Why You Should Create an Event Risk Management Plan

by Kara Stachowiak, CMP, Meeting and Events Department Manager

Risk management is at the forefront of our current operations, but how do we make sure  risk management is not forgotten when the time comes to move forward with our face-to-face events?

The answer is simple, create a plan.

If your organization does not have an Event Risk Management Plan, then now is the perfect time to create one. When creating this plan, keep these tips in mind.

1. The venue(s) should already have a risk management plan in place.

Work with your venue contacts to make sure your organization’s plan works with, not against, the venue’s existing plan. For example, some large venues would prefer you contact their staff in an emergency instead of calling 911. Why? The venue has direct access and communication plans with emergency responders. The response will be faster if a venue staff member tells a paramedic that there is an issue in Zone 19 than if you call 911 and tell a dispatcher there is an issue in the back of a large ballroom where you do not know the room name.

2. Put your plan in writing.

Consider specific incidents and their likelihood and impact. Also consider how to mitigate the risk of the incident occurring, and if the incident occurs, who is on the team to make the decisions regarding the incident response. Finally, provide specific action assignments and include a communication plan. Sample Risk Management Plan

3. Make sure staff, board members, and volunteers understand their roles.

Your staff, Board members, and volunteers have a role in the plan, but those roles cannot be properly executed if people are unaware of their expected actions. Keep in mind that staff members who are not in attendance at the event may have roles as well. When assigning roles, take everyone’s strengths and personalities into account. While some may be calm and rational in emergencies, others may need to step away. It is expected that everyone will react differently, so accommodate the anticipated reactions in your plan.

Keep in mind that it is just as important to include actions not to take in your plan. For example, remind everyone who is responsible for communication regarding the incident, and if it is not their responsibility they need to keep their knowledge and thoughts about the incident to themselves.

4. Control the message.

Make sure your plan outlines how information will be communicated to attendees, your members who are not present, and possibly the media. Designate one person to make all statements and reinforce to others that spreading rumors makes the situation worse.

5. Review and update your plan regularly.

Review is not only necessary after an incident. Regularly look at your Risk Management Plan to make sure that you have addressed the incidents that are most likely to impact your event, that the proper personnel are in place, and the communications plan is clear. If there is an incident, it is important to debrief what happened, how it was handled, and what could have been done before, during, and after to mitigate the impact.

It is impossible to precisely prepare for any situation that may occur, but having a plan in place increases the likelihood of a quick and rational response regardless of the situation.

You don’t have to lose any more sleep worrying about your risk management strategy for your next event. IMI Association Executives can help you create a plan for your events. Call us today.

Sources: Information for the sample Risk Management Plan and for the checklist was derived from MPI and PCMA certificates, webinars, and resources.

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