Protect your next corporate event from the unknown with these risk management steps

Having arrived on location in Las Vegas to produce a client event, our crew woke up the morning of October 2, 2017 to learn a gunman had opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers a few blocks away. We are thankful our JPL team, our clients and our event attendees were safe. Despite our shock and the somberness of the shooting, we knew we had to focus on creating a successful event for our client, regardless of the tragedy nearby.

While preparing for a mass shooting isn’t something that is on anyone’s standard risk preparation checklist, we are prepared for categories of situations that may happen out of our control. Effective risk management enables us to react and respond effectively to many different kinds of unforeseen circumstances to protect our clients, our employees and the event itself.
Over the years, we’ve experienced quite a list of live event curveballs including:

  • A partially collapsed ceiling and power outage in our hotel ballroom due to a strong storm
  • An attendee having a major medical emergency during an event
  • Downtown riots and ongoing civil unrest the week before a client event in that city
  • Torrential downpours during a farm field event featuring interactive activities with large machinery

Risk assessment for live events means we consider worst case scenarios and create backup plans that eliminate or reduce those risks. The backup plans describe the decision-making process to follow and our “Plan B” should the unthinkable happen. Failure to adequately assess risks during event planning can affect your organization’s reputation, cause actual harm or stress to your employees and guests and cost you money.

As the client, here are three action items you can collaborate on with your events partner to ensure there is adequate risk management in your event plan:

Assess the standard and variable risks together.
Plan for the perfect event, but assess different what-ifs to be ready for what could go wrong upfront. Examples of standard risks include the power supply, security or room lock-down capabilities, travel, alcohol/food, equipment and the inevitable last-minute content changes. Variable risks pertain to the specifics around your event, such as the location, venue, weather forecast and audience needs. Both categories of risk should be discussed openly and have contingency plans.

Establish the hierarchy of command and when to make calls.
When an emergency happens, knowing who to go to for what and who has final say is critical. It’s also important for both the client and event team to know when Plan B needs to be activated. For example, knowing when to make the call on an outdoor event if rain is in the forecast. Your event documentation should include the event schedule along with these details, clearly listed, so you are informed and ready with open lines of communication for those moments.

Use the pre-production meeting to revisit your risk management plan.
Every live event should have a pre-production meeting prior to departure. This meeting should include your run-of-show document and production schedule that will note Plan B details. Documentation is key, should an emergency come along and take a major project owner out of the picture. Other team members can refer to these documents and assume responsibilities effectively.

Regardless of what may happen out of your control during a live event, remember it’s how your organization responds that matters most. Staying calm is essential. Being able to remain calm only happens when both client and event team have assessed and managed the risks effectively together—in advance—as partners.