Meeting risks: beneath the obvious

Recently, in the webinar on meeting risk assessment and contingency planning for MeetingsToday and another for a client, and in a class at  the University of North Carolina Charlotte, I talked about risks faced when selecting destinations and sites, venues and vendors.

Among the issues discussed that are, finally, more on planners' lists to consider:
- facility/venue security - staffing, entrances and exits, locked or unlocked doors, ability to advise, policies and procedures, staff trained in CPR, possession and location of AEDs;
- food and beverage - trained bartenders and food servers, cleanliness of prep facilities and personnel, understanding of food allergies and impact of cross-contamination;
- destination concerns - location of emergency medical facilities and their availability, street crime, ability to handle demonstrations (peaceful or otherwise).

What was also discussed was a destination's infrastructure - what keeps a city moving. We saw the horrific I-35 bridge disaster in Minnesota and for background, I found this information about how many bridge disasters there have been. US cities are trying to find money to rebuild aging roads, bridges, water lines, tunnels, power grids.

If it's not right in front of us, we often think it "can't happen here" or to "my meeting." Today, this story, caught my attention mainly because of the impact on a hotel. I can hear people reading this now: "It's Duluth, it gets cold there, of course it happened there. Phew. We don't take our meetings there."

Meetings do come to DC where this has happened again and again. And other cities are facing similar infrastructure woes. San Francisco is one where this break damaged homes; it could've been hotels or museums or other venues.

Maybe we should only take meetings to the cities to be judged to have the best infrastructures - where the power supplies, water, transportation, finances and more are healthy, cities and facilities that have specific plans to mitigate potential disasters.

I'm not saying we should not go to any city because of it's infrastructure or its lack of sufficient plans to keep guests as well as residents safe. I am strongly recommending:

1. Before deciding to host an event in a city or venue, find out more than how pretty it is; research and ask questions about infrastructure; anticipate what you will need to do in the 'worst case.'
2. Destinations and venues - sell safety! Talk about how you have and will protect people, property, and reputations.

It's 2013. I've written and taught this for more than 30 years. When do you think we'll really consider safety first for our meetings and those who attend?

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