We the meeting professional look forward to joining organizations like MPI, PCMA, SGMP, RCMA etc… Each has their own rewards for being a part of them which may include networking, professional advancement or even obtaining a new job. So why is it that these organizations fail miserably when it comes to a key component of any event? If you peruse any online or hard copy edition of any of these organizations’s magazine or newsletter, once a year they will focus their attention on Risk Management. Most of the time this will occur immediately following some significant global issue; H1N1, Mumbai, 9/11 etc… To me, this is a sad commentary on something that every single meeting professional be they meeting manager, hotel sales or 3rd party contractor faces at some point in their professional career.
I have had the privilege of attending and speaking at conferences sponsored by many of our professional associations. Each time I attend a local chapter meeting, a regional meeting or a national conference, I am appalled how our professional organizations ignore the basic requirements of risk management. While I won’t identify the specific association, let me give you some examples of what I mean.
Room Set Up: I was attending a national conference of one of our professional associations within the past two years and was embarrassed when walking into a break out session to find a significant problem. The room’s secondary exit was blocked not only by a large screen but the cart holding the sound equipment also was blocking the doorway. I immediately pointed this out to one of the senior meeting planners and was informed that this set up was done by the venue. I was stunned by a meeting planner so willing to throw the venue under the bus for something that is clearly the responsibility of any meeting planner. So what’s the solution? It seems rather obvious but let me again reiterate that common sense is not common. Any meeting planner should always look at every room set up for issues like egress from a room in case of a fire or other problems where the primary entrance is blocked. Find the time to walk the meeting space after the venue sets up to ensure that not only is it set properly but that things like emergency exits are clear of obstacles.
Room Set Up Part II: Again while attending a national conference, I walked into a break out meeting room that had rounds of 10 which is different but not unusual. I arrived after most of the attendees had already entered the room and so I found a seat towards the middle of the room. As a side note and a speaker I am always amused how people will be very systematic on where they want to sit. Anyway, I noticed that it seemed rather crowded in the room and that to get to the empty seat required many people to squeeze their chairs in towards the table or to stand up and move their chair into the table. Do you see the issue yet? Had there been a need to empty the room quickly, it would have been a disaster. In order to get as many people into the room as possible, the meeting planner with the consent of the venue or maybe vice versa decided to ignore the safety issues in the hope that an emergency evacuation would not be required. This is unacceptable and happens more than you think. Next time you the meeting professional attend any meeting, take a look at the room from the perspective of trying to get out as quickly and safely as possible from the furthest point from the door and determine if it is reasonable. As my attorney friends have told me time and time again, it is always critical for any meeting professional to determine if they their actions could be construed as reasonable especially if down the road, they are forced to defend those actions in a court of law or through mediation.
Décor and Entrances: Once again I was attending a conference although this time it was not national but regional. As I made my way in to the general session room, I was amazed at the tripping hazards immediately upon entering the room. I decided to plant myself near the main entrance and watch the “fun.” I gazed at my watch and within 10 minutes, I watched as 25 people stumbled, tripped and walked into these hazards. The hazards included spot lights that were pointed at the beautiful side draping that was used to create a marvelous atmosphere. Unfortunately, many of the people who entered either were so caught up in the décor that they ended up falling or hurting themselves or missed the décor’s allure because they were trying to avoid the people who had tripped. One of my clients and I discussed this very issue at an initial walk through of their meeting space. After pointing out some of the same problems (lighting that could cause trips or spills), we immediately came up with some alternatives to ensure the attendees were amazed with the décor and still keep them safe. Again, my fellow meeting professionals, it is imperative that you look at décor set up with an eye towards safety and not just the WOW.
Although I could regale you with more stories, I believe that I have made my point. If we want to be considered professionals with professional organizations then we need to walk the walk not just talk the talk. If you sit on a board of one of the many meeting professional associations then make them read this or talk to them about being leaders not just in F/B or Décor but in issues like Risk Management.