When an organization hosts an offsite event, whether it is a small meeting, or a massive industry conference, it also presents an opportunity for the security department.
"In these situations, security can really shine, or really stub its toes," said William Besse, Vice President of Consulting and Investigations with security firm Andrews International. "These offsite events aren't a time when security needs to be dozing. They need to be on their game."
Besse, who at one point in his career was the director of global corporate security for cosmetics giant Mary Kay, became well-versed in the challenges of hosting large off-site events. Mary Kay annually holds incentive meetings for members of its huge global sales force and those events often include hosting as many 50 to 60 thousand people in a major convention venue.
"Security can either build a reputation as a contributor or enabler of these events, or as a department that wants to make it look bad and is an obstacle to making it happen," he said.
In order to be one of those security departments seen as an enabler, Besse recommends several steps to take, before and during an offsite, to ensure the event goes off without a hitch.
Besse, along with physical-security consultant Dan Finger, offer these tips for keeping an off-site venue secure.
Get to know the venue, inside and out, well before the event.
If possible, Besse recommends security get involved in the process as early as choosing a venue.
"Have individual meetings with hotel management so you can get an understanding about their rules and regulations and what they can do to help you secure this event," he said. "Get to know customer service."
Once you've agreed on a site, before operations even begin, security needs to be well-versed on all exits, stairways and other access points. Knowing the building inside and out is crucial.
"Also you need to decide where to have your security center at the venue," said Besse. "Where will sec-ops be conducted out of? Will there be phones, copiers, computer access in there? Will you need to augment the venue's security with your own additional?"
Determine local emergency medical capabilities
The most likely unplanned event at an offsite meeting is a medical emergency, said Besse. Security should have a plan in place for handling this that includes a visit to the local hospital emergency room before the event.
Other considerations should include whether there will be attendees at the event with special medical needs and how should the onsite team be equipped to handle that, said Besse.
Know what proprietary information is at stake
In addition to the safety of your attendees, what else is at stake with this off-site? Is the organization going to present proprietary products or information that needs to be closely guarded? What are your plans for ensuring it STAYS guarded?
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