Dwight Eisenhower was famous for his productivity strategy, and his matrix is still a common reference for time management today. One of the quadrants in this matrix is ‘important, but not urgent’ and that concept is always top of mind for me when I think about event security. Today’s world continues to make event security more and more of a hot button topic, but the fact that it’s rarely pressing during the planning process tends to lead it being overlooked. Planning for low-probability events takes discipline, but keeping your event and guests safe should always be a priority. Here are five tips to help you do that.
1. Process and Protocol. The most important component for a safe and secure event doesn’t require additional budget or resources. The most critical step you can take is making sure there are clear and thorough systems in place for your entire event. Naturally the first area that comes to mind is check-in/registration, and of course that’s crucial. But you should also have protocol in place for points of egress, crowd control, questions or concerns that arise inside the space, etc. Having proper plans in place and staff that are informed and educated is the foundation for any safe and secure event.
2. Outside Expertise. Many venues provide security as a part of their contract. Usually this is a non-negotiable line item so venues can ensure that every event has at least some level of security, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t bring in an outside firm. Gauge the in-house team's level of expertise, and if you’re unsure how to do that consider using an outside expert to work with you on the right questions to ask (they should be motivated by the prospect of potential business). Even if you can’t afford to bring in an entire outside team, a cost-effective compromise may be retaining one outside professional to oversee an in-house team. If you’re hosting a public event, an outdoor event or one that requires permits, make sure the security team you hire has experience in those areas. Often times a firm will have personal connections to city services or government departments which can be especially helpful.
3. Appearance Matters. Whoever is overseeing security for your event, don’t underestimate their appearance and interaction with guests. Make sure they are calm, assertive, approachable, professional (in dress and demeanor), and always in control. You want your guests to enjoy the event, and peace of mind is trusting that they are in good hands.
4. Keep it Simple. Whether your event uses lanyards, name tags, bracelets or some other way to distinguish event attendees, do your best to make identification as straightforward as possible. Particularly when different guests have access to different event spaces, you’ll want to make it as easy as possible for event staff or security to recognize credentials in high volume. If it’s a color-coded system, make sure the colors are starkly different. If it’s a symbol or mark, make sure it’s clearly noticeable from afar. Make sure to provide sample credentials to the security team pre-event so they are able to review and familiarize themselves with protocol in advance. Ultimately the more straightforward the process, the safer and more convenient the guest experience will be.
5. Contingency Planning. Regardless of the type or size of event you’re hosting, contingency planning is a necessity. Discuss evacuation plans, who to contact for what situation, medical response availability and how to handle injuries — however insignificant (note: always have an accident report). Take the time to work through specific emergency situations so that your team is prepared and ready for any scenario, and remember that unexpected occurrences don’t necessarily have to affect your event to have an impact.