting
    • Use S.M.A.R.T. goals that are:
      • Specific
      • Measurable
      • Achievable
      • Relevant
      • Time-based
  • Narrative Framework
    • Significance (problem)
    • Innovation (context)
    • Approach (plan)
    • Environment (qualifications)
    • Approach (goals)

RELATED STORY: To work smarter, set S.M.A.R.T. goals

Next steps once the funding is granted

What happens if your event grant or project funding request is granted?

  • Review the funding requirements and begin essential project management steps, including timelines and related roles and responsibilities.
    • Share with all team members
  • Set up a reminder process to notify team members of upcoming milestones.
  • As project manager, ensure that all financial transactions as they relate to the spending of grant monies is accurately documented and ties directly to deliverables as described in the accepted proposal.
  • Set up your timelines early enough to ensure last-minute submissions are included (the more comprehensive your responses, the more likely they are to be well-received).
  • Review and complete all compliance requirements, checking them twice.
  • The fulfillment of your obligations as a grantee are vital to achieving additional funding.

Project management of a funding opportunity aligns well with the duties of the meeting professional in that the processes of a project manager are like those of a meeting professional designing and producing a meeting or event. Should you be requested to assist with project management in your organization, use this information as a starting point in developing your processes.

In the end, awareness of the conditions upon which the funding is awarded is critical. Non-compliance, even partial compliance, can mean the return of all or part of the funding. Observation of all requirements will ensure a successful funding experience and can certainly lead to more funding adventures.

RELATED STORY: See all 33 skills you need to be an effective planner.

The post Understanding the event grant and program funding process appeared first on Plan Your Meetings @ Meeting Professionals International.

Category : Blog and Industry News